MONDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2011
8:00 to 8:15 am: Introduction
Gary Strohl, Richard Mandell Golf Architecture
8:15 to 9:15 am: Affordable Golf Survey Results: "Needs, Wants & Desires"
Richard Mandell, President, Richard Mandell Golf Architecture
9:15 to 10:00 am: The Evolution of Perfection in Golf Maintenance
Terry Laurent, Owner, Cross Creek Golf Club
10:00 - 10:15 am
10:15 to 10:45 am: Case Study: Pasatiempo Golf Club, Santa Cruz, California
Paul Chojnacky, Golf Course Superintendent, Pasatiempo Golf Club
10:45 to 11:45 am: The Many Facets of a Sustainable Golf Facility
Tom Mead, Golf Course Consultant
11:45 am to 12:45 pm
12:45 to 1:45 pm: "Management" in the U.K. or "Maintenance" in the U.S.?
Is conditioning supposed to be about aesthetics or simply creating a fair challenge? That is a fundamental difference between attitudes in the United States regarding golf course maintenance and the approach taken in the British Isles. Efforts at managing the grounds there aren't nearly as time and energy-consuming as they are in the United States. Although climates vary much more in the U.S., 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.
Gordon Irvine MG, Golf Course Management Consultancy
1:45 to 2:15 pm: Case Study: Huntercombe Golf Club, Oxfordshire, England
Huntercombe Golf Club was designed by Willie Park, Junior back in 1901 and on opening day, the 18 hole layout had just twenty-two sand bunkers. Today it boasts an even more modest thirteen sandy hazards. Yet it remains a testament to strategic golf at its finest. With an emphasis on the lay of the land and simple hazards such as grass hollows, swales, and other undulation, Hutercombe is a great example of how golf courses don't have to be inundated with sand and expensive aesthetic features to remain relevant in the modern age. Following the lead of a course such as Huntercombe can result in a return to affordable golf for many who think the "wow" factor is the only answer.
Ran Morrissett, Founder, GolfClubAtlas.com
2:15 - 2:30 pm
2:30 to 3:30 pm: To Enhance the Experience, Visit the Tour Neighborhood
Barney Adams, Founder, Adams Golf
3:30 to 4:30 pm: Round Table: Resolving the Conflicts of the Typical Golf Business Model
4:30 to 5:00 pm: Final Thoughts
5:30 pm: Gathering at Southern Pines Golf Club Clubhouse Bar
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Golf Outing at Southern Pines Golf Club
Tee Times Beginning at 7:30 AM
The Symposium On Affordable Golf raises awareness and understanding of the challenges of the golf industry through open discussion, exchange of ideas and highlighting successes that promote the health and sustainability of the game of golf.
On November 7th, 2011 the second Symposium on Affordable Golf was held at the Southern Pines Golf Club. Speakers included Mr. Terry Laurent of Cross Creek Golf Club in Decatur, Indiana; Mr. Paul Chojnacky, Golf Course Superintendent of Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California; Consultant Tom Mead, a former superintendent who focuses on sustainability; and Gordon Irvine, who compared and contrasted principles of golf course management in the UK and the US.
Ran Morrissett, founder of GolfClubAtlas.com, shared a classic golf architecture success story of Willie Park Junior’s Huntercombe Golf Club. Barney Adams, Founder of Adams Golf, shared his perspective on the growing challenges of the golf industry as well. The final discussion was a round table of varying opinions and perspectives clearly demonstrating the conflicting efforts required to develop, build, maintain, and profitably operate a golf course in the United States.
This year’s symposium brought forth many interesting ideas shared from a variety of sources. In addition to golfer participation throughout the day, it was inspiring to hear a golfer debate the usual challenges of a golf operation from the perspective of who matters most: The golfer. The information gleaned from the 2011 Symposium can be broken into the following topics:
A New Business Model
The business of golf must need a new business model to move forward. The Symposium revealed a few ideas about what that new business model may look like:
At the end of the day, if the experience is still bad…
Barney Adams believes it really isn’t just cost that is hurting the business of golf. He likens it to getting people to drive to a bad movie. “If you tell me that golf's too expensive, just that approach, and then you take me to a bad movie (so to speak), you can't make it cheap enough. All the initiatives to get people to go see a movie are worthless if the movie is just bad. “Let's concentrate on fixing the movie. If we have to have initiatives to get people playing golf and we get six more [golfers], that's like getting three cars to drive to the bad movie.” Adams said.
Re-Educate the Current Golfer or Educate the Potential Golfer?
Too often, the perception of what the golfer wants is formed by the industry itself. As a result, the perception of the golfer’s value then becomes a part of the golfer’s thinking as well. In return, the non-golfer’s perception of a game that is high-priced and high-cost becomes a barrier to the growth of the game. Maybe many ‘growth of the game’ initiatives are failing because the perception of the game to outsiders has not changed.
Changing the perception of the game to outsiders, though, will require golf insiders to change their perceptions as well and if golfer’s perceptions can move toward the experience of an enjoyable day with reasonable challenges, maybe perceived value can alter the cost associated with the game also.
Overcoming Resistance to Elements of Affordability
How do we combat the resistance to all the ideas that can make golf more affordable and enjoyable? First of all, the economy has forced the issue for many. Barney Adams put it best when he said, “If you only have five bucks in your pocket but it costs ten, too bad. You’re not getting it.” Nonetheless, golf can now be a better game and a better experience than it was before the economy faltered.
Many ideas brought up at both Symposiums still come down to the golfer accepting lesser conditions. Until the golfer and the industry see that perfect conditions are not what the game of golf is about, there will continue to be resistance to affordability within some elements of the business.
For the longest time, the golfer’s demands for perfection were driving the bus and keeping sustainability subdued. Now, the superintendent can play a key role in ratcheting back expectations from the golfers by using cost as a motivator when the golfer would not listen to science or agronomics previously.
When high-profile clubs such as Pasatiempo display a penchant for sustainable practices by cutting back on maintained turf areas or replacing fuel-dependent vehicles and machines with goats, for example, hopefully other clubs will follow suit, whether they are above or below Pasatiempo on the food chain or, more importantly, whether they need to cut costs or not.
How Cost and Time are Related
Eliminating excess and speeding up play will make the game more affordable to play and more affordable to operate. So we must all think of affordability as how to improve the business to increase participation in the game and not just saving a buck. The fun factor will increase with good design and as a result, golfers may find some more time to dedicate to the game. At the very least, when design focuses on strategy and enjoyment over aesthetics and penalty, the need for excessive hazards and heavy rough is reduced, thereby speeding up a round of golf.
Returning the Game to its Origins
A return to the origins and spirit of the game is a solution for many concerns within the golf business. The game of golf was originally a commoner’s game played on the ground that nature provided. Man’s hand wasn’t in it but once it showed up, the game changed forever. Good design should trump the extraneous elements of “the golf experience” and if we look at those elements that came from links golf we can affect change, reduce cost and time, and increase fun.
The game starts with design and the simpler that design is, usually the more effective, fun, and inexpensive. Both our case studies are textbook examples of the above. Huntercombe Golf Club and Pasatiempo Golf Club were built by Willie Park, Jr. and Alister MacKenzie respectively, who discovered the game in a links environment and made links golf a cornerstone of their design philosophies.
What Can Golfers Do Without?
Throughout the Symposium, various considerations were brought out that golfers could do without:
You Can Learn From the Most Unlikeliest of Sources
In these times, so many golf courses have had to face the same budget cuts across the board. So when a club like Pasatiempo Golf Club makes significant changes it should be an eye-opener to the many clubs that need change for survival. Even the higher end facilities can contribute to the educational process. It certainly makes sense when you peel back the image and realize that at the end of the day it is all sand, grass, and labor. In 2008, the board finance committee and general manager challenged Superintendent Paul Chojnacky to cut his operating budget by $300,000 and he did it in a variety of reductions.
Huntercombe Golf Club shows the world that great architecture should be the focus of the business of golf. Huntercombe is the ideal case study for the Symposium on Affordable Golf because of its simplicity of design. That simplicity is based on the concept of 'less is more', one of my favorite challenges to the expert who raves about the next great golf course with over one-hundred bunkers, deep rough, and more than 7,300 yards of "muscle".
"When the spirit of the game, the financial aspects of the golf business and the environmental aspects of the business are all compatible, the game will thrive." - Tom Mead
Tom Mead's quote sums up not just this past year's Symposium but also why we started the Symposium on Affordable Golf. As long as we don't compromise the spirit of the game first and don’t put financial aspects ahead of everything else (spirit of the game, environmental aspects, playability, fun) then the business of golf can be one with the game of golf.
The 2012 Symposium on Affordable Golf will be expanded to one and one - half days on Monday October 29 and Tuesday morning, October 30th. Please visit www.symposiumonaffordablegolf.com to review the White Paper in its entirety. When you visit the website, please take the time to participate in our Golf - Your Way survey. The link is above our mission statement and we will discuss the results at the next Symposium. More than four-hundred and forty have participated. Our goal is to be in the thousands by October 29th.
Richard Mandell (4-30-12)
Click here to read and or download the White Paper .pdf file.