Once reputed to be a sport for men of a certain age and income, golf has a new and growing demographic: youth. In 2017, the number of golfers ages six to 17 was 2.7 million. This is a 12.5 percent increase from 2011. Today, youth golfers represent 11 percent of the golfing population.
It helps that the golf industry has created programs to engage youth of all backgrounds. Programs such as Youth on Course make golf more accessible to juniors, and there are more scholarships available.
Jason Ross, VP of Business Development for the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), believes event organizers are looking not only for a great course, but enthusiasm on the part of a host region.
“The first thing that comes to mind is whether the facility is excited about hosting the event,” he said. “Are they ready to embrace the event and work with the organization to create a great experience? Youth sports is about experiences and helping young people learn and grow through competition. If the community isn’t excited about hosting the event, the attendees will feel it.”
Each youth organization has different needs, so regions should remain flexible and spend time understanding these needs, whether it’s financial assistance, sponsorship, volunteer support or logistics.
“These are a few of the things we look for, along with a friendly, community-minded approach,” said Ross.
The Bloomington-Normal area is the home of the State Farm Youth Classic, which attracts 400 youth golfers from all over the world. It also welcomes approximately 300 golfers annually for the Illinois High School Association Boys Golf State Finals, and about 100 players for the Chicago District Golf Association State Tournaments.
These events are held at the Den at Fox Creek, an Arnold Palmer Signature course that features bentgrass tees, greens and fairways that complement the prairie grasses in the rough to make a picturesque course. Other amenities include a large practice putting green and a chipping green with practice sand bunker, and a grass driving range with target greens.
Bloomington-Normal is in Central Illinois, proximal to Chicago, St. Louis and Springfield, and easily accessible from Interstates 39, 55 and 74. The region features over 3,000 hotels rooms. Nearby attractions include Memory Lane, a preserved stretch of historic Route 66, as well as vineyards and breweries, the McLean County Arts Center and seasonal events.
Matt Hawkins, Sports Marketing Manager of the Bloomington-Normal CVB, said his organization assists with many aspects of events, including site visits, logistical support, vendors, volunteers, housing and publicity.
“We serve as a resource to organizations seeking guidance in bid development or event management, and provide insight and recommendations throughout the process,” he said.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Eau Claire in western Wisconsin was home to the 2018 State Amateur Qualifier and the 2008 Wisconsin State Open Championship, both at the Eau Claire Country Club, and the 2016 American Legion State Golf Tournament at Wild Ridge and Mill Run Golf Courses. There are also numerous annual local events that draw up to 200 golfers and hundreds of spectators.
The Eau Claire Golf and Country Club features a practice range with target greens, two practice putting greens, and banquet facilities, according to Jason Krueger, Sports Sales Manager with Visit Eau Claire.
“Our championship course is not only breathtaking, but also the perfect challenge to any golfer,” he said. “A testament to the quality of the Eau Claire Country Club’s golf course is the number of premier golf events that are hosted each year at the club.”
In total, the region features eight golf courses with facilities for events. It has 1,800 hotel rooms and is easily accessible from Minneapolis and Chicago. Eau Claire is highly walkable and features both indoor and outdoor pursuits on the nearby Chippewa River Trail.
Visit Eau Claire assists event planners with venue coordination and selection assistance, site inspections, housing, local services, registration and publicity.
Great Lakes Bay, Michigan
Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region is an hour and a half north of Detroit on Interstate 75, and it hosts a variety of golf events, including the LPGA Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational at Midland Country Club and the National Amputee Golf Association Championship at The Fortress of Frankenmuth. The Fortress is also home to two other statewide events, the Golf of Michigan Championship and the Michigan High School Association State Golf Tournament.
The Great Lakes Bay region is comprised of Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties, so it boasts close to 6,000 hotel rooms as well as three championship golf courses (Apple Mountain is the third). For after-hours, the region is the home of Frankenmuth (Michigan’s “Little Bavaria”), the state’s number-one tourist destination. There are both indoor and outdoor activities available year-round, as well as dining and shopping.
Wendy Scott of Go Great Lakes Bay Sports said the Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB offers complimentary services to event planners.
“We can help with site visits, housing, welcoming, setting up transportation and more,” she said.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach hosts a variety of golf tournaments each year, most notably the Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship, the Palmetto High School Golf Championship, the Father-Son Team Classic and the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am, which attracts more than 7,000 spectators.
A variety of competitive tournaments bring in nearly 6,000 people from more than 25 countries, including the PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com World Amateur, which attracts more than 3,300 players. Sports Destination Management recently named the World Am one of its 2018 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism. The Dye Course at Barefoot Resort hosts the Monday After the Masters. The House of Blues, where an accompanying concert is held, is part of the same development, which makes Barefoot Resort an ideal venue, according to Jonathan Paris, Executive Director of Sports Tourism for Visit Myrtle Beach.
“In terms of other courses/events, what makes them go is the quality of the staff at the courses,” he said. “As a destination, we’re fortunate to have courses that are more than capable of running large events.”
There are over 135,000 hotel rooms in Myrtle Beach, and the region is accessible to airports and drive-in visitors. For after-hours, the region’s 60 miles of beaches provide opportunities for seaside sports, leisure and dining. Visit Myrtle Beach offers a variety of services to event planners, including connections to vendors, housing and family attractions; planning and registration assistance; and marketing.
Palm Beach County, Florida
Palm Beach County has 47 miles of white-sand beaches and more than 170 golf courses, making it one of the U.S.’s top leisure destinations. Some of the most high-profile events include the Boca Raton Championship (Currently the Oasis Championship) at the Old Course at Broken Sound, the Honda Classic PGA Tour Event at the PGA National Resort and Spa Championship Course (also named one of SDM’s Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism), the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships, the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation Holiday Classic and the Junior Honda Classic.
The sea view is part of what makes Palm Beach so popular, not only for golf but for leisure activities. There is both fresh- and saltwater fishing, boating, diving and snorkeling as well as shopping. The Loxahatchee Everglades Tour and the Palm Beach Zoo are also nearby. There are more than 17,000 hotel rooms and the region is highly accessible by car or air.
Glen Allen, director of sports development for the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, said event organizers can expect an extraordinary level of support.
“The Palm Beach County Sports Commission can assist organizers with venue selection, vendors, room blocks, volunteers, marketing and event management,” he said. “There are also financial partnership opportunities available.”
Rome, in the northwest of Georgia, sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s home to the Georgia Public Links Golf Tournament, the Georgia Senior Women’s Golf Association State Championship, the GHSA AA Golf Tournament, and the Rome Junior Class AJGA event. The latter is an annual tournament that last year attracted 72 players and their families.
The Rome Junior Classic is hosted by the private Coosa Country Club, and the other events are hosted by the public Stonebridge Golf Club. Rome is easily accessible to Chattanooga, Tennessee and Birmingham, and has more than 1,200 hotel rooms in Rome/Floyd County.
For the off-hours, there are outdoor trails for walking, hiking and biking. The region’s proximity to the Etowah, Oostanaula and Coosa rivers offers opportunities for boating, tubing, fishing and other water sports. There are also destinations for shopping and dining, and the Greater Rome CVB can connect event planners with these amenities.
“Rome Sports can assist with every detail of an event – from securing a venue to hotel accommodations, catering, collateral and everything there is to do after your tournament,” said Kristi Kent, Director of Communications for the CVB. “Our services are complimentary.”
The Tri-Cities area of Washington is one of the state’s top recreation destinations. It has hosted high-profile golf events, including the Pacific Northwest PGA Professional Championship at the Meadow Springs Country Club, the Northwest Conference (NCAA Division II), Whitworth Invitational at the four-star Canyon Lakes Golf Course, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association 2A & 4A State Golf Championships and the Pacific Northwest PGA Junior Championships. In 2018, the WIAA 2A & 4A State Golf Championships, which were held over multiple courses – Canyon Lakes, Columbia Point, Horn Rapids and Sun Willows – attracted 320 athletes and over 700 spectators.
The Tri-Cities is centrally located among the metropolitan areas of the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Spokane, Portland and Boise, all of which are no more than three and a half hours away. There are 4,191 hotel rooms, and numerous outdoor activities, including water recreation.
The Tri-Cities CVB says its goal is to save planners time and energy, according to Hector Cruz, VP of Visit Tri-Cities Washington.
“We prepare a consolidated document outlining the pricing and amenities offered by area hotels,” he said. “Working with our staff requires only one conversation rather than making multiple calls to individual hotels. We’ll work with planners to determine which venue meets requirements and make contact with those selected.”
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Valley Forge is celebrated for history, but it’s no stranger to golf. Last year, Valley Forge and Montgomery County hosted the Valley Forge Invitational, an LPGA Symetra Tour, at Raven’s Claw Golf Club in Pottstown. The event attracted about 140 players and 1,000 spectators. This year, the Philadelphia Cricket Club will host the Big 10 Golf Championships. The area has also hosted AGJA events at Huntingdon Valley Country Club, and the PGA Junior Tour at Plymouth Meeting Golf Club. The BMW Championship held at Aronimink Golf Club in 2018 attracted the top 70 pros in the world and about 100,000 spectators.
Montgomery County is home to 53 courses. Raven’s Claw Golf Club, Huntingdon Valley Country Club, and the Philadelphia Cricket Club are tournament-ready with accessible parking. Raven’s Claw Golf Club in Limerick Township is one of the top 10 courses in Pennsylvania and welcomes 26,000 golfers annually. The course features a variety of hole styles, including rolling hills and mature wooded areas that require creative shot-making.
The region is accessible to Philadelphia airports and all major highways. It features 8,500 hotel rooms, and attractions that include LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Valley Forge National Historical Park, Elmwood Park Zoo and trails for outdoor recreation.
According to Rachel Riley, Director of Communications for Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, assistance is available to event organizers.
“We make it easy to help organizers pull off the perfect sporting event with site selection and service referrals,” she said. “We can help you with itineraries for off-time activities and sightseeing, as well as accommodations for your budget. We can help you with scheduling via the VF Playbook, the Valley Forge Sports mobile app.” SDM
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma: Where Pros Play for a Great Cause
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, will host the Supreme Lending Classic June 19-22, 2019 at Indian Springs Country Club. In partnership with the Broken Arrow Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Supreme Lending Classic will raise money for Happy Hands Education Center in Broken Arrow, OK. Happy Hands is a Christian early education center for children who are deaf, hard of hearing or have other communication disorders.
In operation since 1994, the All Pro Tour (APT), a subsidiary of K&G Sports LLC., collaborates with local nonprofits to conduct professional golf tournaments in the mid-south region of the U.S. In addition to raising thousands of dollars each year for charity, these events provide an avenue for professional golfers to hone their skills while preparing for a life on the PGA Tour. APT currently conducts professional golf tournaments in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. APT has successfully graduated players to the PGA TOUR.