April 1, 2014

A Wide Range of News

Keeping you up to speed on trends in the golf practice-and-learning sector

The tendency of golf instructors to work without formal written agreements—either employment contracts or independent-contractor agreements—generates many a tale of sudden livelihood loss on the part of the teachers. And what usually follows is a scramble to locate new lesson space. A recent survey of Proponent Group members, who are known to be particularly well established in their field, showed that only 46 percent of these golf instructors have a formal contract or letter of agreement spelling out terms of their service. In reporting this result, Proponent Group president Lorin Anderson called it “a disturbing trend.” Now comes word that going without such documentation can also bring perceived harm to the employer or host facility. Last month in Hilton Head, S.C., a legal dispute arose between the International Junior Golf Academy (IJGA) and a former instructor there, David Goolsby.

In its wrongful competition lawsuit against Goolsby, the IJGA claims he acted unlawfully in starting up a rival enterprise, the Hilton Head Junior Golf Academy, which offers similar services as IJGA and targets a common pool of prospects. On his well-regarded blog covering golf and legal disputes, attorney Rob Harris echoed Anderson’s critique about working with informal spoken agreements. Harris called the IJGA suit a “cautionary tale for companies that seek to head off competition before it arises. To the extent permitted by applicable state law, consider employment provisions that limit the ability of (former) employees to compete.” Harris wrote that he was unsurprised to see Goolsby “deny the claims made by IJGA, noting perhaps most prominently that he is a free agent, unencumbered by an employment contract, secrecy agreement or non-compete agreement.”

The West Palm Beach gated community Ibis Golf & Country Club has doubled down on clubfitting as a service to players. By building and promoting a new Golf Equipment Fitting Studio, management is pushing for correctly fit clubs to become universal among its golf members. The Studio features equipment from all major manufacturers and showcases the latest diagnostic technology. “Member sessions are complimentary and take approximately one hour,” states the club. “The main purpose is to ensure the proper fit of the member’s equipment. It may be a simple fix with the loft-and-lie machine or even a club extension on their putter.”

Steve Patterson, PGA teaching professional at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Colo., has been appointed a Certified Coach of the USA Junior National Golf Team Program, to begin his duties in spring of this year. The first national junior golf developmental program ever offered in this country, USA Junior National Golf is a team-based organization divided nationally into five regions. Its player levels are Developmental I, Developmental II, Future Stars, Pre Elite and Elite. Patterson, who commented that the new program “is going to be a game changer for junior golfers across the U.S.,” is also working on a training manual for high school golf coaches, to be published this year…. A report last month from Power Tee named two Northern California ranges where the company’s automatic tee systems had gone into service. On March 11, installation of 20 Power Tees was completed at DeLaveaga Golf Course & Lodge in Santa Cruz. The following week, 15 Power Tee stations were installed at GolfBallin at The Vineyards in Antioch…. North American regions with long winters and rugged terrain can now aspire to much lengthier golf seasons, based on new developments announced by UK-based Huxley Golf. Recently the company completed its first all-weather 9-hole golf course.

Built from scratch, a facility in Austria called Modern Golf is a true first, providing a durable and aesthetically acceptable synthetic playing surface on its tees, greens and green surrounds. This represents the largest-ever installation of the Huxley all-weather turf, nearly 6,000 square yards of it. A facility spokesman said that it had “solved many challenges by using a high proportion of all-weather surfaces, floodlighting four fairways and creating a state-of-the-art covered training center.”…. The 2014 season is only slowly gathering steam and it will likely be a while before we get reports of golf professionals actively exploiting the new Game Golf technology. But in a recent appearance on the Matt Adams golf show on SiriusXM, John McGuire, founder of the Galway, Ireland (now Silicon Valley-based) company that markets Game Golf said early response to the technology was highly encouraging. Golfers who have purchased their Game Golf hardware/software, packages, which uses a belt-mounted module and dime-sized tags on each club to produce dense but easily analyzed data from a round, have been making YouTube demo videos and suggesting product tweaks on a daily basis.

The company’s launch of Game Golf at the 2014 PGA Show was mightily enhanced by the precedent-setting endorsement delivered by the PGA of America, along with a previously brokered partnership with Golf Channel. McGuire said his company had “completely blown our first-quarter projections out of the water” and that other countries were lining up to be next in the Game Golf rollout…. Following some time off to earn a graduate degree from Columbia University in motor learning and performance, PGA / LPGA golf professional Trillium Sellers has been hired as director of instruction at Woodmont C.C. in Rockville, Md.. She was most recently a teaching professional at Maryland’s Chevy Chase Club…. At Knollwood C.C. in Skokie, Ill., the former Wigwam Resort instructor Shane LeBaron was appointed the club’s new director of instruction. Sign of the times: Mad River Golf Club, in Ontario, Canada, employs a golf staff member, Andrew Lovell, whose title is “Head of Golf Instruction and Programming.” If you aren’t designing activities that engage members in golf skill development and golf competitions, you really aren’t doing your job—that’s the all important “programming” part.