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Golf is back on the upswing


By Elisabeth Richardson. If the annual PGA Merchandise Show is any indication, this will be another good year for an industry worth $84.1 billion in 2016—up 22 percent from 2011.

It looks like more participation—especially from juniors—will help drive increases in green fees this year, as well as capital improvements and new amenities that will appeal to the whole family.

“Golf will always be the main draw when someone is considering a club membership, but fitness has been the No. 1 capital improvement at private clubs for the past decade. We’re in the middle of expanding our fitness facility at Verdict Ridge to three times its former size,” says Scott Knox, general manager of Verdict Ridge Country Club in Denver.

A board member of the National Golf Course Owners Association, he says country clubs have to offer amenities for the whole family in order to attract new members.

“Our social calendar has tripled in the past few years,” he says. “Club membership is becoming a family activity and the value is there when there is something for everyone.”

Courtney Ford, general manager and director of golf at Northstone Country Club, said it’s a practical matter for families who spend money carefully.

“Families have a much easier time justifying belonging to a country club if we also offer a fitness center, pools with water slides, tennis courts, and great dining. It’s about value and being attractive to every member of the family. It’s harder to just be one thing and compete.”

Meanwhile, Birkdale Golf Club is on the cusp of a major redo and upgrade, having come under the management of Pinnacle Golf Properties.

Another local public course—Rocky River Golf Club—continues to thrive, thanks to a partnership with the city of Concord. Ryan Brickley, PGA director of golf at club explains, “We’re very unique in the current market because we’re owned by the City of Concord and that has been very helpful with capital improvement projects.”

He’s recruiting some golfers from country clubs because while they were paying full dues, they weren’t enjoying the full amenities because of time constraints. It was rated the top public golf course in the Charlotte area by the North Carolina Golf Rating Panel.

Another golfing trend in Lake Norman is a significant uptick in younger golfers. Knox explained that Verdict Ridge “has seen a major increase in the level of interest in golf by women and junior golfers.”

Northstone will have a new junior golf practice area open June 1 with two new tee boxes, a new putting and chipping green and a bunker area.

Indeed, one of the largest growing groups of golfers is young girls, according to Jon Show, director of the Symetra Classic at River Run.

“More than 50,000 girls a year are coming through the USGA-LPGA Girls Golf Program, up from just 4,500 per year back in 2010,” he says.

Here’s a look at area golf clubs and what’s new this year.

Birkdale Golf Club, Huntersville


Located on 200 acres of rolling terrain, Birkdale is an 18-hole Arnold Palmer designed championship golf course. New golf course superintendent Ben Albrecht has been working hard to ensure that this challenging 7,013-yard, par 72 course is in great shape. The practice area, known as Palmer’s Playground, features a 10-acre lighted driving range and a short game area with sand trap and putting green. Two golf academies operate here—Jay Reid, who is recognized as one of the top five golf instructors in the state of NC by Golf Digest, as well as Tiffany Anselment, an LPGA golf professional who works with juniors and ladies. Call ahead for tee times.

Cabarrus Country Club, Concord


The 18-hole George Cobb course is Concord’s only private country club, and is “committed to offer high-quality, consistency, and family fun all year round.” It dates back to 1927, when it was originally located in Kannapolis. it moved to the new location 1966, but the club traditions continue.

Cowan’s Ford Golf Club, Stanley


Cowan’s Ford offers an 18-hole championship golf course that follows Donald Ross principles by presenting a variety of challenging and fun-to-play shots for all levels of golfers. The course measures almost 7,000 yards from the tips, but there are a variety of tees to accommodate players of all abilities. Golfers can work on shaving off strokes in its 40,000-sq.ft. practice facility (with chipping and pitching greens) and large practice putting green. Members also enjoy a junior Olympic size pool (and swim team), tennis courts, and private access to Lake Norman via its boat ramp and dock.

Highland Creek, Charlotte


This 18-hole championship course has been rated both the best and the toughest public golf course in the Charlotte area. Designed with extra care to preserve the natural beauty of the area, the course features four sets of tees measuring from 5,080 to over 7,000 yards. The practice facility at Highland Creek includes a driving range, 12,000-sq.-ft. putting green, chipping green, and practice bunker. Other amenities include a 15,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse and a restaurant with full bar.

Irish Creek, Kannapolis


This 18-hole David Love III Signature Golf Course nestled in a mature forest and encircling a pristine 400-acre lake speaks to  both the advanced and novice golfer. Members can dine in the rustic Grill Tavern (overlooking the pool and the first tee) or the main dining room. The bar provides the perfect al fresco experience for a before or after dinner drink. It was rated No. 5 in the Greater Charlotte Region by the NC Golf Panel.

Mooresville Golf Club, Mooresville


Newly redesigned by Kris Spence, all 18 holes at the newly renovated facility have a links-style feel. Renovations also include new cart paths, new irrigation/pump house, and the newly completed 17,000-square foot club house, which features a restaurant, snack bar and grill, pro shop, outdoor seating, and garage facility to house golf carts with top of the line GPS systems. The public can book tee times two weeks in advance, which it recommends as tee times fill up fast.

Northstone, Huntersville


Situated on 237 artistically landscaped acres, this P. B. Dye Signature Course scores high with members and guests alike. Golfers seeking to improve their game should explore the state-of-the-art golf studio, which offers instruction from eight golf professionals, two indoor hitting bays, club fitting, video analysis for instruction, and the use of mobile devices in each bay so that golfers can adjust their swing in real time. Major improvements to the tennis facility are coming in June.

The Peninsula Club, Cornelius


This 18-hole championship golf course is at the top of its game in course maintenance and amenities. Its practice facility offers driving ranges, plenty of sand for golfers to perfect their bunker shots and video analysis from golf instructors to help golfers improve their swing. Members can also relax at the pool, clubhouse or the dining room, which overlooks the fairways and Lake Norman.

Pine Island, Charlotte


Some people say this beautiful and challenging course, inspired by rolling farmland, requires proficiency, reverence and thought. Throughout the years, it has continually been upgraded and redesigned, but the serenity of the original design has remained. Members can improve their game in its practice area, featuring an 8,000 sq. ft. putting green, expansive turf hitting area, and Wedge Wrx pitching game. The Member Grill is a hole in one for lunch or dinner or a hand-made cocktail.

River Run, Davidson


Consistently ranked as one of the best golf courses in the Carolinas, River Run features 7,300 yards of gorgeous Bermuda fairways and well-manicured Champions Ultra Dwarf greens. Golfers at all levels of play enjoy this course, and customized instruction is available with some of the area’s top golf professionals. From May 17-19 it will host the Symetra Classic with a $175,000 purse. Symetra’s mission is to prepare the world’s best young women professional golfers for a successful career on the LPGA Tour.

Rocky River Golf Club, Concord


This unique course incorporates land features by adapting to the contours of the Rocky River and surrounding wetlands. Over the last 18 months, they have renovated the green side bunkers, which has improved drainage and overall playability, and also updated the irrigation system. Rocky River has a golf shop, Stonehouse Grille restaurant and a clubhouse with a picturesque view that hosts events for up to 150 people. It is also the practice facility for UNC Charlotte men’s and women’s golf teams.

Skybrook Golf Club, Huntersville


This John LaFoy Championship course beckons with its immaculate rolling fairways and incredibly scenic views. Expect elevation changes, challenging holes, and some great par 3’s. PGA professional instructors are available to work with any level golfer, and group lessons and clinics are available as well. Champions Grille offers drinks, sandwiches and salads.

Statesville Country Club, Statesville


This beautiful par 72 course—it stretches over 6,700 yards—was originally designed by Alexander McKay and renovated by Tom Jackson. The clubhouse is beautiful, too, as are the pool, tennis facilities and fitness center.A new club tradition, the Folds of Honor Tournament on Sept. 1,  is open to all Members and Guests.

Trump National Golf Club, Mooresville


This immaculate Greg Norman-designed course has lovely views of Lake Norman from two-thirds of its holes. Its state-of-the-art practice facility provides golfers with the knowledge and instruction needed to shave strokes off their game. Overlooking the 18th green, The Tavern offers golfers an upscale pub atmosphere with awesome cuisine.

Verdict Ridge, Denver


This well-conditioned golf course features five sets of tees with yardages playing up to 6,926 yds. Surrounded by custom homes, Verdict Ridge boasts generous fairways, elevation changes, low-lying wetlands, and an abundance of wildlife, truly blending in with the landscape and nature that surrounds it. Upscale amenities include the Guilties Bistro, a full-service golf shop, fitness center (currently under renovation), locker rooms, and more. 


One Response to “Golf is back on the upswing”

  1. We really need growth in the golf business. Not only do we need growth, but also young players. The golf industry is full with aged golf players, the youngsters are not quite in to the sport, maybe because of the equipment being expensive.

    Posted by GolfGearDirect | August 25, 2018, 4:40 am

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