Golf Summit Provided Answers To Key Questions In The World Of Golf
James Hankowski of Condon O’Meara McGinty & Donnelly, Matthew Pringle of the USGA, Patrick Winemiller of Constellation Energy and David Dusek of Golfweek were the featured speakers at the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Annual Golf Summit on Wednesday, April 4, at the Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, where the NJSGA is headquartered.
The Golf Summit, conducted in collaboration with the New Jersey PGA Section, the New Jersey Club Managers Association, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Golf Course Owners Association, is considered the premier event in the state for networking and discussing hot-button topics among those in the golf industry.
About 100 golf administrators, superintendents, professionals and officials attended the event.
James Hankowski’s firm is the auditor for 350 golf clubs and has followed membership trends for the past 30 years. Hankowski, a partner in the accounting firm of Condon O’Meara McGinty & Donnelly, spoke on the topic of “Current Membership and Revenue Trends.”
He noted that membership trends are changing where social memberships are nearly equal to full memberships at clubs. He said dues averaged $10,653 for private clubs in New Jersey, up 2.4 percent in 2017 from the previous year.
In 2018, clubs are expected to average $620,000 in revenue from initiation fees, of which 75 percent are on installments plans.
“There are no longer waiting lists at most clubs,” Hankowski said.
He described how more and more clubs are financing capital improvements through bank loans. He said that in 2007, 75 percent of the clubs his company audits averaged $2.7 million in borrowing from banks. In 2016, 87.5 percent of the same clubs averaged $3.75 million in bank loans.
“Revenue from rounds of golf is down. Most of the money from loans is spent on capital improvements. We’ve seen that one year after the improvements are made, memberships at clubs making improvements is either equal to or greater than the number of members the previous year. It speaks to the saying: ‘If you build it, they will come.’ “
Matthew Pringle, Ph.D., is Senior Director, USGA Research, Science and Innovation. His topic was “Advancing the Game: Marrying Tradition with Technology.”
Beginning in 2016, Pringle led a new team at the USGA called Research, Science, and Innovation with a mission to create innovative tools that help golf facilities improve the golf experience and reduce the consumption of key resources. The USGA has introduced the Resource Management Tool, a new web-based product that can help golf course superintendents, owners and operators to be more precise, efficient and productive in maintaining their facilities.
“We are developing tools and technology to help golf course facilities, prioritizing golf-course maintenance costs,” Pringle said. “We look at the use of resources in their frequency, quantity and location of their usage.”
Through the use of GPS loggers, the USGA can track the movements of hundreds of golfers at a selected course to collect data indicating where the golfers are going every five seconds. This data allows course operators know what areas of the course are most in play and which are not. It allows facility managers to focus maintenance and resources on the areas that are most heavily used, while reducing unnecessary costs on acreage that has little to no impact on the golfer experience.
Of concern is money spent on water, labor, energy, nutrients, herbicides and pesticides and how costs can be reduced.
“The challenge statement for golf is that by 2025, the golfer experience will improve by 20 percent and costs will be reduced by 20 percent,” he noted.
Pringle also noted that the USGA will implement its modernized rules in 2019 as part of a joint initiative with the R&A to make the rules easier to understand and apply. In addition, the USGA will launch a new World Handicap System in 2020 designed to welcome more golfers. The new system incorporates several notable changes including an accommodation for abnormal course and/or weather conditions, as well as an increase in the maximum allowable handicap index from 36.0 to 54.0.
Patrick Winemiller is a Senior Business Development Manager for Constellation Energy’s Efficiency Made Easy (EME) product which works with commercial and industrial customers to identify and develop energy efficiency improvements at their facilities and provide solutions to fund these improvements through customers’ energy bills.
In recent years, Constellation worked with five local golf courses to provide energy solutions. One was Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City. Through Constellation, a comprehensive energy audit was completed to gauge energy use and needs. Liberty National determined that there was an opportunity to undergo a large-scale lighting overhaul to improve both energy efficiency and the members’ experience as they dine, socialize, and host events in the clubhouse. The project was completed with no out-of-pocket costs to Liberty National.
Constellation is currently working with Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone in creating energy solutions.
“We seek to find energy reductions in the areas of lighting, HVAC, chillers and boilers, and building automation systems,” Winemiller said. “There are no out-of-pocket costs. No up-front capital is needed. With the associated costs of the project already included in their electricity bill and spread out over the term of their energy contract with Constellation, clubs continue to install the solutions their facility needs while significantly reducing associated maintenance costs.”
David Dusek, a senior writer at Golfweek, addressed “The Ever-Changing Communications Landscape,” in golf.
“”It’s been a pretty radical shift since 2005 as to where golfers are now getting their information,” he said. “In 2005, it was coming from TV and print media. By 2008, people were going online. High-speed internet access became affordable. That changed the game; that and the development of the Smartphone. Now, people who love golf are pulling things from the internet. ”
He said social media is a huge resource where people are getting information. “Twitter and Facebook are used as tools to pull people in,” he said. “Social media should be a big part of country club websites to let members know what is going on at the club.”
Dusek also touched on the latest in golf equipment such as Arccos Golf, which uses sensors attached to golf clubs to automatically track each shot, providing data and analytics designed to quickly improve a golfer’s game.
He also mentioned Game Golf, an automatic, real-time shot tracker for iPhone, Android and Smartwatch platforms. Game Golf can track on-course performance and allows instant viewing of every shot on a phone to pinpoint individual strengths and weaknesses.
Dusek’s pick to win The Masters: Justin Thomas, with Jordan Spieth runner-up and Tiger Woods T-4.