Area Courses Report Rise in Rounds Played
An unusually mild winter, a fantastic spring, a slightly improving economy and several renovation projects have combined to give area golf courses one of their best starts to a year in some time.
The National Golf Foundation has reported that rounds played nationally were up 22 percent from January through March over a year ago. That seems to be about the same ratio for the Sandhills.
A survey of some of the area’s courses which rely heavily on package and daily guest play found them all happily reporting an increase.
Chad Derusseau, general manager of Legacy Golf Links in Aberdeen, a popular Jack Nicklaus II design that caters to public play, was enthusiastic about the uptick.
“Play for us is way up this year over previous years,” Derusseau said. “From my observations, it appears that play in the entire area is up. The weather this winter was certainly a factor in this, as it was the mildest winter I can remember.”
Legacy also got a boost from replacing its bentgrass greens with the new MiniVerdi Bermuda strain that is becoming popular in the South.
“Our new greens and the work we did on the course at Legacy have been major factors in why our play is up,” Derusseau said. “The summer is the best time to experience our new greens. In the past, it was a tough time of year trying to keep the greens healthy and alive.
“So far this year, I’m very encouraged. It looks as if our area should have a great year, and Legacy is poised to have a very successful year.”
Peter Dejak, whose company assumed control of Longleaf Golf and Country Club last year and proceeded to give the Dan Maples-designed course a major face-lift that continues, is also optimistic.
“Yes, play is definitely up at Longleaf over last spring,” he said. “The weather has made a positive impact on the golf industry to this point. Golf packages at Longleaf have increased, with a lot of positive comments from our visitors.
“Golf rates in all markets have declined over the past five years as golfers are looking for deals. But rounds are growing this year, and we look to keep the trend going. The next step will be to provide a value that the customer is willing to pay for so that rates get back to a more reasonable level.
“As golf courses are closing, this will get supply and demand more in line. I feel good about the future of golf in the Sandhills. For the most part, our courses have maintained their level of quality.
“Golfers are going to begin hearing about the U.S. Open in Pinehurst in 2014, and this will help our facilities over the next few years.”
Doug Thompson is head professional and general manger of Southern Pines Golf Club, and he, too, is enthused with the outlook.
“”I’m pleased to say that we’re ‘up’ at SPGC,” he said. “Our course conditions are great and so is our spring business. We were OK last year, but we’re decisively up this spring.”
Dean Allgeyer’s situation at Beacon Ridge Country Club in West End is a little different, as the club enjoys a healthy membership and also encourages guest play at the Gene Hamm-designed layout.
“Our package play is up a little from last year,” the head professional and director of golf said. “The weather has been a factor in that. The economy is still struggling, so I don‘t think it’s played a role in the increase.
“I have two kids and understand that people just don’t have a lot of free time for golf. We have a couple of programs we’re using to help us get more play. We allow juniors to play free after 1 p.m. with a paying adult. This helps with expenses and allows a parent and child to spend time together.
“This is great way to spend time with your son or daughter. I know I cherish every moment my son and I are on the course together.
“We also have a four-hole loop program, allowing people to play holes 1, 2, 8 and 9 after 4 p.m. for $10. It’s an easy loop that brings you back to the clubhouse.
“Two of the biggest factors people have for not playing golf are expenses and time. We’re trying to make those factors a little easier.”
Marvin Waters is general manager and head professional at Little River Golf and Resort near Carthage. This is another Dan Maples-design that has evolved into one of the premier courses in the area.
“It’s a good news, bad news scenario for us,” he said. “As with most area courses, the good news is our rounds were up for the first quarter because of the warm weather. The bad news is that even though the weather was warm in January and February, we were still discounted heavily.
“Of course, we’re happy with any round we get, and after the cold, snowy winter of 2010-11, we’re very happy for a warmer winter. Overall, our bookings are up slightly from 2011.
“Our golf course is in the best shape it has ever been, and we’re looking forward to a positive swing in rounds for 2012.
“We do know that good service and excellent conditions never go out of style, and that’s what we plan to deliver for a long time at Little River.”
Gene Roberts is the head professional at Seven Lakes Country Club, another membership course that prides itself on conditioning and which has been named the Sandhills Golf Association Course of the year for three consecutive years.
“Rounds are definitely up in the first quarter for us,” Roberts said, “both in member and guest play.
“As you know, there was virtually no winter, and this helped contribute to member rounds being up. Our members usually play until we have a long cold snap, and then they typically hibernate until the weather improves. This year we never had the cold snap.
“”Our guest play is also up, and I think it’s a combination of the good weather and our award-winning golf course. We’ve earned a great reputation with our customers and repeat business is strong.
“I don’t know that the economy has improved, but fortunately for our area, golfers are not willing to give up their ‘buddy trips.’ I hope the trend continues.”
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