Thursday, November 20, 2014

"The Wave" that Didn't Happen

Seniors Golf: The New Wave?
In the 1990's, many "experts" warned us in the golf business of the tidal wave of retiring baby boomers that would flood our golf courses, "They're coming," we heard. "Educated, disposable income, generally fit, and lots of time on their hands. THEY WILL WANT TO GOLF!"
The industry reacted. Golf course construction was rampant, especially in the Sun Belt states. Equipment manufacturers and retailers also ramped-up. 

Now we're halfway through the second decade of the third millennium, and seriously reflecting on what happened to this elusive group. Where did they go? Or, to be slightly optimistic, what are they waiting for?
Here at Victoria Park East, the trend did not go as forecast. Our Weekday membership category - the one that we imagined would be overwhelmingly senior - has declined steadily since the early 2000's. Our Full Membership category has remained strong; but here, the median age has risen, and is touching the 60+ level. Since introducing two Intermediate Full categories in 2008, we have seen a marginal increase in younger golfers, which has certainly helped.

One factor may be economic: the disposable income is there, but people are just being more careful with how they spend it. In terms of affordability of golf, I sincerely believe nobody can complain: in our market, green fee rates have not increased in seven years. In fact, golf deals are getting better all the time, with the proliferation of online tee time marketers like GolfNow, WagJags, coupon books, etc., there are a lot of money-saving opportunities for the casual and frequent golfer (although a membership still offers the best value for the frequent golfer).

An unexpected trend that, in my observation, seems to be more popular in the last few years are "golf-around" groups of senior players - groups of 12 or more that go around to different golf courses in their region and negotiate a group rate. More choice for the consumer.

The golf industry in North America is now experiencing a correction (for lack of a better word). News of golf closures - again predominantly in the U.S.'s Sun Belt, but also here in Canada - is now no big deal, To be fair, this cannot be blamed on the perceived lack of seniors playing the game. They're playing... maybe not joining, but playing. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is This Event on Life Support?

Here's a picture of Emerald Hills Golf Club (near Stouffville Ontario) taken on Monday September 29. What a beautiful day it was! And of course, a great day to golf at this fabulous course.
It was the annual "Pro Executive Day In Support of the Hulbert Memorial Fund" (aka "The Hulbert Memorial"), hosted by the PGA of Ontario. I've blogged about this event before - it's a fundraiser for the PGAO Benevolent Fund.
Sadly, this year there were only nine (nine!) teams participating. When I first played "The Hulbert" back in 1998, there was a waiting list. In those days, it was played at the Board of Trade Club (now The Country Club) in Woodbridge: 36 holes, and all 36 holes were filled. We brought a jacket and tie for dinner. It was a BIG deal!
So it's unfortunate to see it shrink to the point of, well, almost nothing.
Certainly, events sometimes "run their course", but this is such a great tournament, and an important one for the PGAO, that it shouldn't be mothballed. There was a short discussion at the end of the day, about putting forth some ideas on revitalizing the Hulbert. The format has always been a 4-person scramble, with each team consisting of a club Pro, a manager, and executives from a club's membership. I was thinking of presenting the idea of a ProAm with the "Shamble" format.  Any ideas?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Does Golf Need to Be "Re-Defined"?

Here's a video from HBO Real Sports, that may be cool and entertaining to some, and definitely scary to other - especially to us, in the golf business.

Are the number of golfers down that much? What can we do to attract a new generation of golfers? A better question would be... How low should we go?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Indoor Golf Simulator - in 1966??

Here's a head-scratcher! From the November 1966 "Golf and Club News" magazine is an article about - drumroll please - an indoor golf simulator. Sure, it wasn't run with an i-Core processor, but I never would have guessed the concept began in the mid-60's. And judging by the picture, it looks very familiar to what we see today (with the exception of the clothes).
Thanks Murray McLaren, teaching pro at Victoria Park Valley, for finding this publication. I love this stuff.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What the Heck?

It's been a crammed month of June. I think the later start this year, coupled with the poor Spring weather during May, has pent-up the demand for golf. And now we're seeing it!

But I've finally carved a few minutes out of the day to do a way-overdue blog post.

The new Clubhouse at Victoria Park Valley is finally open, and the exterior landscaping is looking great! It was a tough few weeks back in May, when the building was being used while landscaping and construction vehicles were kicking up a dust storm! However, it's looking great, and the customers love it.

At the East course, we're getting ready for our 40th Anniversary celebrations - to include a public golf special on July 5, and a Members Field Day Luncheon on July 6.

At both courses, we are trying a unique public golf promotion: "Pay What You Think It's Worth" green fee: June 29 at the Valley and July 5 at the East. We're confident this will drum-up a lot of interest, and hopefully entice some players who haven't golfed at our courses before! naturally, we'll have a friendly staff member at the 18th green to greet the golfers at the end of their rounds and collect payment. I've heard of this promotion at other types of businesses, so we'll see what happens!
Here's a great picture of the East course's 1st Tee (now the 10th tee) taken in 1975. Notice the 3-wheeled cart!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Welcome Back

With the 2014 golf season FINALLY here, it's time to get back on the bandwagon.
The last 6 months were one helluva ride.

Many of you have asked about my wife Jane: she has been battling breast cancer for just over a year now, and I very happy to say, the battle appears to have been won. It's hard to appreciate the toll it takes until you live through it - or, more properly, are in a relationship with someone who's going through it. As best as can be said at this point, Jane is done with the emotional and physical crash that is cancer, and we look forward to a full recovery. Thanks to all of you for your best wishes throughout the year.
Here's a great picture of Jane and I with Reid and Madeline at my nephew Will's confirmation last November (Alexander is missing!)

Despite the weather, I've had a very busy spring, with lots happening in the background. Technology kept me hopping: a new server, changing all of our workstations away from Windows XP, and doing my part for the new clubhouse at the Valley has been a challenge. We're all looking forward to getting this great new building open & working. Come out for a visit!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Not This Year!

As we shiver into Spring, we can now safely say that the likelihood of a March opening for the golf season is, well... not a chance. Too many of us remember March of 2012, when we were fully open on the 17th! Here's a screen grab of the Weather Network's 14 Day Trend for Guelph, and it doesn't look like we'll get to above seasonal!

But we're still busy gearing up for it. The new clubhouse at Victoria Park Valley is aggressively under construction (check out David's blog), and new stock is arriving in the East course pro shop!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh, the Poor Golfer!

Here's a fun take on golf and golfers, by American comedian Lewis Black. Some colourful language, so not necessarily safe for work!