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Golf: Clubs hire firms to attract members

Sunday, March 31, 2002

Green Oaks Country Club is like a lot of private facilities these days, trying to find ways to attract newer, younger members to a club where more than the course is aging.

But the problem is this:

To do so, clubs need to upgrade everything from their appearance to the clubhouse, locker room and pro shop. To do that, a club needs to assess its members to fund the improvements.

At a time when everyone is concerned about their financial portfolio, such an assessment goes over like an ant hill at a picnic with the membership.

That's why Green Oaks, in Verona, has decided to hire a management firm -- Arnold Palmer Golf Management -- to take over operation of its entire facility. Public courses have been doing this for years. Now, more and more private clubs are turning the club over to management companies.

"I would say it's becoming more common," said Tom Ahern, vice president of operations for Arnold Palmer Golf Management. "What's happening is a lot of private facilities are finding that members are no longer interested in serving on and committing their time to the board of directors.

"It's really time-consuming and the long-term planning isn't there. For example, you get a board that decides to put in a sand trap and take out a tree on the course, then a couple of years later you get a new board that decides to take out that trap and put in a tree. That's essentially writing a check for poor operation."

Arnold Palmer Golf Management has 22 daily-fee and resort courses and 12 private clubs under its operation. Their objective is to improve appearance, upgrade the quality of service and provide more efficient financial operation.

In the end, the club hopes that translates into more new members.

"We think that will stimulate membership activity," Ahern said. "Our target is young families and corporate memberships. Green Oaks is less than 10 miles from downtown, as the crow flies. We think it has a lot to offer."

Green Oaks has watched its membership drop from above 200 to 165 full-time members. But Green Oaks is not alone. Other private clubs in Western Pennsylvania are in the same boat, whether they want to admit it not.

They are trying to attract young members with a lot of disposable income. But, with the advent of such designer-trendy clubs as Nevillewood, Diamond Run, Treesdale, Southpointe and Totteridge, and an infusion of such upscale daily-fee facilities as Olde Stonewall, Tom's Run and Deer Run in the past decade, attracting those people has become a difficult task.

That's why many smaller, private clubs are all staging membership drives, offering low monthly dues and waiving initiation fees.

The only better bargains are at Filene's Basement.

Trivia question

Tiger Woods is the first player in PGA Tour history to have won three different tournaments three years in a row. What are the three-peat events? (Clue: Two were staged in Ohio). Answer at end.

Youth program

Quicksilver Golf Club in Midway is introducing a junior golf program designed to develop and improve the skills of youths, ages 8 to 15.

The program is four sessions per month for $75.

Sessions, which will be held every Saturday, are limited to the first 10 participants in each age group.

Interested should call,724-796-1811 or e-mail at qsgolfpro@quicksilvergolf.com.

Dissa and data

The 2nd annual Golf for Goodwill, presented by Bank Pittsburgh, is June 17 at Treesdale. Call, 412-390-2236.

The PGA Tour is set to terminate its contentious relationship with Buy.com, the sponsor of the tour's developmental circuit. The departure of the Internet company means the minor-league tour will try to establish the same sponsorship strategy as the PGA Tour -- have each event find a corporate title sponsor.

Cadillac plans to end its 12-year relationship with the Senior PGA Tour after this season. The car company began cutting back its financial commitment to the tour two years ago.

Putter-manufacturer Never Compromise has joined Dillard's with a spring promotion -- buy a Hart Schaffner & Marx suit at the department store and get a free Never Compromise TDP 2.2 putter.

Superior Metal Technology signed Brett Surratt, the 10th ranked long-driver in the world, to use the company's Baltusrol driver in professional long-drive competitions.

Adams Golf signed Senior Tour player Larry Nelson to use its driver, fairway metals and irons. Nelson will wear an Adams golf hat and use its bag.

Trivia answer

Woods won the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, and the World Golf Championship-NEC Invitational in Akron, Ohio, in 1999, 2000 and 2001. He won the Bay Hill Invitational in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

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