A simple yet eloquent exchange between two characters in the film The Legend of Bagger Vance is revealing for what it says about golf’s appeal. Rannulph Junuh, a local golfing hero before he went away to fight in World War I, is speaking to Hardy Greaves, who is looking back on his life after collapsing on a golf course.
Junuh: You really love this game, don’t you?
Greaves: It is the greatest game there is.
Junuh: You really think so?
Greaves: Ask anybody. It’s fun. It’s hard. You stand out there on that green, green grass, and it’s just you and the ball. … It’s the only game I know that you can call a penalty on yourself, if you’re honest, which most people are. There just ain’t no other game like it.
The same can be said of the business of golf. There’s just no other business like it. All of us who work in a golf-related field know we’ve beaten the system. That’s not to say the business of golf is similar in any way to the days of Bagger Vance.
The business is ever-changing. Just how positive future changes will be for those who stake their living to the health of the game will be greatly affected by three important influences: the success of player development, the strength of the housing recovery and the ripple effects of the ClubCorp IPO.
We must do better, and it should start with the allied organizations that support the game: the PGA of America, GCSAA, NGCOA and CMAA. The gender and ethnicity of these groups simply do not reflect the diversity we need to see in the game.
As housing continues its recovery, more golf communities and clubs will be developed because golf courses remain extremely attractive amenities. This growth in housing brings a mixed bag for the golf segment of businesses. We certainly welcome the golfers who will be brought to the game and those who will return as they become part of new golf communities. But no one wants to see a return of the poor decision-making that led to too many overbuilt markets and under-financed properties.
Club managers, golf professionals and golf course superintendents share a vested interest in understanding the housing sector and anticipating the effects being spawned by increased demand for housing.
The bona fide potential of golf’s business segment will be revealed in the coming few years. Keep your eye on player development, housing and ClubCorp.
Henry DeLozier is a principal in the Global Golf Advisors consultancy. DeLozier joined Global Golf Advisors in 2008 after nine years as the vice president of golf for Pulte Homes. He is a past president of the National Golf Course Owners Association’s board of directors and serves on the PGA of America’s Employers Advisory Council.