Golf course renovations on the rise

An increasing number of golf courses are pursuing renovations as a way to improve playability and increase revenue, according to the American Society of Golf Course Architects.

Previous hesitations have lessened and owners are more likely to move forward with renovation projects in the coming months, possibly due to interest rates reaching near record lows. Long-term sustainability efforts are within financial reach and have prompted owners and managers to improve the playability of their facilities.

"Our members are very busy with renovations right now,” ASGCA President Steve Smyers said in a news release. “Clubs are taking advantage of new technology and the knowledge ASGCA members bring to address areas like turfgrass removal, forward tees, bunker removal and smart water usage, leading to greater efficiency all over the course.”

The National Golf Foundation and Sirius Golf Advisors released a report on the matter. The study detailed the positive economic impact of renovation projects at public courses in the Dallas area. Eight courses underwent major renovations for an average of $5 million in spending. On average, annual revenue increased from $939,000 prior to renovation to $1.6 million in the first year of reopening, the study says. 

Small-scale renovations, those costing about $445,000, increased annual revenue by $1.1 million to $1.5 million on average.

This trend was evident in Golf Inc. Magazine’s Renovation of the Year competition.

Of the 22 entries the magazine received, only a single project cost under $1 million. All winning projects had a budget upwards of $1 million.

In the past, Golf Inc. has separated honorees into categories of projects exceeding $1 million in costs and those under $1 million. This year, Golf Inc. separated honorees by two categories: public and private. 

Golf course architect and five-time judge Forrest Richardson thinks inexpensive renovations still exist but speculates that they may just not be entering these kinds of competitions due to the smaller scope of projects. But there may be another explanation.

“It does seem that more work is now being funded because courses have simply run out of time to keep deferring,” Richardson said. “It’s now or never. Either you’re in the golf business, or not.”

Golf course architect and judge Neal Meagher thinks the post-recession economy may be the cause. 

“[Some industry professionals] believe that the large amounts being spent to thoroughly remake some private courses are not solely a function of access to easier borrowing, although that is a part of it, but in the case of the clubs at the very high end, it also stems from their response to the recent recession,” Meagher said. 

In the competition’s 11-year history, President and Editor in Chief Jack Crittenden had yet to see such a lavish crop of entries.

“It’s quite rare to have all but one entry come in at costs over $1 million,” Crittenden said. “Regardless of cost, all honorees produced stunning renovations that make you want to grab your clubs and play a round. At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about.” 

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