Monday, February 7, 2011

Michigan’s 2011 Golf Business Outlook: Less Stress, Headed in Right Direction

For Michigan’s golf business leaders attending the West Michigan Golf Show on Feb. 11-13, the proverbial cup is slightly more than half full. Held at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids, the 23rd edition of the popular consumer golf show serves as a gathering point for the state’s golf industry. Several key golf officials see more hopeful signs on the horizon for the business of golf after being shaken by a supply and demand course imbalance, ‘The Great Recession’ and a faltering Detroit auto industry.

“For our member courses, it appears 2010 was a modest improvement over 2009 and although there are plenty of challenges for the golf industry, any improvement is huge,” said David Graham, Executive Director of the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM). “I expect better things in 2011 for Michigan golf. Most importantly, you can’t underestimate the importance of the state’s rebounding auto industry,” said Graham whose 60,000-member GAM organization has exhibited at the Grand Rapids show every year since 1989. “That sector also dictates the health of those support industries surrounding autos so one can be optimistic hearing the good news coming out of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. This can only bode well for the golf industry too in 2011.”

Sharing similar thoughts was Kevin Helm, the Executive Director of the Michigan Section of the PGA of America, one of 41 sections for the 28,000-member association. “We saw some positive signs in 2010. Most golf professionals and owners I spoke with throughout the year and off-season seemed to think things are headed in the right direction,” said Helm. “It’s certainly not easy out there, but most operators said the year was better than 2009 and they sensed that some of the corporate business was trickling back.”

Representing a state golf association whose members are synonymous with ‘teaching the game,’ Helm also expressed optimism due to the auto industry. “With some positive news coming out of Detroit, it’s logical to think people can play and spend more on golf than the past few years.”

Holding a reliable barometer on public golf in Michigan is Kate Moore, Executive Director of the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association (MGCOA). “The general consensus by public golf owners and operators is that they’re feeling less stressed about the economy,” said Moore. “Times are still challenging, but as owners head into the new golf season, they’re more upbeat. Some of that is due to newly announced increased funding of the Pure Michigan campaign that’s proven so successful in promoting Michigan’s travel and golf assets, and some of it’s due to hopes for the new Snyder administration in Lansing.” Based in Lansing, the MGCOA -represents 300 public, resort and private golf facilities.

All three associations have special plans and programs set for 2011. In June at Boyne Highlands, the GAM will celebrate the 100th Michigan Amateur Championship, the flagship amateur event in the state. Several special events are planned for the occasion including a program at Boyne Highlands featuring CBS-TV golf commentator Gary McCord.

For the Michigan PGA, it remains committed “to promoting and growing the game in 2011.” Helm said such initiatives as members providing free lessons at the West Michigan Golf Show, to Michigan Golf Business Legislative Day (a multi-association effort) on the Capitol lawn in June, to the Play Golf America Day are all aimed “to promote the fun and enjoyment of the game, introduce the game to kids, provide lessons to adults, and educate the attendees on how to get more involved in the game in their local communities.”

For the MGCOA, Moore reported the association is encouraged by a 30% increase in the League Championship Series last year. “In 2010, we had nearly 5000 golfers participate and we expect it grow again this year. So that’s good news looking ahead,” said Moore. Moore also said the Golden Passbook to Michigan Golf, a premium product offering value in both rounds and lodging, is also expected to sell out in 2011. “At $550, the Passbook offering golf and lodging is priced as a value and not a discount program.” Moore said owners are also focusing on current golfers as well as developing new ones.

Produced by ShowSpan Inc., the West Michigan Golf Show’s hours are 4:00 pm-9:00 pm, Friday; 10:00 am-7:00 pm, Saturday; and 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Sunday. Tickets are $9 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-14, and children 5 and under are free. Sponsors currently include Treetops Resort, Golf Association of Michigan, Shanty Creek Resort, Srixon, Boyne Resorts and the Michigan PGA. Tickets will be available at the door or at,

For more information, call 1-800-328-6550 or visit