The Pellucid Perspective - January 2016 - (Page 5)

Golf course desiGn Uneven lies in search of a level playing field Some industry stakeholders are more equal than others By stuart lindsay W e all understand that the game of golf isn't always fair. The business of golf is pretty much the same; and in many cases "uneven lies" has a double meaning. One example would be the December 8, 2015 press release from the USGA announcing a new collaboration with the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) to provide "pro-bono" (loose Latin translation = free) renovation planning services to public access golf facilities. Some non-ASGCA member architects quickly voiced some displeasure with what appeared to be a limitation of the program to only ASGCA members. Our reading of the press release gave us the same impression. Also, the USGA Application Form only directs applicants to ASGCA members and does not mention that nonASGCA members can be used in the program. The USGA has since privately clarified the program and stated that golf courses can use non-ASGCA member architects and still participate in the program. In fact the first project approved in the program (Canal Shores in Illinois) is being done using a non-ASGCA architect. Our first comment is that this clarification should be public if for no other reason than to demonstrate they are not creating an improved lie for ASGCA members over non-ASGCA member architects. We're not going to question the intent of the program or the fact that the USGA is making a conscious effort to promote business development for a golf industry segment that has struggled with the virtual halt of new facility design and construction. We will, however, question why the USGA has chosen to have a selection process that awards an economic benefit to a golf course owner who is selected over golf course owners who are not chosen. We realize that offering this program to every public access facility in the US is impractical, but this should have been considered before the program parameters were announced. We could understand if program participation required the application to demonstrate the course has access to the capital necessary to undertake a renovation project in the first place. This would limit the program to financially viable golf courses, but at least that would reflect the unfortunate reality that virtually every participant in the golf industry is involved in a Darwinian struggle for survival. As it stands, this program is another shining example of how golf course owners are being forced to deal with uneven lies over which they have little or no control. You don't have to look very far for other examples - one 3rd party marketer offered preferential inventory placement to one golf course in a major metro area and generated great results for the favored course. When other courses complained and the program was changed, the results generated for the favored course dropped by more than 50%. At least the playing field is a little more level, even though the favored course got three years of preferred treatment at the expense of the 3rd party marketer's other courses in the market. One of the benefits of having clients across the country is being able to fact check some of the claims made to some of our clients. One course requested "price floors" for its bartered times and was told it was against "company policy" and couldn't be done. The uneven lies double entendre showed up in spades when we showed him examples of "price floors" being allowed in other parts of the country and for some multi-course operators with courses in their market. Not only was our course dealing with an uneven lie versus their local competition, but the sales rep "lied" about how the company handled "price floors". Of course, the playing field can never be truly level. A golf course is either blessed or cursed with its fixed location. Demographics can shift as neighborhoods change or when projected growth shifts with changes in housing market demand. Thankfully, all golf courses represent a different design, but that also means the owner is basically married to what they have without a major re-design expenditure. In addition to being at the mercy of the weather, they are also at the mercy of how their location, demographics and design stack up against other golf options in their market area. Those are three of the biggest factors in how many golfers choose a course to play and they are pretty much beyond the owners control. There are other factors that owners can control. Course conditioning, customer service, pace of play and other management factors also create uneven lies - for better or worse. We would mention accurate pricing as another factor, but our recent industry history shows that pricing is not necessarily something a golf course operator can control. As we noted above, pricing can be impacted by favorable programs being offered to one course that are not made available to others. Then there is the humorous comment one industry expert made long ago - "You can only be as good as your dumbest competitor." As well intentioned as the USGA collaboration with the ASGCA is, its concept is flawed in its preferential treatment of one set of golf course owners over others. We wish that the USGA and other golf service providers would make 2016 the year they resolved to help all golf course owners operate better businesses and deliver better customer experiences. n The Pellucid PersPecTive 5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - January 2016

2015 industry tale of the tape: What will the numbers tell us?
Uneven lies in search of a level playing field
Courses denied tax deduction for conservation easements
One-year anniversary of revolutionary course management technology product
December golf weather impact: Near-record for much of Northern US!
Chicago: Bull-ish on supply, Bear-ish on demand
Braving the third party tee time wilderness

The Pellucid Perspective - January 2016