Back on Course | Sports Destination Management

Back on Course

Feb 26, 2021 | By: Judy Leand
Birmingham, Alabama: Photo courtesy of Art Meripol
While many sports were put on hold this past year, golf was one of the few that recorded a surge in participation and retail sales. 
Fueled by a combination of avid players, newcomers and infrequent golfers, demand for all things golf accelerated during the second half of 2020, and the enthusiasm shows no signs of abating. This is good news for golf locales and event planners alike. Here, we highlight eight destinations that are ready to host tournaments of all levels.
Birmingham, Alabama
With its many renowned public and private courses, this destination has hosted numerous professional, amateur and junior events. “Our community has golf in its DNA,” remarks David Galbaugh, VP Sports Sales and Marketing, Greater Birmingham CVB. “We have great golf courses and facilities, excellent weather, a good geographical location, and we’re poised to handle all sorts of golf.”
Top public venues include the 54-hole Oxmoor Valley facility and the Ross Bridge Golf Course. Both are part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a statewide network of 11 sites encompassing 26 public courses and 468 holes. Among the most notable private venues are Shoal Creek and Greystone Golf & Country Club. Shoal Creek hosted the U.S. PGA Championship in 1984 and 1990, as well as the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open. This May, Greystone is slated to host the Regions Tradition, and will also hold the SEC Women’s Golf Championship in April. 
“Birmingham has hosted champion tour events every year since the 1990s and will host the USGA’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at the Country Club of Birmingham in May 2022,” says Galbaugh. “During the weeklong U.S. Women’s Open and Regions Tradition tournaments, attendance topped 100,000. Our goal is to attract great golf—we want events that are good for the community and will create an economic impact.”
Madison, Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s mission is to become America’s top golf destination. The push began with an international marketing campaign in 2019, with more promotion planned this year around the Ryder Cup that will be held at Whistling Straits in September, notes Rob Jansen, Executive Director, WSGA. 
“Wisconsin has hosted many major championships including the 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, and the 2017 U.S. Open,” he says. Other large golf events include the American Family Insurance Championship on the PGA TOUR Champions held at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona. Marquette University hosts the Marquette Intercollegiate at Erin Hills, and more than 100 courses around the state hold junior, amateur and other key events. 
“Wisconsin is a world-class golf destination, providing unparalleled variety and quality of courses that make ideal hosts for industry events. Home to nearly 500 public golf courses, including 10 that have been named to the top 100 by Golf Digest Magazine, many of Wisconsin’s fairways have been designed by several of the golf greats, including Jack Nicklaus (The Bull, near Sheboygan and Kohler), Pete Dye (Blackwolf Run at Kohler and Whistling Straits courses) and Arnold Palmer (Geneva National Resort),” says Anne Sayers, Acting Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Tourism. “There is no better testament to our destination golf courses than the industry accolades and tournaments that choose to play in Wisconsin year after year.” 
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The Myrtle Beach area is home to more than 80 award-winning golf courses. “As a destination, we are fortunate because we have courses that are more than capable of running large events which allows us to attract golfers from around the globe,” says Jonathan Paris, Executive Director of Sports Tourism, Visit Myrtle Beach. The destination’s 60 miles of beaches, copious options for entertainment, shopping, dining and accommodations, plus the easily accessible Myrtle Beach International Airport also help set this locale apart from others in the region.
“We have on average 10 golf events per year that are repeat events. We have the ability to add others and have already added the NCAA Men’s DI Golf Regional as well as other collegiate golf competitions,” Paris notes. Key events are Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am, World Amateur Handicap Championship, Myrtle Beach Preseason Classic, March Championship, Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship, Palmetto High School Golf Championship, Veterans Golf Classic, Calabash Cup, Fall Classic and Father-Son Team Classic. 
“More than 7,000 spectators attended the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am. The remaining events are competitive tournaments, and they draw nearly 6,000 people from more than 25 countries to the area, led by the World Amateur that annually has more than 3,300 players,” says Paris. “We are open to events for all ages and demographics and have a track record of hosting a wide range of events.”
Palm Beach, Florida
Known as the Golf Capitol of Florida, Palm Beach County has more than 160 public and private courses. Topping the list is the PGA National Resort & Spa, which annually hosts The Honda Classic PGA TOUR event, as well as several amateur and collegiate national championships. The facility’s five golf courses and wealth of amenities make it an ideal venue to host some of the most prestigious golf events, notes Scott Glinski, Senior Business Development Manager, Palm Beach County Sports Commission. 
Among others situated in Palm Beach County are the Seminole Golf Club, The Breakers Ocean Course and Breaker Rees Jones Course, Abacoa Golf Club, Emerald Dunes Golf Club, Old Marsh Golf Club, The Club at Admirals Cove, The Boca Resort, Old Palm Golf Club, and the recently renovated Palm Beach Par 3. Notable public venues include Osprey Point Golf Course, Sandhill Crane, Okeeheelee Golf Course, Park Ridge Golf Course, and Madison Green Country Club. 
“We currently support approximately 30 golf events per year ranging from amateur and junior tournaments to PGA TOUR events. Golf is in our DNA and is one of the things we do best,” Glinski remarks. In 2017, the PBCSC was awarded multiple NCAA events: the 2019 Division II Women’s Golf Championship, the 2020 Division III Men’s and Women’s Golf Championship, the 2021 Division II Men’s Golf Championship, and the 2022 Division I Men’s Golf Regional. This past October, it was awarded the 2025 NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championships and the 2026 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Championships. 
“The courses, experience and year-round good weather set us apart from other destinations,” says Glinski. “The PBCSC is a hands-on customer service agency that prides itself on helping event owners execute their events to the fullest potential.”
Seguin, Texas
Carved out of a pecan grove and running along the scenic Guadalupe River, the 18-hole, par 71 Max Starcke Park Golf Course is the premier golf venue in Seguin. The year-round facility offers a driving range and a new clubhouse, and a short game practice site will open in summer 2021. 
“We hold a wide variety of events such as college, high school and Southern Texas PGA Junior events as well as events for local golf associations,” says Blaire Zahn, Main Street and CVB Assistant Director, Seguin, Texas. “We currently host between 75 and 100 events throughout the year and are continuously scheduling events, and we are always open to any interested groups.” 
Past golf events have brought 2,500 to 4,300 golfers to the facility, with college and high school events also drawing in spectators. “Most of our participants are local as we serve our county as well as the five to six counties that border ours. Our daily golfers travel from a range of a few miles to 80 miles,” she reports. 
“We are always trying to be creative in our efforts to draw visitors and attract larger events,” says Zahn. “With the new developments at our golf course, we are hopeful that we will be able to attract more widespread events.”
Tucson, Arizona
With more than 40 courses throughout the region, Tucson provides numerous options for golfers of all skill levels. “Our rich golf tradition is embodied by the PGA TOUR Champions Cologuard Classic, played at the Omni Tucson National Golf Club each year. This year’s event features a 78-player field competing for a $1.7 million purse, with proceeds helping to support colon cancer awareness and Tucson youth sports,” says Nick Pazzi, Sports Sales & Partner Relations Manager, Visit Tucson. “It is estimated that the event generates around $25 million in economic impact to Southern Arizona.” 
Other top venues include the Oro Valley Community Center, the Ty Butler/Notah Begay-designed Sewailo Golf Club at Casino Del Sol Resort, The Gallery Golf Club, the JW Marriott Starr Pass Golf Club and the Ventana Canyon Golf Club. 
The Sewailo Golf Club will host the inaugural Conquistador ParaGolf Championships in April in partnership with the Adaptive Sports Department at the University of Arizona. The club is home to the university’s golf team as well as the PAC-12 in Tucson. The Sewailo Golf Club is also currently working with the LPGA to bring one of its Symetra Tour events to Tucson in 2022. “Our goal is to bring the LPGA back to Tucson for an annual event after an absence of 15 years,” says Pazzi. Meanwhile, the Tucson Country Club, home to the American Junior Golf Association, will hold the AJGA Tucson Junior tournament in June.
Tulsa, Oklahoma
For more than 120 years, golf has been enjoyed in Oklahoma, and Tulsa’s green, hilly terrain is no exception. Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club has hosted three PGA Championships and eight USGA national championships, including three U.S. Opens. 
The club is set to host the Senior PGA Championship this year as well as the PGA Championship in 2022. Intercollegiate golf also has a strong presence in the state, with four DI programs having qualified for NCAA Championships: Oklahoma State University, the University of Tulsa, the University of Oklahoma and Oral Roberts University. 
Tulsa Regional Tourism hosted the 2017 Women’s NCAA Championship and has also hosted the Big 12 Men’s and Big 12 Women’s Golf Championships and the USGA Girls’ Junior National Championship multiple times. “Tulsa Regional Tourism typically hosts one to two golf events each year, and with the added visibility to the Tulsa golf scene, we anticipate more golf events to choose Tulsa in the future,” says Ray Hoyt, President, Tulsa Regional Tourism. “Since 2015, TRT has assisted with eight golf events with a total estimated economic impact of $711,604. Anywhere from 100 to 1,000 people attended these events.”
Hoyt is optimistic about the future. “Tulsa’s substantial golfing package makes it easy for meeting planners and site selectors to chose Tulsa. We continue to look for growth in all areas of sporting events, and golf is certainly high on the list.” 
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Montgomery County lays claim to 50 golf courses, and three of the top tournament-ready venues are Raven’s Claw Golf Club, Huntingdon Valley Country Club and the Philadelphia Cricket Club (the nation’s oldest country club). “The number of courses within the county makes us different, as do the variety of levels of difficulty and easy access that allows golfers to come for a weekend without spending too much time in the car,” says Rachel Riley, Senior Director of Communications, Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board. The VFTCB also offers a golf hotel package.
Raven’s Claw hosted the Valley Forge Invitational, an LPGA Symetra Tour event, in 2018 and 2019. The Philadelphia Cricket Club hosted the Big 10 Golf Championships in 2019. Other big tournaments have included AJGA events at Huntingdon Valley Country Club, and the PGA Junior Tour at Plymouth Meeting Golf Club. Just across the county line, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was held at Aronimink in 2018 and showcased the top 70 pros in the world.
“Valley Forge and Montgomery County host all levels of golf events from youth to professional tournaments, including Junior PGA events, the LPGA’s Symetra Tour, and the PGA’s BMW Championship. We continue to seek out new opportunities and we’re looking forward to announcing new events in 2021, including a new event for September 2021 coming to Valley Forge as part of a national tour,” says Riley.  SDM

About the Author