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March 1, 2014

A Wide Range of News

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

Members of Troon Golf-managed facilities “can expect to see testing opportunities in several Troon locations starting this spring and summer,” comments Dave Pelz, in a statement to mark the new arrangement between Troon and PelzGolf. It seems to be a further sign that golf instruction feels a strong need to deliver measurable results for short game and scoring, if growth in teaching revenue is to continue. As a Troon press release points out, Pelz is “known for pioneering new breakthroughs in the game” and for “bringing an analytical approach to golf instruction.”

Where retired Americans gather, golf in one form or another will find them. The Village at Penn State, an “age in place” retirement community in State College, Pa., partnered with Arnold Palmer Golf Design to create the nation’s first-ever Palmer Park. The use of Palmer’s name is always a plus, and the course architecture group is being deployed to design and build this multi-purpose outdoor space. But it is far from a championship golf course, according to published plans. Along with a “multi-purpose lawn for croquet, lawn bowling and gatherings,” Palmer Park will offer village residents and guests a “10,000 square-foot bentgrass putting green with chipping areas and grass swales.” If that gets them in the mood for an 18-hole round, the residents will have to go elsewhere…. Sales of beer at golf facilities – long a profit mainstay – have been straying from the old status quo. National statistics show declining consumption of big-name domestic brands and rising market share for craft beers and imports. While many golf managers have stuck with mass-market brands plus a token microbrew, Chris Parker of Washington, D.C.-based Golf Course Specialists has been riding the new trend, turning the large golf range at East Potomac Golf Course into a biergarten of sorts, with up to 20 of those specialty brews on his menu. “People can go downtown and pay $7 for a craft beer or they can come to our driving range and pay $4.50,” says Parker, who still makes a decent margin on that retail price while appealing even to visitors who may not hit balls. “I am down to one traditional brand, Bud Lite,” says Parker. “We feature IPAs, Belgian blondes, pilsners, stouts – we keep changing, and we take input from our beer rep and also from our customers,” says Parker. His hot-weather menu will include a summer shandy or even a red apple ale, favored by younger female ball-hitters. “Our range is a strong contributor to annual profits and the beer business here helps drive that,” he reports…. The influence of the AimPoint system for green reading can be seen in course offerings at high-end golf academies, even when AimPoint itself is not part of the programming.

This spring at Pelican Hill Golf Academy, students can pay $325 each to take a “Master the Greens Putting Clinic with PING,” designed and led by Glenn Deck, director of instruction at the Newport Beach, Calif., resort. The presence of PING is an intriguing and logical move to bring putter-fitting into the process. Limited to 10 students, this special clinic “focuses on putting and green reading essentials to help develop a stroke that starts your ball on your target line, improve your speed control and learn how to read slopes and breaks better.” The days of teaching putting without seriously and even scientifically teaching green-reading appear to be numbered…. When the splendid practice center at Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine, Calif. became available on a membership basis last month, the packaging of this $49 annual Practice Club stood out. Along with usage of the range and auxiliary components, the Practice Club member gets one-time free use of a chipping tube (normally $12 rental) and a free breakfast entree in the clubhouse… Are you a custom club shop with a good business in re-shafting with KBS branded shafts? Don’t forget to get yourself included in the brand-new KBS Advanced Fitters Directory, launched last month.

Along with its attention-getting installation of a massive, ultramodern golf academy and practice complex, Pebble Beach Resort has given itself a technology boost that has longtime PGA director of instruction Laird Small unbridled in his praise. One of the new academy’s indoor-to-outdoor hitting bays is now equipped with the RoboGolfPro 3.0 training robot, a $150,000 investment that Small, to hear him speak, has been waiting his whole career to come upon. We’re the first in the country to have it,” says Small, who often uses “the robot” as his shorthand name for the installation. “It’s a wonderful way to learn and in my view it’s a superior way to teach the mechanics of the golf swing. We use it in every lesson and our students use it very productively in practice sessions.” One unseen benefit of TourBound, in his view, is its capacity “to free up the golf professional – we can teach the game, as you play it on the course, instead of devoting so much time to the swing.”