Talamore, Mid South Clubs Looking Healthy
John McDougald is busy these days. He’s counting his blessings.
McDougald, who is the director of golf operations of Talamore Golf Resort and the Mid South Club located on opposite sides of Midland Road, has seen the number of rounds dip at both his courses over the trying winter months, but the structure of the clubs has made them able to withstand the bad economy and even worse weather better than many courses in the area.
“The last two winters have been tough,” the 48-year-old McDougald said. “We thought last year was cold, but this one has been worse. We’ve had two of the coldest winters and the hottest summer on record. It kind of reminds you of the old days when everybody just closed and waited for the spring to reopen.
“The weather and the economy have been a double-edged sword for the golf business. Everybody has just had to pull their purse strings a little tighter.”
With better weather forecast, McDougald is hoping the number of rounds at courses in the Sandhills picks up.
“I hate to say the bad weather in the Northeast is a silver lining for us, but the fact is that the more snow they get in Washington, D.C., and those areas, the more excited those people are to dig out and come here to play golf,” he said.
That’s good news for all the courses which rely heavily on package play to meet their budgets. But even with a break in the weather, McDougald is wary.
“Just don’t give us another summer like the last one,” he pleaded. “The heat was brutal. One day I believe in global warming and the next day I think it’s a crock.”
And yet, while some local courses have been forced to make severe cuts, miss payrolls or even close their doors, there is no such concern at Talamore and Mid South, clubs owned by Talamore Golf Partners.
“We’ve done OK,” McDougald said. “We’ve had a stable business plan and we’ve stayed lean through the tough winter. I’m very pleased with how we’ve come through it.”
One strategy that has helped is the dues structure for members, which has them pay up front each January instead of monthly.
“We have 440-plus members and they’re billed the first of the year,” he said. “We do that to have the income coming in when we need it most. We don’t need cash flow as much in the spring and summer when we’re getting a lot of play.”
Both Talamore, a Rees Jones layout, and Mid South, an Arnold Palmer design, are highly rated courses and draw well from tourist play. This is even more successful as booking is handled year-round by Talamore Golf & Travel with headquarters at the Talamore location.
“We’re not just one course with one kind of customer,” McDougald said. “We may be down in one aspect, but not all at the same time as a company. It’s our employees, our structure and our diversity that keeps us healthy.”
The Talamore course opened in 1991, while Mid South opened in 1993 and struggled through a couple of changes in ownerships and names before being purchased by Talamore Golf Partners in 2005.
Since then, a luxurious clubhouse has been built and the course has been operating profitably.
Both Talamore and Mid South have housing facilities for players who desire to play and stay on the premises. Package players are also given opportunities to play at other area courses.
“As bad as last summer was, our number of rounds was as high as ever,” McDougald said. “The heat wasn’t good for the courses, but from the volume standpoint, we had a good summer.
“Things are looking great for this spring. Our phones started ringing like crazy right after New Year’s. We’re excited about the spring if Mother Nature doesn’t have a surprise for us.”
January was cold, snowy and windy, keeping the courses empty for the most part. But McDougald prefers counting the blessings again. “Losing the month of January is about like losing a weekend in April,” he said.
McDougald is afraid that local play may be down for a while, though. “Local people can get out of the habit of playing,” he said, echoing a sentiment by Hyland Golf Club General Manager Doug Thompson. “It may take them a while to find their golf clubs and get back to playing regularly.
“This area is truly a golf destination. If we lose the resort business and the retiree home buyers, we’re going to have a problem. Right now, people who are retiring are having problems selling their homes and they aren’t able to move here. That’s costing all of us new members.
“But our facilities are strong and financially stable. We truly believe that we’ve weathered the storm as well or better than anyone in the area.”
Contact Howard Ward at howardward@att. net.
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