Among the more interesting personalities in the golf business is former Super Bowl quarterback and ESPN Analyst Ron Jaworski. While still quarterbacking the Philadelphia Eagles “Jaws”, in 1979 along with PhillyArea PGA pro Hugh Reilly acquired his first golf property. He now owns/operates 7 golf facilities in the PA and NJ suburbs of Philladelphia and has become a successful entrepreneur in the golf business.
Jaworski once described himself as a turn-around specialist in the golf industry. When I had the chance to speak with him he emphasized his focus on acquiring distressed properties and employing dynamic pricing, high energy personal contact and “people skills”. Anyone who knows Jaws would call him a social butterfly (including himself) and his outgoing and engaging personality and notoriety from his NFL days are key ingredients to his success in a hospitality business.
Most of the courses in the Jaworski Golf portfolio are affordable to mid-range daily-fee facilities where they emphasize the golf course, playing conditions and an ample staff providing friendly personal service. They promote comfortable pace of play by ensuring that each of their facilities has a ranger onsite and monitors pace. The increased play has also increased maintenance budgets from wear and tear, especially during the period when carts were limited to one rider and there were sometimes 4 carts per group.
Jaworski has never been fearful of Food & Beverage, like some other golf operators. Across his portfolio, 55% of revenues typically (Non-COVID) come from Food & Beverage. Each of his clubs has a sports pub and Jaworski himself says he’s a stickler for detail and very demanding on his staff. The biggest challenge he observes right now is the capacity restrictions at his clubs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Jaworski’s courses are still booking large functions and sees no reason (at least yet) to RE-purpose the space.
Being ever the opportunist, Jaws sees potential acquisition opportunities in his market areas as there are operators seeking an exit strategy. Again, unlike many operators Jaworski likes the semi-private operating model because, much like many clubs in Scotland, it helps keep membership dues under control. He notes the renewed interest of Wall Street Investors in golf and (where applicable) the real estate development potential and resulting value.
I asked how COVID has impacted the makeup of the clientele at his facilities in 2020 and early 2021. Jaworski sees more young people playing and notes that March 2021 has exceeded play in March, 2019. He’s observed players that had left returning to the game. He sees The COVID spike as at least partially sustainable because technology has made it so easy to setup a golf game. He sees COVID as better for golf than the Tiger Woods phenomenon of the 1990’s.
Jaworski has observed more diversity in the increased play citing African-Americans, Asians and women, increasing in numbers at his courses. In addition to promoting diversity, Jaworski thinks golf needs more options like par-3 courses, “short” courses and other ways to make the game less-intimidating and more user-friendly. He’s setting out tee markers for a 4,200+/- yard layout at his courses to accomplish that goal.
Clearly, Ron Jaworski and his team recognizes golf as a hospitality enterprise and his company is very much a family business with son BJ and wife Liz playing key roles in a successful enterprise.