Early signs of activity for the 2011 season are showing progress back towards pre-recession levels, clubs in Connecticut and New York reported. But corporations are still taking a more conservative, value-conscious approach.
Country clubs in the greater New York/Connecticut region that were surveyed in late April by WestfairOnline.com, a White Plains, N.Y.-based online business journal, reported some early signs of improvement in corporate-outing activity for the 2011 season. The upbeat reports were tempered by the fact that overall figures for both the number of outings, and revenues per outing, are still below pre-recession levels, with many corporate planners still opting for less-expensive luncheons and snacks instead of dinners as part of their outing arrangements. But the improvement may be another sign that business confidence is rising after the recession, the website said.
Karen Degnan, Club Administrator at Saint Andrew’s Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.., said that she had definitely noticed “an increase in companies and fundraising groups ‘shopping’ again for outings this year.”
“We host approximately 20 outings a year,” Degnan reported about activity at Saint Andrew’s, the U.S.’s oldest continuously operating golf club. “Some are corporate, some of the larger ones are fundraisers for private schools and hospitals, and we have several professional organizations that host events. There was a definite decline in 2008, but there has been a steady increase in outings through this year.
“I would say they are definitely attended by less people, though, [and] are not as elaborate as they were seven or 10 years ago.” Degnan added. “The days of the 120- to 140-person outing are few and far between.
At Danbury, Conn.-based Richter Memorial Park, a public golf course, corporate outings were also reported to be on the rise.
“We expect an increase in the number of events we host in 2011 over most recent years,” said General Manager Maria Sanyshyn. “We offer conditions that rival the best of private country clubs, and can offer our events at a fraction of the cost.”
Jack Hrad, an industry veteran who recently returned from South Africa to be the new General Manager of Brentwood Golf and Country Club in Brentwood, N.Y., a Troon Golf property, said that his club is enjoying “a much better year this year” than the previous year.
“We are very much in the corporate event and golf outing business,” said Hrad. “We accommodate many more corporate groups than most fine private clubs. We are quite fortunate and, yes, we have quite a few more this year.”
But Hrad also added that booking sheets for current event orders, corporations and fund-raising groups are show a more value-conscious approach. “Everybody wants to spend a little bit less,” he said. “Some groups don’t want to include a lot of foodservice, maybe just include snacks or just breakfast before the game. More and more groups are opting for a nice lunch meal before the event, and then a prize-awarding ceremony after the event. They are cost-cutting and cost-saving, for sure.”
At Anglebrook Golf Club in Lincolndale, N.Y., bookings for corporate-outing bookings are also rising, reports General Manager Matt Sullivan. “For 2011, we’ve seen an increase in corporate outings,” Sullivan told the website. “We expect to sell all of the Mondays in June [for outings], and most of the Mondays in September as well.” Anglebrook is closed to members on Mondays and available to outside groups for exclusive use on those days, he noted.
“In 2009, outings were down significantly, but we’re very slowly building back up to the activity levels we saw prior to the economic downturn of 2008,” Sullivan added. “We’ve rebounded to some degree, but it’s still a long way back. Overall, corporations are certainly more cost-conscious than they were five years ago.”
At Willow Ridge Country Club in Harrison, N.Y., Chief Operating Officer Scott Garvin reported an overall increase in the country club’s business. “We look forward to a really good year,” Garvin said. “We see an uptick in memberships, people sponsoring private events, and also corporate events. This is the first time in a number of years that we have a waiting list.”
Todd Zorn, General Manager of Salem Golf Club in North Salem, N.Y., said the number of reservations for corporate and charity outings this year at his club is still consistent with last year’s figure. Salem Golf Club had 10 corporate outings for the year on the books in mid-April, Zorn reported. “The thing that has changed over the last couple of years is that the number of participants has gone down per outing,” he added. “So for an outing three years ago that would have 120 participants, it now may only have 100.”