While many sports have hit plateaus, or struggled after seeing participation rates drop, golf remains eternally popular among Americans, including youth players. According to a 2019 National Golf Federation Golf Industry Report, there are 2.5 million junior golfers in the U.S. today.
The sport’s popularity with younger players can be partly credited to The First Tee, the youth development organization that brought 15 million young people to golf. In 2019, The First Tee reached more than three million youth through chapter programs at schools and youth centers.
“There are strong signs that more kids are playing the game, with 2.5 million junior golfers in 2019 and an additional 5.5 million participating at off-course facilities,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee President and World Golf Foundation CEO. “Introducing kids to the sport through schools and after-school programs is helping open doors to newcomers, as are many other youth golf programs. There are many examples how kids are experiencing the game in new ways and enjoying benefits from that engagement.”
Following are some highlighted locations around the U.S. with the facilities and services necessary to organize group events at the youth (or adult, for that matter) level.
Gulf County, Florida
In July 2019, Gulf County’s tourist development council acquired St. Joseph Bay Golf Club, and has since been renovating it, with clubhouse upgrades, a new restaurant and more. The council also onboarded PGA Professional Jordon Arnold.
“We are planning an extensive greens rehabilitation starting March of 2020 and hope to complete this project by August,” said Arnold. “This will greatly enhance our golf course exposure and allow us to begin to showcase our Championship course once again.”
The county has already attracted some events to the rejuvenated course. Southeastern Junior Golf Tour and Hurricane Junior Golf Tour will hold events at the club in 2020 and 2021, and the county is in talks with The University of North Georgia for a collegiate event in 2021.
Gulf County has 43 miles of natural shoreline, making it an ideal spot for outdoor activities, and over two dozen parks, many with water access. Gulf County has locally owned restaurants, shopping and an ample supply of hotels and rental homes.
Kelli Godwin, executive director of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council, noted that the revitalized course, outdoor playground and accommodation mix make Gulf County a great place for families to extend their stay to a “sports-cation.”
“The Gulf County TDC can help in many ways to make sure any event goes smoothly and successfully,” she said.
Palm Beach County, Florida
Possessing several championship courses and an average year-round temperature of 78 degrees, Palm Beach County is considered Florida’s Golf Capital. It has hosted some of the most prestigious events in the country.
“We are one of the only destinations in the U.S. that has three professional golf tours in one county,” said Scott Glinski, senior business development manager for the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. “There is the Honda Classic – PGA Tour, the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio and the Boca Raton Championship. Amateur events include the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Rolex Tournament of Champions, the Junior Honda Classic, the Florida State Golf Association Junior Team Championships and NCAA Division III Men’s & Women’s Golf National Championships.”
Palm Beach County has more than 160 golf courses both public and private, including the PGA National Resort & Spa with five championships courses, over 300 resort rooms and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear Trap on the champion course; plus the 1,000-room resort-style Boca Resort; Osprey Point and the Seagate Country Club.
Palm Beach is built for hospitality, with 18,500 hotel rooms and plenty to do during leisure time, including exploring the 47 miles of white sand beaches.
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission offers event planning, operational and logistical support, budget management, sourcing equipment rentals, security, volunteer recruitment, housing accommodations and transportation.
Harford County, Maryland
From 2008 to 2012, Harford County was the home to the LPGA McDonald’s Event at Bulle Rock Golf Course. From 2005 to 2009, it hosted the LPGA Championship. Last year, Bulle Rock hosted the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour championship event.
In addition to Bulle Rock, Harford County has Mountain Branch Golf Club, a public course located in Joppa with a tent that can host more than 200 people, as well as a restaurant and catering services.
Harford County is centrally located near Interstate 95 and is 30 minutes from the Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. The region features more than 2,800 hotel rooms, as well as dining and shopping and plenty of free-time options. Visit Harford, the local CVB, can coordinate with event planners to pull together the large and small details.
“We have a smart phone app called Destination Harford, and we can help with volunteer coordination, as a liaison to hoteliers and restaurants, and make restaurant and visitor guides available online and in print,” said Visit Harford’s executive director, Greg Pizzuto.
Edmond has two public courses: Golf Club of Edmond and Kickingbird Golf Club. It’s also home to Oak Tree Country Club. Kickingbird hosts about 50 events each year, including boys’ and girls’ state championships. This year, it will host the U.S. Amateur Qualifier.
“It’s a great course for boys and girls,” said Brian Soerensen, Director of Golf at Kickingbird. “It’s very straightforward and doesn’t have many hidden hazards.”
Additionally, the Golf Club of Edmond has hosted multiple PGA events, the 2017 Oklahoma High School State Championship, USGA qualification events and the University of Central Oklahoma Invitational. It houses one of the largest youth golf programs in the region.
Edmond stands at the crossroads of Route 66 and the Santa Fe Railroad, so it has lots to offer for leisure activities and cultural pursuits. It’s accessible, as it’s near I-35, I-44 and I-40, and has 14 hotels. The area is home to parks, festivals and live music, as well as shopping and eclectic dining.
The local CVB provides services that tie golf events to Edmond’s community and hometown spirit, according to Jennifer Seaton, director of the Edmond CVB.
“Visit Edmond supports visiting groups with event sponsorships, custom itineraries, retail and dining hot spots and local connections for every need,” she said.
Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
The Valley Forge region has a claim to fame that many golf destinations don’t: affordability.
“It’s easy to find something to do in Valley Forge and Montgomery County,” said Rachel Riley, director of communications for the Valley Forge & Montgomery County CVB. “Besides fun activities, the county is affordable, and still just a quick trip from the city.”
Montgomery County is home to 53 golf courses, notably Raven’s Claw Golf Club, Huntingdon Valley Country Club, and the Philadelphia Cricket Club, all of which are tournament ready.
Raven’s Claw Golf Club in Limerick Township was named a Top 10 course by Golfweek Magazine. Huntingdon Valley Country Club challenges members to a 27-hole golf course, while the Philadelphia Cricket Club is the nation’s oldest country club, offering 45 holes across three courses.
The AJGA will host one of its championships at Raven’s Claw Golf Club in August 2021. Valley Forge & Montgomery County hosted the Valley Forge Invitational, an LPGA Symetra Tour, at Raven’s Claw in 2018 and 2019. The Philadelphia Cricket Club hosted the Big 10 Golf Championships in 2019. The area has also previously hosted AJGA events at Huntingdon Valley Country Club, and the PGA Junior Tour at Plymouth Meeting Golf Club.
The Valley Forge & Montgomery County region has 9,200 hotel rooms and is adjacent to all major highways. The local CVB can help with the site selection process, itineraries for off-time activities, accommodations, scheduling and volunteers.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Each year, Myrtle Beach hosts a variety of golf events, including the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am, the Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship, the Palmetto High School Golf Championship, the Veterans Golf Classic and the World Amateur Handicap Championship, an event that Sports Destination Management honored as part of its Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism awards program.
More than 7,000 spectators attend the Monday After the Masters event at Barefoot Resort, which features an onsite House of Blues. Other competitive tournaments attract nearly 6,000 people from more than 25 countries.
“What makes them go is the quality of the staff at the courses,” said Jonathan Paris, executive director of sports tourism for Visit Myrtle Beach. “As a destination, we are fortunate we have courses that are more than capable of running large events.”
Myrtle Beach features about 125,000 hotel rooms and is an easy drive from major markets via SC 501 to Interstate 95. For shopping, dining and attractions, there is Broadway At the Beach, and nearby are Ripley’s Aquarium and Wonderworks. Barefoot Landing also offers a mix of shopping and dining.
Visit Myrtle Beach offers event planners numerous services, including site visits, hotel lead distribution, special event venue lead distribution, local media support, guidebooks and local discount cards.
Frisco, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, has four public golf courses: Frisco Lakes Golf Club, Plantation Golf Club, The Trails of Frisco Golf Club and Westin Stonebriar Golf Club, as well as one private course, Stonebriar Country Club. For the past several years, the Stonebriar Country Club has hosted the Hunter Mahan Junior Championship, an AJGA event that includes a field of 78 golfers.
The region will soon expand its golf credentials, as PGA of America recently broke ground on its new headquarters.
“We are extremely excited about the PGA of America project,” said Josh Dill, Director of Sports and Events for Visit Frisco. “The development will feature two championship golf courses, a short course, and practice areas, totaling 46 holes. It will also have an Omni resort.”
Frisco has more than 3,000 hotel rooms, with another 1,000 under development. There is also shopping, indoor and outdoor sports and a variety of family activities, including iFLY, KidZania, the Museum of the American Railroad and the Texas Sculpture Garden.
Visit Frisco provides an array of services to event planners, including pre- and post-planning, registration assistance, site inspections, community outreach, vendor referrals, itineraries, event promotion and more.
Greater Zion, Utah
The Greater Zion area, which is comprised of St. George, Springdale, Zion National Park and numerous state parks, has 13 golf courses. Six are municipal courses used for local events. The other courses (The Ledges,
Sand Hollow, The Entrada, Coral Canyon, Copper Rock, Bloomington Country Club and Sun River) all have the amenities required to support large tournaments. Each October, Sand Hollow hosts the Sand Hollow Open, which sees athletes from the Utah Jazz, Las Vegas Raiders and the Las Vegas Knights play for charity. Additionally, from 2020 to 2023, the Copper Rock Golf Course will host a leg of the Symetra Tour.
In the off-hours, the region is well suited to outdoor activities, given its proximity to Zion National Park. The Tuacahn Amphitheater shows Broadway-style plays, and downtown areas have shopping and dining. There are approximately 6,200 hotel rooms in the region as well as vacation rentals. The region is a 90-minute drive from the Las Vegas airport.
The local CVB helps event planners make connections, set up hotel room blocks and can even help with funding in some cases, according to Doug Boyer, Sports and Adventure Marketing Specialist for the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office.
“That funding can be used for marketing purposes and other specified uses as well,” he said. “We’re also very well known for our volunteers.” SDM
Lake County’s Sports Destination Resort
Mission Inn Resort & Club is family-owned and operated, located northwest of Orlando with 50+ years as a resort and 100+ years of golf. This 1,100-acre resort is a sports paradise, including golf, trap and skeet, as well as bass fishing.
It’s all here: 176 hotel rooms/suites, four restaurants/bars; spa, tennis, pickleball, volleyball, marina boats, fishing, pool and Hydro-Jacuzzi, fitness center, billiards/game room, bicycles, shuffleboard, playground and meeting space.
What else? Two world-class golf courses: El Campeon (100+ years) and Las Colinas (25+ years), along with an executive par 3 course, lighted driving range and putting green. These courses have hosted tournaments for juniors, FHSAA, NCAA, seniors, charity and PGA qualifiers, as well as statewide conferences, golf group getaways, banquets and meetings.
Mission Inn Resort & Club has award-winning reviews from Golf Advisor, Trip Advisor and culinary, with over 650 programs annually and an 80 percent return rate, as well as a unique environment that focuses on creating a memorable guest experience.
Bring Your Tournament to Sevierville!
Sevierville Golf Club, recently recognized by Golf Advisor as one of the top 50 U.S. courses, offers the services, amenities and presentation of a high-quality private club on a daily-fee basis.
The Sevierville Golf Club features two 18-hole championship courses: The Highlands, a par 70 that winds through lush rolling hills and freshwater mountain ponds, and The River, a par 72 that plays along and across the Little Pigeon River. The club also offers nine-hole play which runs along the front side of the Highlands course and is fun for all skill levels.
The Sevierville Golf Club is under the leadership of PGA Professional Craig Volentine, former head golf professional at the University of Virginia’s Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville.
Amenities at the Sevierville Golf Club include a driving range and putting green as well as a chipping area. The private dining facilities (including an optional buffet) can accommodate larger groups for golf outings, business meetings or any private function.