Golfers Prefer Well-Conditioned Courses

At the sixth annual Golf 20/20 Conference last fall, attendees heard a variety of presentations on how to deepen the connection between the game and its best customers, as well as how to further golf among the corporate community. GOLF 20/20 is a strategic alliance of the golf industry that addresses the issues of growth, participation and interest.

Among the presentations was a detailed look at a survey of avid golfers presented by Jon Last, vice president of research and development for the Golf Digest Companies. According to Last, there are a number of key factors that affect participation by golf's best customers those defined as avid and core golfers. (Avid golfers play 25 or more rounds a year, core golfers play 8 to 24 rounds.)

Among those factors, the work of golf course superintendents ranked right at the top. When these groups were asked, "Do you generally prefer to play a course that is very challenging, not top condition" or one that is "challenging but in very good condition," 88 percent of them said they'd choose the course in very good condition.

The obvious conclusion is that improving the condition of a course and marketing it is more productive than trying to market the challenge or slope index. In addition, it shows owners and employees that allocating resources toward course conditions is important if the goal is higher golfer satisfaction.

They were also asked to rank conditioning against course design in a decision to pay 25 percent higher green fees. The two key groups selected "better course conditioning" twice as often as "better architectures and layout."

Finally, golf's best customers ranked the factors that drive their enjoyment of the game on a scale from 1 to 7. The conditions, people and their own performance received the following mean scores:

Well maintained greens & bunkers - 6.34
Well maintained fairways & tees - 6.28
The people you play with - 6.24
Playing well on the course - 5.84
Availability of practice facilities - 5.68
Beautiful surroundings and scenery - 5.74
Scoring well - 5.65
Challenging course - 5.65
Fast pace of play - 5.39
Knowledgeable marshals and starters - 5.38

The above report is courtesy of Divot Mix, an e-publication of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.