A steady stream of strikingly similar newspaper reports kept popping up from around the country last year.
Some of the inspiration for the “21st Century Club” series that we are starting in this issue and will run throughout this year was drawn from a steady stream of strikingly similar newspaper reports that kept popping up from around the country last year, as we did our daily searches for items to include in our online news postings and e-newsletters.
It was almost as if the same editor was calling a different business or golf writer in a different city each day, to give out the same assignment: We hear that the recession is killing golf and country clubs; go see if you can find any victims in your area.
And so it was that I started to assemble an ever-fattening file with headlines like these:
“Midwest Private Country Clubs Hit Hard by Economy”
“Private Clubs Weathering Storm—Mostly”
“Many U.S. Country Clubs Modernizing for Survival”
As you might expect, something of a different story could be found underneath those headlines. Yes, each article inevitably cited aggregate National Golf Foundation data (always a year old) to paint bleak pictures of course closings and membership falloffs. Photos showed grim-faced golf pros or lone golfers on a course, and you didn’t have to read very far to find out why (fill in name of former member) had to resign his or her membership in (fill in name of club), or how (fill in name of golf pro or club manager) was trying to turn things around by (fill in description of new membership incentive or initiative).
At the same time, reading further (usually this required getting pretty much to the end) almost always yielded an interesting nugget about a club that the reporter felt was “bucking” the trend—either by finding ways to attract new members, or by compensating for falloffs in some parts of its business by improving or adding other amenities.
Our daily searches were also finding many other, separate articles that also fell into this category and highlighted club and course properties that had more positive stories to tell—either because they had come under new ownership or management, had made significant investments to improve their facilities, or had embarked on another type of successful strategy.
These went into a separate file that also quickly got pretty fat. Watching the two piles grow, it became clear that it might be helpful to try to produce our own series of articles to redirect the view away from the recession and try to provide a more balanced, forward-thinking perspective.
For the segments to come, we’ve got plenty of “leads” to follow—but if you think there are any we might have missed and should also track down, please send them our way.
And here’s hoping Year 13 of this century proves lucky for all.
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