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Coming Up Short

Golf Resorts Appeal To Broader Segment Of Guests With Smaller Courses

Wednesday, February 06, 2019
Steve Pike
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Two of the major criticisms of golf the past several years has been that it takes too long to play and that it’s too difficult.

While the sport, as a whole, could still plead “guilty" on those two charges (rounds played in the U.S. fell nearly five percent in 2018 compared to 2017, according to Golf Datatech), a few high-end golf resorts in the U.S. are doing their parts to combat the criticism with “short" courses and par-3 courses that are faster and more fun to play than their 18-hole counterparts.

Shorter courses and par-3's allow course architects some more flexibility in their designs and also are good revenue streams as they attract non-golfers, as well as golfers of less skills.

For example, North Carolina's Pinehurst has The Cradle; a nine-hole, 789-yard, par-3 course that complements its 18-hole, Thistle Dhu putting course and Maniac Hill practice range.

“The best part about The Cradle is that it’s good for everybody," said Ben Bridgers, director of golf at Pinehurst Resort. “It’s good for kids, for new golfers and for grandparents. And if you’re a good player, it gives you an opportunity to make a hole in one on every hole."

The Cradle even has its own starter’s building where each player receives a carry bag similar to the bag carried by Pinehurst’s “Golf Lad" in early resort advertising.

In 2018 Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa, WI, which is operated by KemperSports, opened the Sandbox. The highly-acclaimed 17-hole short course provides an intimate connection to the sand county landscape of central Wisconsin. Located 50 yards from the clubhouse and just outside the Dunes Lodge, The Sandbox plays through a restored sand prairie that sits within the same V-shaped sand ridge that frames the resort’s Mammoth Dunes course.

Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, MO--developed by Bass Pro Shops Founder Johnny Morris--features a pair of short courses; the par-3, Jack Nicklaus-designed Top of the Rock that sits high above Table Rock Lake; and Gary Player’s 13-hole, Mountain Top short course that is routed through 300 million-year-old-rock formations.

Those two courses join the resort’s Buffalo Springs Ridge course, Ozarks National course and Payne’s Valley, a Tiger Woods design that is set to open in 2020, in the Big Cedar Lodge portfolio.

The short courses at Big Cedar Lodge, said Matt McQueary, the resort’s golf sales and marketing manager, are good “add ons" for players who want to play a quick round or for those who don’t want to play 36 holes in one day."

“People like them because they bring families together to play," McQueary said. “You get someone who doesn’t necessarily want to spend the entire afternoon or morning playing golf, but they can play for two hours and be gone. It opens up a segment to people who might not be so golf-focused, but still have the offerings for avid golfers, too."

Silvies Valley Ranch, a working 140,000-acre cattle and goat ranch in Seneca, OR, has four golf courses, two of which are short courses.

The Chief Egan course, named for the last War Chief of the Paiute Tribe who engaged the U.S. Calvary (in 1882), is a par-3, 9-hole layout, with water on every hole. McVeigh’s Gauntlet at Silvies Valley Ranch is a seven-hole course that is comprised of a series of par 3’s and par 4’s.

“The fun thing about those short courses is that they introduce people to the game," said Colby Marshall, general manager of Silvies Valley Ranch. “Luxury travelers come here because they want because they want a high-end property. They might not be golfers, but going out and playing a short course introduces them to the game in a way they otherwise might have been."

Marshall believes shorter courses are going to be “extremely important" for golf resorts in the future as they provide additional opportunities for guests to enjoy the game.

“They might not want to play 18 holes out of the box, but they won’t be nearly as concerned as going out and playing because there is not such an unknown factor," he said. “That raises the enjoyment level of the stay – and that contributes to staying an extra day. So at the end of the day, the benefits are for guests’ enjoyment and also for the business."
Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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