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As Golf Continues its Surge, Destinations Ready to Tee Up New Events
Mar 01, 2024 | By: Judy Leand

In 2023, 123 million people (more than one-third of the U.S. population over the age of five) played golf on-course or off-course, followed golf on TV or online, read about the game, or listened to a golf-related podcast. This is up 30 percent since 2016, according to the National Golf Foundation. Additionally, a record-breaking 3.4 million people played on a golf course for the first time in 2023. There have been more than 500 million rounds played in the U.S. each of the past four years, with a record 531 million rounds played in 2023, surpassing the previous high of 529 million set in 2021. By the end of 2023, the U.S. boasted nearly 16,000 golf courses at 14,000 golf facilities ó thatís more golf courses nationwide than Starbucks or McDonalds stores, notes the NGF.

This is exciting news for golf locales seeking to host an expanding roster of events. Here’s a birdie’s eye view of eight destinations that are ready to make all comers feel right at home on the range and beyond.

Dublin, Ohio

Dublin, Oh | Photo courtesy of Visit Dublin
Dublin, Oh  |  Photo courtesy of Visit Dublin

There’s lots of golf action in Dublin and the destination offers a number of courses including the Muirfield Village Golf Club professional venue as well as numerous private facilities. The public Golf Club of Dublin offers a driving range, putting green, pro shop, indoor virtual facilities and a pub and meeting room that can accommodate 200 people.

“As the only city in the world to host the Ryder Cup, President’s Cup and Solheim Cup, golf is in Dublin’s DNA,” says Joshua Bricker, sales manager, Visit Dublin Ohio. “Home to Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village Golf Club, the Dublin community celebrates golf in a big way during the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday. From all the action on the course and Fore!Fest (a golf-themed street festival), to giant golf ball installations and temporary disc golf courses, visitors and residents come together to celebrate golf in Dublin.”

Bricker also points out that the annual invitational Memorial Tournament hosts 144 pro golfers each year and averages 40,000 spectators, resulting in an estimated economic impact of $36.5 million. Looking ahead, he says Dublin wants to attract more pro golf events as well as collegiate and amateur youth (AJGA) tournaments.

DuPage County, Illinois

DuPage, Il | Photo courtesy of Charles Cherney/Western Golf Association
DuPage, Il  |  Photo courtesy of Charles Cherney/Western Golf Association

Home to the first 18-hole golf course in the U.S., and now featuring more than 50 golf courses, DuPage County is one of the top golfing destinations in the country. The region boasts three venues — Chicago Golf Club, Butler National Golf Club and Medinah Country Club — that Golf Digest has included on its 2023 list of America’s Top 100 Greatest Golf Courses. Moreover, both Medinah Country Club and Butterfield Country Club are included in the top 150 Platinum Clubs of America.

The County has hosted numerous pro and amateur tournaments including the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship, BMW Championship, PGA TOUR Western Open, LPGA Solheim Cup, U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and Walker Cup. In fact, once Medinah Country Club hosts the Presidents Cup in 2026, it will be the only club in America to have hosted the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. The Chicago Golf Club has held the Walker Cup as well as the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, and will again host the Walker Cup in 2036.

“Spanning its storied and rich history, DuPage County has hosted a wide variety of championship events, both amateur and professional, which have featured men’s and women’s fields across various skill and talent levels,” says Igor Bakovic, DuPage Sports Commission’s director of sports. “Our vision is that we will continue to see the same types of events with very similar characteristics being hosted here at our prestigious, historic and unique golf courses and country clubs. We are very excited about golf and what 2024, 2025 and 2026 will bring.”

Edmond, Oklahoma

Edmond, Ok | Photo courtesy of the City of Edmond
Edmond, Ok  |  Photo courtesy of the City of Edmond

In Edmond, KickingBird Golf is at the center of the action, and the facility just completed a $22 million renovation. The improvements include a 6,600-square-foot Events Center, a 13,000-square-foot clubhouse, a Range Entertainment Pavillion with Flite Golf Game Technology, and a four bay indoor teaching facility. Also on offer is a three-green, short game practice facility, and KickingBird is the only golf course in the state to provide Trackman Range for practice. Other amenities include the Lookout Restaurant and Turn Bar, and a full-service pro shop.

“We host approximately 60 outside events per year,” notes Brian Soerensen, director of golf at KickingBird Golf. “We are not looking to expand by many, but we are looking to add more multi-day events that involve overnight stays. We are also looking for events that offer full fields of 100 players or more.” He adds, “The events we’ve hosted had more than 100 participants plus spectators. They have an economic impact of over $200,000 per event, and a typical event is three days.” These events include State Junior Championships, U.S. Amateur qualifier tournaments and NCAA competitions.

Other golf initiatives feature the introduction of a Junior Golf Academy to focus on junior golf development for all skill levels, and an effort to grow the game through ladies’ group clinics, adult beginner lessons and junior programs. Moreover, “KickingBird Golf is re-defining the municipal golf experience,” says Soerensen. “Our goal is to provide our customers with an exceptional overall experience that they cannot get at any other public facility in the state of Oklahoma.”

Gainesville, Florida

Gainesville, Fl | Photo courtesy of Mark Bostick Golf Course at The University of Florida
Gainesville, Fl  |  Photo courtesy of Mark Bostick Golf Course at The University of Florida

The two primary golf facilities in Gainesville are the Mark Bostick Golf Course at the University of Florida, and the Ironwood Golf Course. The Mark Bostick Golf Course is the home of the Florida Gators men’s and women’s golf teams, and is owned by the university. Most of the golf events held at the Mark Bostick Golf Course are national collegiate competitions plus some local tournaments. Joleen Cacciatore, executive director, Gainesville Sports Commission, notes that the University of Florida is always looking to expand its roster of Southeast regional events and collegiate tournaments, and is open to discussing new events.

The Ironwood Golf Course is owned by the City of Gainesville and operated by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. The course hosts about 50 tournaments annually that mostly draw from the Southeast region including youth and senior competitions, league play and local charity and fundraising events.

“It’s awesome to be able to host golf events at both facilities,” says Cacciatore. “Gainesville is central in the state of Florida, located just five hours from Miami, Pensacola and Atlanta, making it an easy drive for participants.”

Lake George, NY

Lake George, NY | Photo courtesy of Lake George Regional CVB
Lake George, NY  |  Photo courtesy of Lake George Regional CVB

Warren County’s Lake George Area in Upstate New York offers a wide variety of golf facilities, all surrounded by spectacular scenery. Eighteen-hole courses on offer include the championship Sagamore Golf Course that overlooks Lake George, Hiland Park Country Club’s championship course that is situated in the heart of the Adirondaks, Cronin’s Golf Resort, Top of the World Golf Course and Queensbury Country Club’s championship course. Among the nine-hole options are Green Mansions Golf Club, Sunnyside Par 3 and Bay Meadows Golf Club.

“At this time, we mostly host youth programs and local non-pro tournaments. Most of our golf events are local fundraising, regional or junior golfer level tournaments, but we’re looking to add additional events,” says Megan Seeley, marketing manager, Lake George Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Many New York and surrounding states’ golf league participants plan end-of-season events that include weekend overnight travel from their home golf course areas to exciting [destinations] such as Lake George.”

Seeley adds, “In the heart of Upstate New York’s Southern Adirondacks, the Lake George Area offers a serene escape where golf tournaments and gatherings become more than just events; they’re moments of camaraderie and connection, set against the backdrop of nature’s unparalleled beauty.”

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, SC | Photo courtesy of Visit Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach, SC  |  Photo courtesy of Visit Myrtle Beach

The Myrtle Beach area is home to more than 90 award-winning golf courses. “What makes these courses special is both the quality of the courses and the staff. As a destination, we are fortunate to have courses that are more than capable of running large events, which allows us to host events that attract golfers from around the globe,” says Jonathan Paris, executive director of sports tourism, Visit Myrtle Beach. “More than half of the member golf course layouts have received four stars or more in Golf Digest’s prestigious ‘Best Places to Play’ guide.”

Myrtle Beach generally hosts 10 annual events that include Barstool Classic Myrtle Beach, Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am, World Amateur Handicap Championship, Myrtle Beach Preseason Classic, Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship, Palmetto High School Golf Championship, Veterans Golf Classic and Calabash Cup. The NCAA Men’s D1 Golf Regional and other collegiate competitions are also part of the mix.

“A real highlight for us this year is the new PGA TOUR tournament that we will be hosting in May, the Myrtle Beach Classic. This is a brand new, full PGA TOUR stop. We are the only new destination on the PGA TOUR’s 2024 calendar,” says Paris.

“We see the Myrtle Beach Classic as a great opportunity to show the world what an incredible destination we have,” says Karen Riordan, president and CEO, Visit Myrtle Beach. “With top notch golf, 60 miles of gorgeous beaches, over 2,000 great restaurants and dozens of fun attractions and amusements, the Myrtle Beach area is a great vacation choice.”

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Ok | Photo courtesy of Rip Stell
Tulsa, Ok  |  Photo courtesy of Rip Stell

This thriving city is centrally located in the U.S., making it easily accessible via road and air. “Tulsa is home to world-class golf facilities from the indoor GolfSuites to Southern Hills Country Club that hosted the PGA Championship a record fifth time in 2022,” says Joel Koester, Tulsa Sports Commission’s director of sales. “Not only does Tulsa provide convenient access to state-of-the-art golf facilities, but the Capital of Route 66 is also home to over 17,000 hotel rooms along with cultural treasures like the historic Greenwood District and recently opened Bob Dylan Center that make this sporting destination one not to miss.”

Chief among Tulsa’s main golf venues is the Southern Hills Country Club which hosted the PGA Championship for a record fifth time in 2022, after hosting the Senior PGA in 2021. It is slated to hold the USGA 2024 U.S. Open Women’s Amateur Championship in August. There’s also plenty of golf action at Cedar Ridge Country Club which hosted LIV Golf in May 2023 and hosts the American Junior Golf Association Gateway First Bank Junior Tournament each year. Additionally, the Rogers State University golf team hosts the Tulsa Cup each fall at various courses throughout the city.

The city is also reinvesting in its municipal golf courses, Mohawk Park and Page Belcher, with new funds earmarked for major improvements on the grounds, reports Koester. “Tulsa is a golf-centric city with plenty of local talent, but events of the caliber of PGA bring in golfers from around the world who stay the entirety of the tournament.”

Vermillion, South Dakota

Vermillion, SD | Photo courtesy of Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company
Vermillion, SD  |  Photo courtesy of Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company

For those wanting to hit the links in Vermillion, the Bluffs Golf Course is the premier venue. This upscale 18-hole Championship course is situated on the Missouri River bluffs, taking advantage of the natural rolling landscape.

Every year, The Bluffs hosts the South Dakota Open Pro-Am, a professional competition within The Dakotas Tour. The Bluffs also hosts a Ladies Pro-Am (held in conjunction with the official Pro-Am), a Two-Person Scramble, a Ladies Scramble, and a Couples Tournament, as well as high school invitationals, state and district tournaments, and many fundraisers and golf classics for local businesses and organizations. Outside of regular events, the University of South Dakota golf teams practice on the course and will occasionally play tournaments against other schools there.

“About 40 golf events are held at The Bluffs each year,” says Miles Amende, communications & tourism specialist, Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company. “While there are no plans to add more events, The Bluffs is hoping to expand the Ladies Pro-Am to feature more participants and attract more spectators.” He also points out that the 2023 Pro-Am had 154 participants, and the satellite events — including a community feed, live music and other entertainment during the several-day period — brought in between 150-200 attendees. One of last year’s high school tournaments brought in 240 players over four days.

“Most event participants are local and tend to come from the surrounding region — Sioux Falls, Sioux City and Yankton, about a 100-mile radius around Vermillion — and most tend to stay for the duration of the event,” says Amende. “The exception is the Pro-Am, which attracts golfers from all over the country, Canada and even South America.” SDM

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