Tuesday, May 21, 2013

THOUGHTS FOR THE PARK BOARD ON BLOWING UP THE THIRD NINE


REMARKS TO PARK BOARD/WRITTEN VERSION LEFT WITH BOARD 05/21/13 PUBLIC MEETING WITH  NGCA ECONOMIC STUDY

Mr. President, Commissioners and Mr. Executive Director, thank you for your service and your stewardship.

My name is Anthony Cameron. My address is 529 Hampshire St. I am here as a friend of Scotty Glasgow, a volunteer committeeperson for “the Scotty” and self-appointed counsel for all the youth and beginning golfers of the future. More on that in a minute.

Your third nine is a true treasure. When one finds oneself in possession of a treasure there is a resulting obligation to take care of, to make the most of it.

Let me tell you a brief story about your treasure. It was sometime between 1985 and 1988. I wish I could be more specific about the year.  I was on an airplane from Phoenix to St. Louis. There was a man a few rows behind me who looked very familiar. I thought I had seen his face in a golf magazine. When I got onto the commuter airline to shuttle to Quincy, he was on my flight. We talked. His name was Ed Ault. He was a golf course designer and he was going to Quincy to look at a golf hole that was an outstanding representation of a certain architecture style.  He intended to incorporate that style into a course he was building near Phoenix. The hole? Number 22, a perfect representation of the linksland “washboard” style of conflict without using linksland.

We live in an age of specialization. You have a monopoly on two very valuable things. First, you have the only freestanding nine hole public golf course in the immediate area. Anyone nearby who wants to play nine holes of public golf virtually must come and see you. Is it is an enviable position. Additionally, you have the only contiguous 27 hole facility for more than 100 miles.  No publicly owned facility in downstate Illinois can match your number of holes of availability.

If you were giving up that specialization to create something where you were literally without competition, that would be at least rational. This plan, however, seeks to build an executive course, within one mile of an existing and apparently successful executive course. It also seeks to build a practice facility within 1 mile of an existing and successful practice facility. The logic of tearing down a true monopoly to compete with a benevolent and successful local not-for-profit truly escapes me.

I am told that this decision is driven by a need for new revenue from this portion of the property. Understandably, you wish to increase revenue. To calculate whether anything will increase revenue, you would first have to have a mechanism by which you could know what revenues the third nine now brings in. When someone buys a hot dog, a dozen balls or a golf club, how do you know which nine accounted for that retail purchase? 

How do you know whether your marketing program has optimized the monopoly you have in the treasure that is your third nine? Most respectfully, I believe you are missing data to support any teardown of an existing, viable recreational facility.

Indeed, strongly marketing the third nine might resolve your revenue problem altogether. I’ll bet a lot of local kids would jump at the chance to play nine with a devil or raider varsity player. If a passholder kid could bring his non-passholder playmate out one time all day for two dollars or five dollars, you’d be making more golfers.

Scotty Glasgow always said that the way to succeed in the golf business is to “make more golfers.” My friend and PGA professional, Steve Cramblitt, in his homage to Scotty last Friday said “Scotty was the First Tee before there was a First Tee.”  The purpose of the back nine, as built, was to help “make more golfers.” In the final analysis more golfers in our area means more revenue for Westview.

The National Golf Foundation states that a so-called “core golfer” is a reliable source of revenue for local public courses. The definition of “core golfer,” is a modest one. A core golfer is simply someone who plays 8 or more rounds of golf per year. 

In the 70s and 80s, Quincy made core golfers by the dozen, largely through the inviting nature of the third nine. If that gateway to pleasurable golf is cut off, it can be virtually guaranteed that we will make core golfers at a much slower rate.

National Golf Foundation statistics are difficult for me to access because I am not a member. This much is clear: in every 15 year period there is a roughly five-year period of decline. The other approximately 10 years are growth. By that statistic, it would appear we are coming to the end of the period of decline, which began in approximately 2008. People will need places to play if there is to be growth. Take away golf holes and you don’t give the natural growth a place to happen.

What if you tear out the back nine and find there was and continues to be a need for those golf holes?  Baseline, it costs about a million dollars to build a nine-holer.  Do you really have enough data to make this decision?

Finally, we should focus on your core constituency here at Westview, your season pass holders. By and large they appreciate this place. They respect it. They replace divots and fixe ball marks. They are loyal to the continued success of Westview and are entitled to loyalty in return. Look at your own schedule on your webpage. There are 35 days listed entailing golf course unavailability or closure. Anyone who plays here regularly will tell you there will ultimately be for five more days that are not on the list on your web page but the course is closed for outings or some such. Right now, those passholders can still play golf. If you take out the back nine, you have taken those passholders off the golf course for more than 25% of the viable golf season. (Using 150 days for the golf season and 40 days of golf course closure). If you take that step, you have devalued the pass by about 30% but conditions will not allow you to reduce its purchase price by that much.

Leaving the third nine in and marketing it to “make golfers” yields a realistic business model to increase your revenues. Tearing out the third nine amounts to negative market-making. You will be creating an environment in which the market for your principal service, the enjoyment of golf, inevitably shrinks and shrinks because of conditions, you, the seller, created.

Thank you for the opportunity be heard.  I leave you my complete remarks in written form and a copy of the NGCA economic report on the prospects of golf rebounding.

2 Comments:

At 8:08 PM, May 21, 2013, Blogger UMRBlog said...

Just to be clear to those who were there to hear my remarks. These were the prepared, written remarks. My oral remarks also dealt with "Golf 2.0" and the suggested dichotomy of "Do this" or "do nothing" as if there were no other choices.

Mike Hancox, Dave Hogge and Terry Traeder added particularly valuable insights.

 
At 7:50 AM, May 22, 2013, Anonymous Birdcage said...

Tony I agree with everything you said.
"Birdcage"

 

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