Back from San Antonio and the 2018 Golf Industry Show (GIS), I offer the following observations.
Just like the golf equipment segment of the business, technology is all over the golf course world. Among the highlights were:
- The USGA has revised its recommendations on putting green construction. These have been in effect since 1960, with a revision in 2004, and there are four main objectives:
- Review new technology and its impact.
- Education and Awareness.
- To maintain a broad range of methodology.
- Consider alternative methods and highlighting the benefits and pitfalls of same.
- The NGCOA awarded its National Course of the Year to Atlantic Dunes, Hilton Head Island, SC, designed by Davis Love, III.
- The NGCOA’s Don Rossi Award for significant contribution to golf was given to Peter Hill of Billy Casper Golf.
- Bunker systems were everywhere. From hard to soft and everywhere in between, bunker liners and drainage systems were seemingly at every turn.
- Synthetic faced “Eco Bunker”, which I’ve seen in action was most intriguing to see up close and talk to the developers.
- The Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by TurfNet and sponsored by Syngenta was awarded to two recipients, Rick Tegtmeier of Des Moines Golf & CC (IA) and Jorge Croda of Southern Oaks GC (TX).
Among the “big picture” items, World Golf Foundation CEO, Steve Mona described a broader view of how golf is consumed, which includes activities that may not be playing 9 or 18 holes, but is defined as “if you have a regulation club in your hand, if you’re striking a regulation golf ball and getting some feedback on the shot, then that constitutes a golf experience”, which is a definition adopted in 2017 by the National Golf Foundation. The question I raise is whether this simply makes the statistics look better or if it leads to expanded participation. He compares it to whether playing a game of “HORSE” is akin to participating in basketball. Mona defines the ultimate goal as shooting for “golf to look like America looks” in terms of millennial, minority and female participation.
A big issue heard frequently was superintendents who can’t find adequate labor.
On the Owners’ side of the week were numerous educational seminars with hot topics being marketing, technology, cash flow management and workplace sexual harassment, among other topics. Of course, the workplace harassment issue is new, in response to the Harvey Weinstein situation and one of golf’s major management companies being involved in a significant and embarrassing situation.
Of particular interest to me was the apparent dearth of exhibitors in the “financial/ownership” sector. Nowhere did I see some familiar exhibitors from past shows such as real estate brokers/appraisers, market consultants, lenders and law firms. My sense is that these firms (including ours) have concluded that the GIS is too big for the small booth companies that get lost among the large equipment manufacturers and organizations and that the investment is better made in more personal environments.
Much like the recent PGA Show in Orlando, there was considerable optimism about golf’s future and the industry continues to promote player development and reaching out to the groups not traditionally associated with the game.