Reclaiming the Game

Posted By on Aug 7, 2019 | 0 comments

Every town in America has dead retail space. You know what I’m talking about. The place that used to be a Walgreens. It’s been sitting empty for months – or years – with the “For Sale or Lease” sign in overgrown landscaping in the parking lot. Every time I see these vacant spaces, I think of golf. I think of the burgeoning “golf entertainment” business. I think of places like Beyond Golf Bar + Kitchen in La Vista, Nebraska. Or Venue on Main in Columbia, South Carolina. Places where the general public comes to play, eat and drink, or where the serious golfer can practice or play some amazing virtual golf on high-end simulators. Beyond Golf, by the way, has been doing this 10 years!

And then I think about owners and operators of the legacy businesses – the “real” golf courses.  I think about how they perpetually look for top line growth in a relatively flat-demand environment. They do this through “revenue management” and marginal price adjustments to tee times, or maybe new events and outings. It’s tough finding new revenues in a legacy business. But, what if course owners and operators started to think about their businesses as something that could exist beyond the acreage they’ve been managing for years? What if the owners and operators of the legacy businesses went “off campus” and into those dead retail spaces? What if they breathed new life into those spaces with fun, food, beverage and golf?

Think about it. The owners of these dead retail spots are probably more than tired of never receiving a rent check. I bet they’re ready to strike a good deal with just about anyone. Imagine five, eight or 10 bays of simulators on the inside perimeter, with bar and food in the center.  People of all ages, banging balls, laughing, having fun and paying an hourly rental fee. Who better to operate such a thing than the owners, managers and golf professionals of America’s existing golf courses? It’s a far stretch for some random entrepreneur to get into this business, but it’s barely an arm’s length reach for people who have been running courses for years.

The cross-pollination possibilities excite me the most. The golf course could promote their “off campus” business as a place to go at night or when it’s raining. A place where you bring groups for an hour or two of fun. A second location where the PGA professionals set up shop to teach lessons and engage those groups. A place where the high school team could practice, and then come back with their families on the weekends. And the folks who come through the off-campus location learn all about the golf course, how to make a tee time, how to transition to the green-grass experience, etc.

With a little gumption and a lot of understanding of lease agreements, code requirements for this kind of space, and access to people with an enthusiasm for the game of golf, this could be a reality. The legacy golf courses out there don’t have to lose out to someone else building and benefiting from “golf entertainment.” If they reach out their arms and grab it, existing course operators can be the ones who benefit (and who can probably run them better than anyone).

American Golf is doing it with Drive Shack. ClubCorp is doing it with Big Shots. Even a muni in Helena, Montana, is in on the action! Why can’t the Steve Graybills of the world do it with the Foxchase Golf brand? Steve and his family run a very robust public golf operation a few miles outside of Ephrata, Pennsylvania. I bet there’s a 5,000-square-foot dead retail space somewhere near downtown Ephrata itching for this. Imagine, if you will: “Foxchase Golf on Main.”  I’m looking at you, Steve!

On a related note, NGCOA members save on GOLFZON simulators, if you’re looking to get into the golf entertainment revenue business!  Click here to find GOLFZON in our Smart Buy family of partners.