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April 26, 2012
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THE APPROACH/DIGITAL

‘A Real Godsend’
Golf course owners/operators benefit from early play and an increase in revenue

By Larry Aylward / Editorial Director

Golf Course Superintendent Kevin Smith put it best.

“With so many distressed owners and distressed properties, this has been a real godsend for the golf business so far this year,” said Smith, vice president of Charlotte-based Pinnacle Golf Properties, which operates six golf courses in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Smith is talking about the increase in golf rounds and revenue for the first quarter of 2012. Following one of the warmest winters in U.S. history, herds of early golfers were spotted on golf courses around the country. Golf rounds were up substantially in the first quarter, thanks to the winter that wasn’t and the warmest March on record in the country. Golf Datatech estimates that rounds were up more than 15 percent in the first two months of 2012 when compared to 2011, a year that also had a good start. March rounds were projected to be higher as well. It’s only the first three months of the year, but every little bit helps.

Smith said the company had record rounds in December and was followed by solid rounds in January and February. March rounds were about 25 percent ahead of budget.
“The neat thing about this scenario is that golfers are so happy to see green grass this early that they seem a little more forgiving than they normally would be [with conditions],” Smith said in early April. “They are just ecstatic.”

Pinnacle’s revenues were up 15 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.

“We wanted to see a continuation of that trend,” Smith said. “This winter has put us at an advantageous position to do that.”

At Cranberry Highlands Golf Course near Pittsburgh, rounds were up by 1,500 for the first quarter when compared to last year. Cranberry logs between 30,000 and 33,000 rounds a year. The course usually gets a few hundred rounds during the first three months of the year.

“People were just excited to get out there and play,” said Dave Barber, Cranberry’s golf course superintendent. “They didn’t care how fast the greens were or anything.”

Dennis Kitzelman, superintendent of Fremont (Neb.) Golf Club, said the private club had a record-shattering 400 rounds in January. The club usually gets about 40 rounds in that month.

Pat Daly, certified golf course superintendent for Framingham (Mass.) Country Club, opened the course for play on March 16. In his 12 years at the club, the earliest the club had opened before was March 28.

“People were shocked that we had 18 greens open,” Daly said. “We’ve been going strong since St. Patrick’s Day.”

I’ll toast a green beer to that.

Aylward can be reached at laylward@mooserivermedia.com.

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