Advertisement

Archive for Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Golf awaits new wave of retirees to rescue struggling courses

October 16, 2007

Advertisement

Golfers, from left, Brian Scherling, Overland Park; Michael Nicolotti, Lawrence; Ryan Wedel, Overland Park; and Dick Barton, Lawrence, prepare to tee off Thursday on hole one of Alvamar Country Club. Earlier this year, Alvamar hired a director of sales and marketing to help boost the club's membership.

Golfers, from left, Brian Scherling, Overland Park; Michael Nicolotti, Lawrence; Ryan Wedel, Overland Park; and Dick Barton, Lawrence, prepare to tee off Thursday on hole one of Alvamar Country Club. Earlier this year, Alvamar hired a director of sales and marketing to help boost the club's membership.

Mike Reeves, left, watches as Jesse Nguyen, both of Lawrence, tees off Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007 on hole one of Alvamar Country Club.

Mike Reeves, left, watches as Jesse Nguyen, both of Lawrence, tees off Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007 on hole one of Alvamar Country Club.

Rob Gremminger, from left, of Shawnee, David Nimz, of Overland Park, and Krystal Parker of Olathe, talk about a fairway Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007 at Alvamar Country Club.

Rob Gremminger, from left, of Shawnee, David Nimz, of Overland Park, and Krystal Parker of Olathe, talk about a fairway Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007 at Alvamar Country Club.

Area golf courses are turning to time-tested business tactics to survive and thrive in a game that's been around for more than 500 years.

Aggressive marketing, timely price adjustments and opportunistic capital upgrades are putting Lawrence courses in position to accommodate the next big wave of players: baby boomers, who are just now preparing to collect their Social Security benefits.

The moves come as, nationwide, more golf courses are closing than opening, reflecting the effects of a building boom that crested in 2001 and only now has settled into a period of relative market equilibrium.

"You have to be competitive," said Dick Stuntz, president of Alvamar Inc., owner and operator of a public course and a private course in Lawrence. "There's no doubt about it: We have to be competitive with what's around us."

With a number of challenging courses having opened during the past decade in the Kansas City area - including Falcon Ridge Golf Course in Lenexa, Falcon Lakes in Basehor and Nicklaus Golf Club at Lions Gate in Overland Park - Alvamar knew it needed to step up its efforts. That was among the reasons it spent $80,000 a few years ago to rebuild its greens on the public course.

Earlier this year Alvamar hired a director to handle sales and marketing - a first for the company that previously didn't need to worry about making a name for itself - and now has 395 golf members, up 140 since the change.

"It makes a difference," said Jerry Waugh, an Alvamar board member and former Kansas University golf coach. "We've got a long way to go, and we haven't turned the corner yet by a long shot, but we're headed in the right direction."

Across town, Lawrence Country Club has been reaping the benefits of its own work: a 15-month reconstruction, completed last year, that included new tee boxes, bigger greens, different sand for bunkers and more opportunities to land shots in the water.

Such renovations and upgrades are becoming increasingly popular, as relatively new public courses have created a niche - "the country club-for-a-day experience" - that has siphoned away club members, said Steve Mona, a Lawrence resident who recently became director of the World Golf Foundation.

Courses are finding that the best way to attract and retain golfers is to provide a top-quality golfing experience, Mona said, starting with the course itself.

"Lawrence Country Club, what you see there is not that uncommon nationwide," Mona said. "But they've pulled off quite a coup - they've added to their membership, and raised their initiation fees and dues. That's quite a coup."

Eagle Bend Golf Course used discount ticket prices to help drive record levels of play during June and July, and Orchards Executive Golf Course continues to provide its nine-hole public course, thanks in part to a conservation easement that pumped money back into operations.

Courses, more than ever before, are realizing that golf is a "perishable commodity" under which an unfilled tee time is potential revenue that has been lost forever, Mona said. And that means course leaders are taking a business approach for filling those slots.

"Going forward, this is good because we'll be stronger when the next inevitable boom comes along," Mona said. "We're just about on the precipice of one again."

Comments

justthefacts 7 years, 2 months ago

Lots of people who might actually enjoy the game cannot afford to play. Clubs, course fees, etc. are all very high. Well beyond the means of many middle income folks, and especially those on limited incomes. It's always been a pursuit associated with money. I think many of its proponents like it that way; unlike so many other public events, you can get away from all the "rif-raf" without having to officialy "go on record" as a materialistic elitist snob. That's fine in the private sector I guess. But when public tax dollars are used to create such economic safe harbours, it doesn't make much sense to price the public out of being able to take advantage of the "fun." Tis why I oppose using tax dollars for such endeavors; why should the majority of tax payers be asked to fund something unnecessary that they cannot and will not ever be able to use?

FatTony 7 years, 2 months ago

You people obviously don't understand. There are affordable options and many different levels of price. Additionally retirees will benefit the most because without working they will be able to benefit by playing weekdays in which rates are significantly lower than weekends.

countrygirl 7 years, 2 months ago

Get outside of Lawrence and you can find more reasonably priced courses. My family plays at Village Greens near Ozawkie almost every week-end. Horton has a 9 hole course where $15 entitles you to play those holes as many times as you want--add another $15 for a cart--but keep in mind that you play as many times as you would like. Check out other small town courses and I'll bet you can find some other deals.

MattressMan 7 years, 2 months ago

FatTony and countrygirl have it right there are option available to choose from in both equipment and locations to play.

Bruce Rist 7 years, 2 months ago

Tax dollars for Eagle Bend? Absolutely:

About 35,000 rounds are played there a year

I'd say that the tax dollars are well spent. Besides, 85-90% of it is funded by sales at the course (green fees, cart sales, golf shop, snack bar) not tax dollars. AND Once the bond is paid, there will be no more tax burden on the city. Ever. Guaranteed!!!

AND Mr. Fagan has always been fair to Eagle Bend.

matahari 7 years, 2 months ago

I hope they all go broke, from the environmental impact alone~

toefungus 7 years, 2 months ago

There are better things to do in retirement than spending time at a golf course.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.