2016 New England Golf Summit Highlights
Sunny skies and a brisk spring air provided a warm welcome for more than 140 golf industry professionals and enthusiasts to the 2016 New England Golf Summit, which was held at Blue Hill Country Club.
The season “kick off” event featured seven dynamic speakers who touched on a diversified set of issues and topics ranging from presentation in golf design to the hottest trends in equipment.
“It was a great day and we were thrilled to have so many people take time to attend the Summit and enjoy what was a tremendous slate of speakers,” said Jesse Menachem, the MGA’s executive director who served as master of ceremonies. “There was a palpable excitement in the air about the positive momentum that we see in our industry.”
Kicking off the day was a keynote address by Jay Karen, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association. Karen, who took over his post in October, noted that the he is seeing significant changes in the circles of leadership at the top of the golf industry and there is a distinctive youth movement emerging.
“We have 24 million customers,” said Karen. “That means that we have 24 million people coming into our facilities. There is a sentiment out there that is very Wall Street in that if you aren’t growing you are dying. But the reality is that we are actually a very healthy industry.”
David Mazur, a club marketing expert who currently serves as general manager of Kernwood Country Club, implored golf clubs to continue to enhance and promote its brand to engage more and different golfers and visitors.
“It is no longer a matter of if we should market our clubs,” said Mazur. “It is a matter of how.”
Brad Klein, longtime golf architecture editor for GolfWeek magazine, drew many laughs during his presentation when he showed the ways that golf course operators oftentimes get lost in complexity and forget about a more simplified approach to golf course design and presentation.
“Every golf course can cultivate something unique about its landform,” said Klein, author of seven books on course design and 2015 winner of the American Society of Golf Course Architect's Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement. “You have to make some decisions about what you can do and what you can’t do well. What is your character? What makes it special?”
Another highlight from the day came courtesy of Mike Stachura and Mike Johnson, the senior equipment editors at Golf Digest who came up with the idea of the magazine’s Hot List.
In addition to speaking about the future of golf technology, the senior editors described the pain-staking process of developing the list each year and how they have teams of professionals – including players and even rocket scientists – who help them accurately rate equipment without bias.
“Each year we ask ourselves how can we be more thorough,” said Stachura. “Everyone thinks that the Hot List is a bunch of cool-looking photos in the magazine, but in reality it is more about the endless spreadsheets of data we collect and keep.”
Stachura noted that innovation is about one third of the overall score, while two thirds focuses on a combination of performance and club sound and feel. Research – they said – also tells them how important club fitting is for golfers regardless of skill level.
“We have golfers tell us all the time that they just aren’t good enough to be fitted for clubs,” said Johnson. “We tell them that if you think that you aren’t good enough to be fitted for clubs than that is the main reason why you should be fitted for clubs.”
Attendees also received valuable information from USGA experts on the topics of agronomy and Rules of Golf.
Jim Skorulski, agronomist for the Northeast Region and a co-presenter with Klein, addressed some emerging challenges facing golf courses including pesticide controls and water issues.
“How are we going to do business going forward in the future?” asked Skorulski. “Water around this region is cheap right now, but it will be a huge issue moving forward. The USGA has been all over this issue and will continue to focus on it.”
David Staebler, a director of rules education who is based out of the USGA headquarters in Far Hills, explained the relationship between the USGA and R&A and addressed the four major changes made this past year to the Rules of Golf and Handicapping including the changes made to peer review and playing-alone scores.
He also explained how the USGA and R&A are working together to revise the Rules of Golf to make them easier to read, understand and apply by all golfers.
The New England Golf Summit was a collaborative effort of the Alliance of Massachusetts Golf Organizations (AMGO) and comes one year after the group released the results of an economic impact study during at Massachusetts Golf Day, which was held last March at the Massachusetts State House.
“We heard today that golf is the most powerful vehicle for relationship building,” said Menachem, who noted during his welcome that the Massachusetts golf industry’s gross economic output is $2.7 billion. “That idea was on full display today from the collaboration of the allied organizations to the genuine interest and engagement from the speakers and attendees.”
Prior to the start of the featured presentations, attendees took part in breakfast round tables led by the AMGO organizations. Topics of the round tables ranged from women in golf, golf course operation, agronomic challenges, charity and golf and bringing special person programs to a golf facility.
The AMGO Task Force is made up of representatives from the following organizations - the Massachusetts Golf Association, the New England Section of The Professional Golfers’ Association of America, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of New England, the New England Chapter of the Club Managers Association of America, the New England Chapter of the Golf Course Owners Association, the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts, the Deutsche Bank Championship, the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund and the New England Golf Association.