The real trend that we’ve been seeing lately is that there are as many, if not more, parties that are interested in starting or acquiring club or course properties now as there are those looking to shut them down.
As we find local news reports that we want to repurpose and use in our daily e-newsletter and online reports, as well as the news section of the monthly magazine, we always look to edit out material that the local reporter has included but that we don’t think will be appropriate or needed for our club-management audience. And these days, there’s almost always one big chunk of what’s in these local reports that keeps calling out for the delete key.
Whether it’s a story about a club or course that’s closing, or even one that’s opening or expanding and improving its facilities, you can pretty much always count on the local reporter to eventually bring in statistics (usually several years old) that show how the industry is declining.
But we now always cut these out, because 1) we know you’ve already seen these numbers many times and 2) even if they were fresher, they really are no longer relevant as leading indicators of trends in the business.
While the overall numbers may still be down, or less than what they once were, the real trend that we’ve been seeing lately is that there are as many, if not more, parties that are interested in starting or acquiring club or course properties now as there are those looking to shut them down.
Even better, when you look more closely into what’s attracting some of these new parties to the business, there are very encouraging signs of different approaches and expectations that may ensure we might never have to look at doom-and-gloom statistics for the industry again.
We’ve come across several recent examples of private owners who have operated a club for many years but are now looking to retire. But they have enough skin and heart tied to what they created and nurtured that they don’t just want to sell out to developers.
In these cases, it’s usually not difficult now to find a new owner from within the business that wants to continue to operate and improve the club (for example, Hidden Creek Golf Club).
But also in more than a few cases, we’ve seen local municipalities or groups decide to find ways to put funds together, either from public or private sources, or some combination of the two, and then step up and acquire the property.
One such example comes from Altoona, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines that has signed a letter of intent to purchase Terrace Hills GC, the town’s only public course, for $3.1 million from the family that owned and operated it for 54 years.
It appears to be a well-planned transaction and transition, with closing on the property not taking place until the end of 2019 and the city planning to hire a management firm to take over in the spring of 2020.
Altoona’s City Administrator, Jeff Mark, told the Des Moines Register that the city wants to keep Terrace Hills open to avoid losing a community asset.
“When you say you’re a full-service community, we include golfing as one of those items we provide,” Mark said. “It’s a lot easier to keep the golf course you have than it is to go out and build a new one.”
Guess he hasn’t been seeing those doom-and-gloom numbers, either.
Joe Barks, Editor