Check Your Foundation For Leaks
Musings from Golf Course Architect Robert McNeil

Saunderstown, RI (February 26, 2009) - Robert McNeil, Principal Architect of Northeast Golf Company, recently attended the 2009 Golf Industry Show (GIS) in New Orleans.  His conversations and meetings there have led him to ask golf course owners, operators, and managers- have you checked your foundations for leaks?

The GIS experience was a sobering one for the veteran golf architect.  The current economic climate's impact on the industry and concerns about the future of golf weigh heavily on the minds of many people he spoke with at the show.  McNeil's conversations and observations ushered a renewed wave of thought about the present condition, developing a pro-active strategy and envisioning a future of brighter days.

The annual Golf Industry Show, a trade exhibit and conference, combines education and networking for golf course superintendents, owners/operators, general managers, architects, builders and others in the golf and club management industries.  GIS was presented by the GCSAA, NGCOA, CMAA, along with participating organizations- GCBAA, ASGCA, and NGF.  The 2009 show included 18,000 golf and club industry professionals and 750 exhibitors.

 “All those involved in the golf industry were at GIS if they could afford to get there in these challenging times.  How ironic that this year's show was in New Orleans, a city that has picked itself by the bootstraps and gotten on with it,” said Robert McNeil.

“This is precisely the message that the golf industry needs to embrace.  The words grass roots, hard work, seat of the pants come to mind.  “I'm very worried”, “I have nothing going on” and  “I'm not sure we will make through 2009” were phrases I heard repeated from attendees.  To say the least, the mood at GIS was somber,” added McNeil.

These are serious times.  Times that require us all to plan for the future for our families, facilities, businesses and the industry in ways that we haven't done before. Each of us needs to get outside the box to develop strategies that emphasize our strengths, address our deficiencies with the foresight and wisdom to know the difference and to implement cost effective changes that carry us through this crisis.

Gone are the days when 500 new golf courses are built in a year.  NGF statistics indicate that since 2006 openings and closings have resulted in a net zero- flat growth.  “What seems to have happened during the boom in golf development in the early 2000's parallels what took place throughout the world - we were swept up by the short term successes of the economy and turned a blind eye to long term reasonable, sustainable growth.  The perfect financial storm we are now caught in has thrown fuel on the fire bringing our industry and the world to a crossroads. In many ways this will prove to benefit golf on the whole.  I am optimistic that the new “lean” approach to golf course operations, design and development will provide for a more stable foundation going forward. Building golf courses and making improvements that fit into a researched need (Feasibility Study/Master Plan) will promote long term success in the industry,” said McNeil.

McNeil has been around for a while through the ups and downs- past good and not so good and the current situation.  Buzz words for today's situation should be “practical” - “economical” - “efficient”.  Everyone is scrutinizing every entertainment dollar and golf is entertainment for those who play the game.  “For us in the industry it's a serious business that engages our professional passion and challenges our vision every day,” said McNeil.

Do we wait for the government to bail us out as was stated recently by an industry person who hoped the economic stimulus plan would send dollars to execute improvements at their municipal golf course?

“Golf is a wonderful industry to be a part of.  The people and personalities are truly genuine, hard working and carry concerns for the future on their sleeves.  Historically golf has become a major part of the fabric of this country through high times and low.  Many clubs are sitting tight, trying to weather the storm.  Others are actively marketing and improving their “foundation” in order to withstand a storm that might worsen or appear in years to come.

This is the ideal time to set your club apart from the competition.  A few “practical” thoughts and suggestions:

Looking forward there is much promise in existing programs such as World Golf Foundation's “Get Golf Ready in 5 Days” program and the First Tee that will contribute to growing the game for years to come.  In these trying economic times it is most important to serve 'your' players- golfers that come to the course every week, buy the season pass and use it, and pay the membership fees and get every ounce of golf out of it.  Making your golf course and the experience at your facility as great as it can be will ensure the strength of your foundation.  Doing nothing may lead to cracks that are not easily mended.

The 12th Annual New England Regional Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show will take place March 2-5, 2009 in Providence, RI at the Rhode Island Convention Center.  Robert McNeil will be participating.

About the Northeast Golf Company

The mission of The Northeast Golf Company is to provide clients with the best golf course design service tailored to meet their individual needs. To be the best requires focus on the business objectives of each client by providing a creative and strategic plan that responds to the inherent nature of the land, the players served and the project budget.  Robert McNeil operates as the team leader providing creative direction while bringing together the necessary expertise and overseeing every aspect of a golf course project to ensure that the vision becomes reality.

The McNeil Design Collaborative and McNeil Construction LLC design/build team approach combines years of experience in successful design, construction and project management.

Ongoing Master Plan work and major renovation projects at public, private, municipal and resort courses will dominate the concentration of their efforts in 2009.

“We take pride in developing relationships that are productive, long lasting and most of all fun, much like the courses we design, ” said Robert McNeil.

Contact: Robert McNeil, Golf Course Architect
The Northeast Golf Company
401-667-4994 in Saunderstown, RI
732-747-1888 Red Bank, NJ.