A strategic planning survey to which more than 300 golf course operators reportedly responded suggests one reason for the game’s lethargic performance in recent months and years: Bad business practices.
The survey, conducted by Golf Convergence, a strategic consulting business based in Castle Pines, Colo., “demonstrated that golf course operators complain about uncontrollable factors to mask their culpability for being poor operators,” the company said.
Among the findings of the survey:
- 35 percent are operating without a current business plan.
- 76 percent believe that their market is oversupplied.
- 73 percent don’t engage in customer relationship management.
- 88 percent never have their golf course secret shopped.
- 82 percent rarely engage in customer surveys.
“I’m disappointed,” James Keegan, Managing Principal of Golf Convergence said, “but I’m not surprised. Having seen over 4,000 golf courses, I continue to be amazed that most of the people in the golf business got there for the love of the game, but most lack the business acumen and formal education to be able to engage in a successful small business.”
Keegan recently wrote in his blog at golfconvergence.com that, “a golf course is a living organism that requires constant reinvestment to create sustaining value for the golfer.”
“I believe most golf clubs in America cover operational expenses,” he said, “but few set aside sufficient capital reserves.”
The status quo, as he is fond of saying, is a formidable foe.
The survey in its entirety can be read here.
On Friday, August 18th, a day after telephoning his cardiologist and family physician Dr. Robert Staffen to report that he was feeling poorly, Palmer immediately was sent by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. Three days later, he underwent a pacemaker implant procedure for an irregular heartbeat.
"I'm fine, and I'm continuing to feel better," Palmer said Thursday morning in his office located across from Latrobe Country Club, his boyhood golfing home that he now owns.
Palmer had just returned from a checkup with his doctor, and he was told that his recovery is progressing on schedule. "Except for the fact that I have a hole in my chest, I'm OK," he said with a wry smile. "I don't even know it's there, really, except it itches."
And except for the fact that he can't play golf for 10 more days. He is not yet allowed to lift his left arm above his shoulder (though he insists on demonstrating that he can do it), a post-operative precaution so he doesn't adversely affect the new wiring. He can, however, resume his three-times-per-week workouts with his personal trainer.
Palmer was back at work the day after surgery, and among his current tasks is getting through a mountain of notes, letters and get-well cards stacked in a wicker basket behind his desk. One of his favorites is a handmade note written in crayon on orange construction paper.
"They come from all kinds of people of all ages -- and they're still coming in," said Palmer's longtime media representative, Doc Giffin.
Palmer, 84, is reluctant to say how serious his condition became. He explained that during his checkup earlier in the day it was determined that he is using only about two percent of the capacity of his pacemaker. "And I'd be happy if that's all I ever had to use," he said. "So things are good. I feel good. I wish everyone felt as good as I do."
What seemed to make him happier than his own well-being was news that a close relative had weathered a more serious health crisis. He expected the worst when his mobile phone rang late Thursday morning, but instead he was pleased to hear the voice of his in-law, Robert Saunders. The 85-year-old father-in-law to Arnie's daughter, Amy, underwent a heart procedure a few days ago in which doctors gave him a 50-50 chance of survival.
"He sounded great," Palmer said, smiling broadly. "We talked about five minutes. He said he wanted a milkshake."
Palmer turns 85 on Sept. 10, and he said he had no special plans that day. "Is that coming up again?" he said, pretending he was not aware. "Just peace and quiet, nothing else, really."
Of course, it will be around that time when he can start hitting a few balls on the driving range again.
Most people who get a pacemaker might find golf difficult. But Arnold Palmer won't. He showed why. The seven-time major championship winner unzipped his tan Ryder Cup jacket and pulled back his white shirt. Under clear medical tape there was a bulge on the left side of his chest, high up, just under his collarbone and near his shoulder -- far higher than for most anyone else who receives a pacemaker.
That's right. It was put there so it wouldn't interfere with his golf swing.
Recalling that time Gary McCord was banned from the Masters (Oh, and Tiger Woods won his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs)
Both were important for different reasons. We'll start with Woods, who made a lot of history that week at TPC Sawgrass. The 18-year-old Californian became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur as well as the first golfer to win the tournament in addition to winning the U.S. Junior.
Woods also made the biggest comeback in the history of the event, rallying from six down in the final match to Trip Kuehne. In the cover photo, Woods reacts to making a 14-foot birdie putt on TPC Sawgrass' famed 17th hole -- the 35th hole of the match -- to take his first lead of the day.
The thrilling victory gave Woods his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs (he won three straight U.S. Juniors from 1991-1993), an accomplishment that might trump anything he's done as a pro. But Woods nearly didn't have a chance to make that putt when his tee shot on the island green landed about a foot from the water, but spun back to stay dry.
"That was divine intervention," said Ernie Kuene, Trip's dad and caddie, in Brett Avery's story for the magazine. "And (Tiger's) had it for three years."
Whatever you want to call it, it's fair to say Woods had a better week than McCord. In that same issue, Golf World reported CBS confirmed the broadcaster would not be allowed to participate in the following year's Masters telecast. No one at Augusta National commented in the story, but Susan Kerr, then CBS director of programming, said the network's decision was made because Masters officials "were not comfortable with his style."
The reported quotes that got McCord in trouble? Saying "there are some body bags down there if that keeps going," when a ball was rolling toward a water hazard, and joking that "bikini wax" is used to make Augusta National's greens so slick. The incident seems minor, but it was another example of the immense power the club wields. Two decades later, CBS still televises the Masters, but McCord, still an otherwise vital part of the network's golf broadcasts, remains banned from being part of the coverage.
"There's no going back in time. That's who I am. That's what I did," McCord said in an interview with USA Today last year.
There's no going back in time for Tiger, either -- but it's fun to look back. Draining a clutch putt to win a huge tournament? That's who he was. That's what he did. Twenty years later, it's just as impressive.
Starters -- (A-List): Adam Scott. If we keep picking him, he has to win eventually, right? Scott won the inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship by four shots in 2003.
(B-List): Jason Day. Same for this Aussie. Day contended at the PGA Championship and is coming off a T-2 at the Barclays. He was T-2 at TPC Boston in 2010 and T-3 in 2011.
(B-List): Rory McIlroy. We've got three starts remaining for the World No. 1 and we plan on using him in the season's final three tournaments. It doesn't hurt that he also won this event in 2012.
(C-List): John Senden. We'll keep our Aussie tea party going with a guy who hasn't shot an over-par round at TPC Boston since the first year of the FedEx Cup Playoffs (2007). Senden has top-12 finishes in three of his last four starts in this event.
Bench/Backups: Brandt Snedeker, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furykand Charl Schwartzel.
Knockout/One-and-done pick: Brandt Snedeker. The prospective Ryder Cup captain's pick has three top-six finishes in his last four trips to Boston, including a T-3 in 2011. After missing the cut at the Barclays, this is his last chance to impress captain Tom Watson like Hunter Mahan did last week. As Watson says in that MasterCard commercial, c'mon, "Sneeedeker."
Previously used: Keegan Bradley (Doral), Tim Clark (Sony), Jason Day (Congressional), Graham DeLaet (Phoenix), Luke Donald (Valspar), Jason Dufner (Bridgestone), Rickie Fowler (Honda Classic), Jim Furyk (Heritage), Sergio Garcia (British Open), Bill Haas (Farmers), Charley Hoffman (Travelers), Billy Horschel (Zurich), Charles Howell III (Humana), Freddie Jacobson (Valero), Dustin Johnson (Northern Trust), Zach Johnson (Colonial), Matt Kuchar (U.S. Open), Martin Laird (Kapalua), Hunter Mahan (Canadian), Graeme McDowell (Bay Hill), Rory McIlroy (PGA Championship -- WINNER!), Ryan Palmer (Memphis), Justin Rose (Memorial), Adam Scott (Masters), Webb Simpson (Wyndham), Jordan Spieth (Houston), Henrik Stenson (Players), Jimmy Walker (Pebble -- WINNER!), Nick Watney (Barclays), Gary Woodland (Nelson).