Friday, February 02, 2007

The "Final" Final Thoughts

First off, I want to thank Alison King, Dan Pino, Paul MacDonald, Dr. Stephen Norris, Stephen Ross, Jeff Calderwood, Nathalie Lavallée, Bob Weeks, Robert Thompson and James Cronk for there conversations, emails or comments on this subject. I also want to thank the many of you who posted comments or thoughts on this very subject. Even my 12 year old shared in this, though he wished Dad would find something else to talk about!

I know many of you are wondering why I went on such a tangent, and frankly so am I, but the subject is dear to me. As I said before I was a junior golfer who got lots of coaching, access and reduced green fees and look at what an impact it had on my life. I want to thank Graham Gunn and Dave Kempshed for teaching me and never once charging me for a lesson, because I was a junior. I was also a player in dozens of golf tournaments put on by volunteers where the course was donated and so were the prizes. I even ran junior events myself when I was in my twenties (the last time I was actively linked to a club). To every volunteer past, present and future I offer you my personal thanks.

I have two children who have already indicated clearly without their father’s prodding that they want to play. My youngest played his first 9 holes at 5 because there is a course called River Edge in Kitchener that encourages parents and children to play. Here is the link if your interested: . My older boy and I were going to play and have the youngest walk with us, but the lady looked at me incredulously and said why he isn’t playing. I sheepishly said I figured he’s too young and you would be worried about him keeping up. She said, “He’ll keep up, it’s you I’m worried about!”

There are so many people who really care about the future of the game, and I mean really care. I just hope that we can all find that common ground that will “grow the game”

There are more articles on the blog all done over the same three week period. Each organization was allowed to comment or make a statement to allow them the opportunity to present their case or explain their own efforts. You will only need to go into january of 2007 to find the remainder.

Paul Daley’s Favourite Holes By Design

I’ve been ill almost all week now, so I thought I would take a light subject for a change of pace.

One of my favorite golf architecture books for relaxing before bed is Paul Daley’s Favourite Holes by Design. It doesn’t have the depth of insight that I love from Golf Architecture in America by Thomas or Mackenzie’s Spirit of St. Andrew’s, but there are lots of small moments to love. The book has such a simple premise, get 70 different golf course architects to write a one page review of a great hole and publish them all together in one book. I certainly wish I knew Paul Daley at the time because I would have loved to have participated in the book.

The Himilayan Golf Club's 6th from the tee over the river, and back across to the island green

Each architect has written in detail what they admire about the hole, whether it simply fits the eye, offers a unique set of playing options, or pushes the art to a new level. They have covered well known holes from Cypress Point to Augusta, but the best ones are from courses not known by more than the most ardent architecture junkie, like the Himilayan Golf Club by Ron Fream or Martin Ebert’s choice of the outstanding 5th at Royal Worlington and Newmarket (likely the finest nine hole course in the world). This is the area where the book becomes the most fun.

There are great personal moments, like Todd Eckinrode’s views on the 13th at Royal County Down, which are framed around his trip to play in the British Amateur. Robin Hinesman starts his with “Isn’t it great when something not only meets you expectations, but exceeds them. Especially when your expectations were so high to begin with.” He goes on to talk about the joy he found at the often maligned Cashen Course at Ballybunion. I know find myself wanting badly to see this course after reading his review. Some of the illustrations are spectacular and some of the writing is beautiful, but all of the reviews make you want to see the holes you have not yet played. Paul even included a photograph of each hole taken usually by David Scalletti so that people could see what makes the hole special too.

The 6th at Kingsbarns, Brian used Kyle's own sketch to illustrate the hole.

If your curious about which hole I would have picked then you better use this link to find out:

The back of Paul’s book finishes up with a list of each architects favourite 5 par 3s, 4’s and 5’s.
I have offered you my favourite hole and I will finish up with the 15 holes that I think are the best at each par. I stuck with only the holes I knew from personal experience, so I’m sure there are other more worthy holes I haven’t met…..yet!

16th at Cypress Point Club
11th Los Angelas Country Club
4th National Golf Links of America
10th Pine Valley Golf Club
8th Royal Troon Golf Club

10th Riviera Golf & Country Club
13th Pine Valley Golf Club
14th Royal Dornock Golf Club
13th Royal County Down
6th The Creek Club

8th Crystal Downs Golf Club
18th Pebble Beach Golf Links
15 at Highland Golf Links
14th at St. Andrew’ Old Course
13th at Cruden Bay Golf Club

I bring this up to any of you who have not heard of this book and I have provided a link to the publisher Paul Daley. He can be reached at :

Monday, January 29, 2007

Course closures outpace openings in 2006

"According to the National Golf Foundation, there was negative net growth in golf facilities in 2006 for the first time in 60 years, as the number of courses that closed (146 18-hole equivalents) was greater than the number of openings (119.5). In releasing the data, NGF said it was not an alarming occurrence, but a confluence of events – openings returning to more normal levels and weaker facilities being culled. "

We began a cycle of dropping participation just after the start of the new millennium. Of course, the IPSOS Reid study claims that we had a big increase last year. Now remember this poll was based on equal sampling in all the regions so that southern Ontario had the same impact as PEI. This makes the results tough to believe when a quarter of all play is from Ontario and a huge majority of that is from southern Ontario. Ask any course operator in southern Ontario, play is down.

"In the late 1980s, the number of openings was about 100 per year. There followed a wave of increased construction in the 1990s that peaked in 2000 with nearly 400 openings. Since then the wave has subsided to near historic levels. "

In southern Ontario the build out has easily followed this massive spike and it is quite clear that we are about to follow the same pattern of construction…or lack there of. The interesting thing is there may be a possibility of no new courses built in southern Ontario in a year or two!

"The culling of courses is not viewed as a negative by NGF. The organization expects overall course supply to stop expanding in the absence of increases in demand. It is primarily the weaker courses that are closing and, in many cases, owners who sell are profiting from long-term real estate appreciation. Finally, a better quality overall golf supply means a better quality experience for players."

I really have no problem with what they are saying about weaker facilities and bad business models being culled. In fact, many of Ontario’s most foolish projects will end up declaring bankruptcy. The Niagara region has a series of courses all built beyond the regions price point, and the casino traffic is not what they all anticipated. Anyone surprised by this – after Legends we all knew. The Muskoka’s feature a very short season, granted there is plenty of money (for now), but too many courses were built in isolated locations. Nobody wants to leave the family and the cottage for the day to play golf and these courses are excessively expensive to build. Finally Collingwood will be the next area to face the same. There building like mad to match the real estate boom, but the courses are already showing signs that the demand is not there – and yet more are coming.

"NGF recorded a 56 percent jump in the number of closures between 2005 and 2006, from 93.5 to 146. These 146 closures represent about 1 percent of the total supply of golf courses in the U.S. Closures were primarily public (97 percent). They were disproportionately short courses (executive and par-3) – 20 percent were short courses vs. 8 percent of total facilities. And, they were disproportionately stand-alone 9-holers, 46 percent vs. 28 percent of total facilities. Closures were predominately values courses; with nearly half having peak green fees under $25. Closures occurred in 39 of 50 states."

We’re always a little behind the curve up here, but this is coming. As a developer friend said to me a few years back, “Why would I build now, when I can buy them at 50 cents on the dollar in a few years?” Clublink will begin to acquire courses again but many will simply go to bankruptcy. I’m still trying to figure out who is going to fill Coppinwood, the new Greg Norman course and Gord Stollery’s course all being or been built east of Uxbridge for high end membership. The market won’t carry all of them.

The business model still remains the same, if you build a clever course at a reasonable cost, you will make money and be busy. If you build a massive project with every bell and whistle, you must charge a premium, and then everything must go perfectly for you to make money - including the economy, and that nobody can control.