Golf had a good year. Year-over-year rounds look to be trending up, and more new players are on the horizon. The weather was good, the economy is red-hot, and young Tour players are creating more interest for new players.
Unemployment is at its lowest point since 2000; the stock market indices are at record levels; and housing is amid a boom that some are already calling a bubble. Those macroeconomics should yield good results for the golf economy in 2017 and 2018.
But there is a flip side. Strong housing and record-low existing homes means a construction boom is on the horizon, prompting real-estate investors to look for open spaces to build more homes. Large and medium-sized cities look to be the hardest hit in the housing shortage, and many of these markets already were overbuilt for golf, possibly adding to the potential those markets will lose more holes. Chicago might be the poster child.
It’s now more important for superintendents to understand and react to macroeconomics in their regions and communities to stay competitive and manage the businesses.
This issue examines how economists see golf in the larger picture of the U.S. economy and what factors contribute to strong golf fundamentals. Some of the influences they attribute to new-player growth are social, mainly the popularity of Tour players.
Many of these influencers are out of our control. But we can control our ability to interpret and understand the fundamentals that drive our business and the fundamentals of how to manage our business to get the most out of every dime.
The GCSAA’s Golf Industry Show and local GCSAA chapters long have supported the profession in many ways, including continuing education on the business management side of running the largest department at your facility. But we could use more of it and in greater practical detail. Agronomic workshops are important, but no seminar on best practices for bermudagrass will ever be as valuable as a stint on a Florida golf course.
To the credit of GCSAA and the turf schools, they recognize this need and have been implementing more business management into their curriculum and certifications. One workshop that is leading the way on this high-level business content is the Syngenta Business Institute, held in partnership with the Wake Forest University School of Business. The detail of the financial analysis required to justify capital expenditures is an example of the depth of business knowledge needed to run a golf maintenance operation. Some things must be learned formally.
Others programs are out there, too. The Green Start Academy by Bayer and John Deere offers similar curriculum on business and professional development for assistant superintendents. Many others are available outside the turf discipline. My advice: Skip the agronomy and go to as many of these business workshops as possible. Attend university classes. Get an MBA. No investment is too large for the payoff of being the most valuable asset at your facility. It looks pretty good on a résumé, too.
Golf will always ebb and flow. We can’t predict to what degree millennials will have the time, money or inclination to play golf. We do know that the largest living generation is starting to behave like previous generations by buying SUVs and homes in the suburbs. We can’t control the popularity of Tour players, the weather or the housing market. But you can control the depth of your business acumen and how you apply it to get the resources you need. The importance of these skills are magnified in the down times, which makes this the perfect window to invest into being a better manager.