The event brought an estimated 50,000 visitors to the Ohio city, and many area clubs and courses took steps in advance to try to attract everyone from delegates to private pilots with special promotions and rates. But so far, most properties report, it’s been a pretty typical summer week.
While the expected visitor count to the Cleveland, Ohio area for the Republican National Convention (RNC) was estimated to be 50,000, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported, it doesn’t appear that will translate into extra traffic and business for the area’s golf courses, even with the good karma for the sport that might come from the convention’s connection to Donald Trump.
As Day 2 of the convention kicked off, Crain’s reported, the vast majority of Northeast Ohio golf courses that responded to a Crain’s request for an update on their activity levels during convention week toed the same party line, saying that the RNC was having little or no impact on their business.
That was even the case, Crain’s noted, for Little Mountain Country Club in Painesville, Ohio and StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights, Ohio, which had been featured as convention delegates arrived on “18 Holes with Natalie Gulbis and Jimmy Hanlin,” which is available on the majority of Fox Sports’ 18 regional networks.
Hanlin, who has an ownership stake in both of those courses, thought that the extra publicity might lure some out-of-town golfers to his courses, but so far that hasn’t been the case. “At this point at Little Mountain, we’ve gotten no action at all that we can tell,” he told Crain’s.
Stuart Neidus, the managing partner at StoneWater, told Crain’s that many private planes being used by people coming to the convention have been landing at Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, Ohio, because of flight restrictions that are in place for Burke Lakefront Airport, which is closer to downtown Cleveland and Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention is being held.
Noting that, StoneWater offered special convention-week golfing rates to pilots and guests who were landing at the airport, Crain’s reported, as well as to those staying in surrounding hotels. Still, the only RNC-related business Neidus has noticed came from a few pilots who had dinner at StoneWater on Monday night. “Right now, it seems like all of the action is downtown,” he told Crain’s.
Hanlin said that Little Mountain, like StoneWater, put cards in hotels, with competitive rates offered to RNC guests. “No. 1, it’s [still] a little early in the week,” Hanlin said while noting the lack of takers to date. “No 2, it’s just interesting. Maybe people don’t want to miss anything [downtown].”
One prominent local golf course didn’t want its name mentioned, but a staffer there told Crain’s that the course got involved with the convention planning during the early stages and became an official RNC venue. But “little or no business” has come from that arrangement, the course told Crain’s.
That course, however, has seen an increase in play over a normal week, Crain’s noted, thanks to PGA professionals setting up tee times for their club members who are in town for the convention, and from the local course’s members hosting visiting friends and business associates.
The bright side, Crain’s reported, is that the source from the local course said it didn’t set a budget for this week, so whatever it gets from RNC visitors “is a bonus.”
Steven Carter, President and Director of Golf at Firestone Country Club, home of the Bridgestone Invitational, told Crain’s that the biggest event on tap at the Akron, Ohio course this week is a First Tee outing on Wednesday, July 20th.
Firestone is seeing a large number of 12- and 16-player groups, Carter told Crain’s, which is “typical for how our members use the club all of the time.” The club, he added, always has companies that entertain clients shortly after the Bridgestone tournament concludes, so it was difficult to tell if this week was any different because of the convention. (The 2016 Bridgestone wrapped up July 3, a month ahead of schedule, because of golf’s return to the Olympics.)
Crain’s reported these responses from other Cleveland-area clubs and courses about the impact, or lack of one, from having a major political convention in the area:
- Scott Schreck, President and Director of Golf for Granite Golf Properties, which operates the Quarry Golf Club in Canton, Ohio, said he hadn’t seen much impact from the RNC. “I was hoping for more,” Schreck said.
- Chase Pinchot, General Manager of Bunker Hill Golf Course in Medina, Ohio, said, “We have definitely seen a few out-of-towners come through, but not a major influx of players. If any courses are seeing an increase, I suspect it’s those that are closer to downtown.”
- Tom Scheetz, General Manager of The Tanglewood Club in Bainbridge Township, Ohio, had similar sentiments. “We have not seen an increase of business this week,” Scheetz said. “My guess is we are a bit too far from downtown to be a golfing destination.”
- Patty Gaston, the Golf Services Manager at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Canton, Ohio, said “We have not seen any extra traffic from the RNC. Cleveland is keeping them pretty busy, and with [a new downtown casino) in the middle of the Cleveland excitement, I’m afraid [that’s] our new competitor.”
- Charlie Wood, Director of Golf for The Mafield Sand Ridge Club, said that both of its locations [South Euclid and Chardon] have experienced a “small increase” in play, but “nothing huge.” But Wood did report that the club was hosting a golf luncheon for 250 guests from one of the RNC delegations, with Ben Curtis, a Kent State University alum who won the 2003 British Open, on hand as a celebrity guest.