Friday, February 8, 2013

The First Tee Feels Good

I've been at the Golf Industry Show this week. As I was riding up the elevator today, a gentleman was telling his friend about how they had raised one million dollars for the First Tee program. He was elated and speaking loudly enough that everybody heard him. And mere moments before that, I had just finished a breakfast meeting with an industry veteran who has been involved in some of the finest golf projects in the country. He felt that First Tee was a complete and utter failure at growing the game. And then later in the day I had a similar conversation with a Golf Course Architect friend; his opinion was that First Tee was a failure at growing the game. Well, this caused me to remember that The First Tee's goal is not to grow the game of golf. Let me repeat that, The First Tee's goal is not to grow the game of golf. 

Here is The First Tee's mission:

Our Mission: To impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.

And while The First Tee's mission is a noble and worthy of support, it's main purpose is not growing the game of golf. Perhaps, we should, as an industry focus on growing the game of golf. In my post about PRODUCT PLACEMENT, I look at using product placement to expose young people to the game of golf. I'm sure that there are other good ideas out there as well. But until we admit to ourselves that The First Tee program's main focus is not to create as many new golfers as possible, we will just keep sliding backwards.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Golf and the Housing Market

About a decade and a half ago, I heard something interesting about housing and golf. What I had heard was that home buyers valued and were willing to pay as much for passive open space frontage and as they would for golf frontage. Well, it seems if developers have learned their lesson, albeit a little bit late. This article from The Herald-Tribune in Sarasota FL published after the NAHB International Builders' Show in Las Vegas clearly does not bode well for new golf courses as real estate amenities.

The Landing's community in Sarasota has more than four miles of walking trails and a nature trail. Developers are finding more interest in such amenities.
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.
LAS VEGAS - Although the number of houses specifically being developed for those 55 and over is expected to grow by more than one fifth this year, at least one amenity will not be prevalent: Golf.
According to a survey by housing groups, interest in golf courses by baby boomers and others has waned and, for developers, new golf courses do noteconomic sense.
"Golf courses are expensive to build and maintain, and they take a lot of time to play," said W. Don Whyte, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders' 50+ Housing Council.
In their place, developers are installing walking trails, wellness centers and other active amenities for a new breed of senior that is healthier and will likely live longer than his or her parents.
At developments in Utah, where Whyte lives, walking trails and vegetable gardens are proving to be a "tremendously popular amenity. You compare that to the investment you have to make for a golf course," he said, "and it is astronomical the difference in cost."
Developers in Southwest Florida are also reacting to the changing trends. In November, builder Taylor Morrison is planning to expand its Esplanade community in Manatee County with a pair of amenity centers, tennis courts, a restaurant, walking trails and a 6,000-square-foot wellness center.
It is also, however, planning a new 18-hole golf course at Esplanade.
The changes come as experts predict a 22 percent jump in the number of senior housing units in 2013, according to statistics released at the 2013 International Builders Show here.
But the "active adult" community is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, either.
In the Lakewood Ranch area, for example, Rosedale Golf & Country Club is adding a new phase but has abandoned plans to add nine additional golf holes in favor of more houses.
"Golf courses are not doing that well right now," said developer Pat Hogan, of the Hunt Group.
That said, high-end golf clubs such as Concession and the Founders Club, in Sarasota, have reported renewed interest and increased memberships -- perhaps signalling that golfers prefer existing, tried courses to new ones.
Meanwhile, walking and jogging trails, along with simple sidewalks and park areas, are the amenities most likely to attract both baby boomers and seniors, said Paul Emrath, the NAHB's vice president of survey and housing-policy research.
"These are also the two most popular amenities among younger home buyers. The older the buyers, however, the more likely they are to prefer a community offering an outdoor maintenance service," said Emrath.
"It's also interesting to see that many of the baby boomers and seniors who buy homes prefer to live in suburbs and rural areas, rather than in central cities."
The growth in construction of 55-plus housing units is expected to continue as the share of U.S. households in that age group -- now 14 percent -- increases significantly through 2020. NAHB is projecting 74,300 more units in 2013, and another 20 percent rise, to 89,071, in 2014.
"For the longest time, there wasn't even a reason to look into 55-plus housing, as many consumers weren't able to sell their existing homes at a fair price," said Whyte, of South Jordan, Utah. "That is beginning to change as the overall housing market continues to improve."