City golf course looking for new players

  By Thomas Wilson
  Wading through financial troubles and hurricane-induced weather misery, the board of directors for the Elizabethton Municipal Golf Course seek to market their golf course better as golf rounds played and revenues made at public golf courses nationwide endured a volatile 2004.
  "We need to market ourselves better," Shannon Johnson, treasurer and secretary of the EMGC board of directors, told the STAR last week. "We need to do better on marketing the tournaments that we do have."
  The city of Elizabethton recently revamped the course debt structure after EMGC struggled with its debt service payments.
  Presently the golf course hosts various charity tournaments each year that benefits college scholarships for local students such as the Dino Senesi Classic benefiting the Elizabethton-Carter County Boys and Girls Club and the Charles Robinson Memorial tournament sponsored by the Elizabethton Rotary Club.
  Johnson said the course was tempting prospective members thinking of joining the EMGC. The course is presently offering three free months of membership from Jan. 1 to March 31 for anyone who joins the course in December. Membership fees would kick in April 1 and extend through the membership term to March 31, 2006.
  "We know the first quarter isn't the best for golf so we wanted to give them that," said Johnson, who also noted the course had recently leased 50 new golf carts for players.
  According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF) that monitors business-related aspects of golfing industry, public golf courses around the nation have seen rounds and revenues fluctuate throughout 2004.
  Information compiled by the NGF and the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) found golf rounds played at public golf courses around the nation were up 2.5 percent through the first two quarters of 2004, but a third quarter decrease of 0.9 percent lowered year-to-date results to 1.3 percent. Decreases in July (-3.5 percent) and August (-1.6 percent) were offset somewhat by a September increase of 3.4 percent.
  Rounds played at standard public courses fell 3.5 percent in July, 2.2 percent in August, and 0.5 percent in September representing a 1.9 percent drop off for the third quarter. Nationally, premium public golf courses rebounded in September with a 4.8 increase and a 2.2 percent rise in rounds played through 2004.
  The Central/South Florida region managed to hang on to a 2 percent gain for the year, even with rounds down 20 percent in August and 30 percent in September due to a fearsome hurricane season that pounded the Southeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The mid-Atlantic region has posted the strongest gains in rounds so far this year, up nearly 12 percent in 2004 as compared to rain-soaked 2003.
  The Southeast region's courses saw an 8.8 percent decline in September and a 5 percent decline for the third quarter. The region has seen a year-to-date increase of 1.1 percent in rounds played.
  Coinciding with the national increase in rounds played, the NGCOA report found golf facility revenues at standard public courses had increased 2.7 percent year to date, while revenue per round at public golf courses has increased just under 1 percent.
  "As the economy strengthens, so has spending in golf," said Mike Hughes, executive director of NGCOA.
  The report is based on operating results reported by over 1,100 golf facilities across the United States. The quarterly reports are supported and endorsed by golf industry associations. Public facilities fall into three categories based on greens fees -- premium, standard and value courses.