The Golf Course/Club Real Estate Assets: How can it be used more efficiently?

Everyone knows of the need to attract the “3 M’s” (millennials, minorities and moms) to golf.  For many years, I’ve advocated the more efficient use of golf’s real estate (land and buildings) assets to make the economics of golf more efficient.

Just outside Richmond, VA is Independence Golf Club (IGC).  Developed about 15 years ago, IGC was built by the Virginia State Golf Association (VSGA) as its home and designed by Tom Fazio.  With cottages onsite and a quality golf course open for public play and used for VSGA events, IGC was a concept of the times.  The VSGA sought to promote amateur and junior golf and was able to get grant money from the USGA for the project.

Over time, things changed and the VSGA sold the course to a group headed by Giff Breed, president of Pros, Inc., once an athlete representation firm, now a sports and entertainment marketing company and Breed decided to launch a concept in golf not previously seen.

Golf courses are inherently inefficient uses of land and buildings.  Few other commercial properties would use 150+ acres for a maximum capacity of 300 patrons on any one day.  So Breed set out to employ principles from other businesses to not only use his property more efficiently, but also to broaden the appeal of golf as a vehicle for personal entertainment (Think TopGolf).  Among the concepts now employed at IGC are expanding the retail operation for clothing, the food and beverage operation to multiple themes and the golf course to a variety of themes, including the use of golf bikes, golf boards, foot golf and use of an 8.5″ hole in an effort to appeal to millennials and other groups that aren’t flocking to the golf course.  In addition Independence offers music lessons, art classes, cooking classes, laser tag, paintball and fishing.

Breed has welcomed cargo shorts, jeans and cell phones, and added music and entertainment to the equation.  At IGC, they are holding concerts and have compelled advertisers like Lexus and Fahrenheit to participate with  logoed range balls, concierge car service while you play golf and trunk clothing events that bring golfers, non-golfers and potential golfers to the site.  They’re even having concerts onsite in the evenings to use the property after dark.

The golf course was recently renovated by renowned Virginia architect Lester George, with the idea of making it more user-friendly and among the improvements were Champion Bermuda greens, reducing the number of bunkers and improved playing conditions.  Eschewing discounting, IGC has resisted third party tee times and is offering a high level of service and maintaining its rates at profitable levels, while utilizing their real estate assets more efficiently by generating traffic not previously seen at the golf course.

Every golf course facility (private or public) has a considerable amount of real estate, often 150 acres or more for 18 holes.  With the inefficiencies inherent in golf, it is incumbent upon each golf course or club to consider the highest and best use of their site even if the property is restricted by zoning, covenants or other restrictions.  Since every property’s characteristics are different, the opportunities will vary from site to site.  At some clubs, like Greenacres CC in New Jersey, they were able to identify and subdivide a piece of land that could be sold for cash producing development.  Combined with the variety of opportunities that exist for marketing and advertising at the golf course, use of both the land and improvements (buildings, golf course and practice facility), a plan can be developed that should add value to any golf facility.

Since many golf courses serve as community amenities, it stands to reason that consideration be given to how best the site can serve the community.  Many developers are opting for different amenity packages, such as walking, hiking & bicycling trails, agricultural areas and use of water features, where available for kayaking or canoeing, as described in this article.  For future economic success, it’s incumbent on golf facilities to evolve with society.  In Scotland, walkers and dogs peacefully coexist on numerous golf courses while in the US, dogs and walkers are typically banned in response to safety concerns.  In Scotland, golf courses are public walking areas and dogs are welcome (as long as one cleans up after them).  While certainly there are concerns with safety, interference and other logistics, each and every golf course should be considering “outside the box” ways to become more economically sustainable and friendly to the surrounding community.  Are there ways your golf course could be used more efficiently?

To learn more about how Golf Property Analysts can help your golf or club property generate additional revenues and add value, email Larry Hirsh or call 610-397-1818.