The Hagerstown, Md. course that is owned by Washington County has seen increases in rounds in four straight months this year, and looks to continue the momentum with new twists on its events, tee-time discounts, a new focus in the pro shop, and more social-media promotion. A Golf and Brew tournament aimed to attract nongolfers as well will be held in September.
As Black Rock Golf Course in Hagerstown, Md. celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, it is trying new events and tee-time discounts to attract new faces, including a younger audience, the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reported.
Change is also being spurred for the course that is owned by Washington County, Md., the Herald-Mail reported, as retirements are providing opportunities for new people to be involved with its management, at the same time that some restructuring within the county government is opening up some resources to the golf operation, according to Public Works Director Andrew Eshleman.
The new face of the golf course is Interim Golf Director Ryan Crabtree, the Herald-Mail reported. In addition to being a well-known local golfer, Crabtree earned a sports marketing degree at Shepherd University.
The golf course has increased its social-media presence, now using Facebook and Instagram, to publicize specials, Crabtree told the Herald-Mail. That is helping to alert potential customers with a couple days’ notice, or even just a few hours, for discounted tee times during slower periods.
One deal that will be offered through August is a Saturday round of golf at $40, representing a $12 discount, if the golfer shows an ad that has been distributed digitally as well in print, the Herald-Mail reported.
With the golf course now falling under the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, instead of directly under Public Works, Eshleman has pulled in Parks Facilities Supervisor Dave Brooks to help with event planning and overseeing course operations at Black Rock, the Herald-Mail reported.
A Golf and Brew tournament, aimed to attract nongolfers as well, will be held on September 21 at the course. Beer samplings are included, with Antietam Brewery even offering samples at spots along the golf course. The golf ticket costs $75, but a $25 brew-only ticket will include food trucks and a performance by The South Mountain Breed band, Brooks said.
Some changes have also been made to an annual amateur tournament, sponsored this year by Michelob Ultra, that will be held at Black Rock September 7-8, the Herald-Mail reported. Prize categories, with different tee sites, have been added for seniors, women and senior women. In the past, women could have played from the same tee spot as the men, but mostly the tournament has featured men, officials said.
Officials also are working to create a junior/youth golf program at Black Rock, Brooks said. While the county’s recreation department offers opportunities for other sports, including basketball and volleyball, the Herald-Mail reported, it hasn’t had a program at the golf course. The club is now considering having a one-day clinic this fall, to gauge interest in a youth program, Brooks said.
There will be some trial-and-error as Black Rock tries new things, Eshleman told the Herald-Mail. But already, the golf course has seen some promising returns.
The total number of rounds of golf was higher for March, April, May and June this year, than it was during those months last year. The largest growth came in April, with approximately 900 additional rounds of golf.
A $99 frequent-player card was designed to draw golfers back to Black Rock, the Herald-Mail reported. One of the deals that cardholders get is a $16 discount for a weekend round of golf; that means they can make the cost of the card back with six such rounds, Brooks noted.
The increased foot traffic can also help in the pro shop and cafeteria, as well as with golfers spreading the word about the course, Brooks added.
In the pro shop, the Herald-Mail reported, Black Rock is discounting its remaining older inventory and clearing room for new items, with some still to arrive. While Black Rock will never be able to compete with Amazon or Dick’s Sporting Goods for club sales, Brooks said, the shop will still offer some clubs, and take custom orders. But its focus will be more on gear aimed at its client base, including golf balls, tees and gloves as well as more affordable golf shirts. A good-quality polo shirt will now cost about $35, instead of the previous $69, Brooks said.
On the course, officials said Superintendent John Easterday and Assistant Superintendent George Sweitzer have done a good job doing more with less, the Herald-Mail reported. Selena Wilkes, Chairwoman of the Black Rock Golf Course Board, said upcoming improvements on the course will target high-priority needs, including sand traps and cart paths.
Black Rock is operated through one of Washington County’s enterprise funds, which are supposed to be self-supporting, the Herald-Mail reported. But it has received subsidies from the county’s general fund, or operating budget, for years. The fiscal year that ended June 30 is still being closed out, but the estimated subsidy will amount to $330,000, according to the county’s Chief Financial Officer, Sara Greaves. That’s about $20,000 over budget.
For the 2019-20 fiscal year, a $347,640 subsidy is budgeted for Black Rock, Greaves told the Herald-Mail.
To try to increase revenue, the Herald-Mail reported, Black Rock is now looking at revamped sponsor packages for each hole on the golf course, with the goal of getting two sponsors per hole.