2010 Agenda

Monday, November 8, 2010


8:00 to 8:15 am:    Introduction


8:15 to 9:15 am:    Define "Affordable"

  • Our Symposium will begin with an open group discussion about what "affordable" means to the business of golf. Affordable means different things to different people. Can affordable be at different price points?  Is affordable even a goal we should aspire to? As a group, we will try to answer these questions and lay out a map for the rest of the day's discussions.


9:15 to 10:00 am:    Environmental Strategies That Can Also Make the Game More Affordable

  • The general consensus over the past twenty years is that environmental concern has increased the cost of golf greatly. When it comes to permitting, that is true. But just being environmentally-friendly for golf's sake doesn't drive up costs. In fact, the opposite is true in many different ways. Three devotees to the field of environmentally sustainable golf show how it can be cost-effective as well.

Ron Boyd, Williamsburg Environmental Group, Inc.
Kevin Fletcher Ph.D., Executive Director, Audubon International
Greg Lyman, Environmental Programs Director, GCSAA


10:00 - 10:15 am


10:15 to 11:15 am:    The Simplicity of Golf Course Management in the British Isles

  • The origins of the game of golf are from the British Isles and golf courses there never subscribed to the ideals of perfect conditioning. Efforts at managing the grounds in Scotland and England aren’t nearly as time and energy-consuming as they are in the United States, yet golfers haven’t skipped a beat. There are ideas to be gleaned from not only practices of management but attitudes as well that can directly apply to American golf courses on all levels.

Alan Chainey, former Captain
The North Berwick Golf Club, East Lothian, Scotland

11:15 to 11:45 am:    Case Study #1: Wild Horse Golf Club, Gothenburg, Nebraska

  • Wild Horse Golf Club was built in the Sandhills of Nebraska for less than $2 million dollars (including land purchase) by a group of golfers who wanted to upgrade the golf offerings within their hometown of Gothenburg. Banded together with efforts from local farmers willing to help out, Wild Horse is an excellent example of allowing the land to dictate the development of a fantastic, playable golf course. But more than just seeking out a great piece of rolling Nebraska Sandhills, Wild Horse Golf Club is an example of affordable golf from the maintenance and operational side as well. Doing without the extras that most modern facilities have deemed “irreplaceable”, the folks at Wild Horse have proven that pure golf architecture and sensible day to day operations can rank Wild Horse among the best golf courses in the country.

Don Graham, General Manager
Josh Mahar, Golf Course Superintendent

11:45 am to 12:45 pm


12:45 to 1:45 pm:    Cost-Conscious Lessons to Learn From the Golden Age

  • There are many lessons that can be learned by studying the masters of any art form. That is especially true with golf course design and the golden age architects were certainly masters. Sustainability is a buzz word of this decade yet the golden age architects practiced sustainability almost a century before. The design principles of the golden age can apply directly to today's challenges. It is the little things in design that create memorable golf courses, not the big-ticket expenses. Although the great sites may not be around anymore, the lessons in simplicity are what make the great golf courses of the past models for today.

Ron Forse, President, Forse Design
Richard Mandell, President, Richard Mandell Golf Architecture
Ran Morrisett, Founder, GolfClubAtlas.com


1:45 to 2:15 pm:    Case Study #2: Herndon Centennial Golf Course, Herndon, Virginia

  • The Town of Herndon, Virginia owns and profitably operates the Herndon Centennial Golf Course, an eighteen hole, public access facility opened in 1979. Herndon completed several significant capital improvement projects while continuing to provide a quality golf experience to their golfers. Gene Fleming, Director of Golf since 1999, will review the practices used at Herndon to provide quality and affordable golf while generating over $1.5 million in operating revenues and earning several awards in the process.

Gene Fleming, Director of Golf

2:15 - 2:30 pm


2:30 to 3:30 pm:    Pace of Play: Affordable Golf is Quality Golf

  • Does high quality demand high cost? The answer to that question is no. When a golfer considers buying a round of golf, they ask themselves two questions; “Can I financially afford this expense?” and, “Can I afford the time involved to play?” When the playing experience is perceived to be one of high quality with consistent and “affordable” round times, at many levels, players will become loyal repeat customers. Every course can consistently deliver high quality affordable golf that will grow the game and increase revenue.

Bill Yates
Pace Manager Systems


3:30 to 4:30 pm:    The Folly of Replicating Tournament Conditions

  • The golf courses we see each week on television are prepared for only one purpose: To look good on television and in other mediums. You’ve heard the warning many times: “Do not try this at home”. That is a mantra that should be heeded by greens committees and golf operators throughout the land. Trying to create an artificial environment beyond the minimum is a dangerous and never-ending journey that leads to a very expensive proposition and an unsustainable precedent.

Jaime Diaz, Senior Writer, Golf Digest, Golf World
Tim Moraghan, Principal, Aspire Golf Consulting
Jim Moriarty, Golf Writer

4:30 to 5:00 pm:    Final Thoughts


5:30 pm:    Social at O'Donnell's Pub, Southern Pines, NC


Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Golf Outing at Southern Pines Golf Club

Tee Times Beginning at 7:30 AM


Executive Summary on the 2010 Symposium on Affordable Golf

On Monday November 8th, 2010, seventy-five people whose passion - and for many in attendance, livelihood - is the game of golf, met to discuss that very question at the inaugural Symposium on Affordable Golf in Southern Pines, North Carolina. The range of topics was developed to cover a broad range of considerations within the golf industry that include development, operations, and maintenance considerations as it relates to the cost of golf.

Each topic had one commonality – golf can be affordable by looking to many ideas that are already implemented within the industry. Many of the practices of affordable golf discussed are already in use throughout the world but often not considered as mainstream concepts by the industry and the golfer alike.

Our slate of speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and represented many well-known entities in all aspects of the golf industry. Symposium attendees were as varied as the discussion topics and speakers. They included representatives from the USGA and GCSAA as well as superintendents from courses which have hosted USGA majors in the past (and will in the future as well), additional golf course superintendents, golf professionals, owners, and general managers. This gathering also included a key constituency as part of the discussions – the golfer.

The Symposium began with an open discussion to tackle the very question of what is "Affordable Golf". Webster's definition is, "within an individual's financial means". Consensus was quickly made that affordable golf means different things to different people. Although affordable was a relative term on many levels, sustainable and profitable are terms that need to go hand in hand with affordable and are concepts which can apply to the success of the golf experience for both the end user and the operator.

The day's discussion's re-affirmed to many that there are common practices that can apply to a variety of facilities to be more sustainable and profitable, yet provide a memorable experience to the golfer. Tackling issues of cost will only help to open the door for more people to pick up the game and shine a brighter light on the industry as a whole. The full Report on the First Symposium on Affordable Golf resulted in the following general thoughts about affordable golf and specific ideas culled from the day's discussions.

1. Reasons Why the GOLFER'S Perception of Golf May Discourage Affordability

  • The game's perceived reputation as a sport for the rich.
  • There is clearly a difference between the top golfers in the world and the rest of us. We must all stop acting like there isn't.
  • Course set-up for the professional can NOT be the same for the average golfer.
  • What is seen on television cannot be achieved at most facilities.
  • The need for golf courses to be conveniently standardized and fair increases costs.

2. Reasons Why the INDUSTRY'S Perception of Golf May Discourage Affordability

  • The fallacy that being environmentally sustainable is too expensive and doesn't help.
  • In recent years a lack of honesty or integrity regarding real costs has disguised the true state of the industry.
  • Golf course rankings are a better marketing tool than the golf experience itself.

3. Other Reasons Golf May Not Be Considered Affordable

  • The game evolved into a profit center more than a recreational pursuit.
  • Forcing golf into places where it shouldn't be, both environmentally and economically.
  • Over-management of a golf course site.
  • Over – management of golf operations

4. Problems /Threats to the future of game

  • A Cultural Shift in Society
  • The Myth of the Augusta Syndrome
  • A continued focus on aesthetics over strategy and playability.
  • Construction and maintenance technology continues to raise the bar instead of making golf more affordable.
  • The myth that cutting maintenance budgets is the answer to saving money.

5. Some Ideas to Make the Game More Affordable

  • Build on the right piece of property and for the right climate.
  • Look for environmental opportunities to move money to the bottom line.
  • Re-evaluate expectations, minimize perfection, and accept blemishes.
  • Stop using grassing to achieve aesthetics.
  • Eliminate the frills and extravagances.
  • Keep labor down.
  • Focus less on profit and more on growing the game.
  • Subsidize 'local play' with 'outside play'

6. Goals to Improve the Game for All

  • A quality experience can bring enjoyment to the game at any price point.
  • Change traditional attitudes and eliminate negative stereotypes.

7. A Few Symposium Trends

  • The Old Course at St. Andrews as a model.
  • Communication will cure many woes.
  • Family participation.


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