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Golf is Booming and Destinations Are Striking While the Irons Are Hot
Mar 01, 2023 | By: Judy Leand

Since the second half of 2020, the golf business has been surging, and the growth has encompassed everything from participation, product sales and travel to new golf course construction; in fact, the National Golf Foundation is currently tracking 54 new courses that are under construction (an increase of more than 55 percent compared to the recent pre-pandemic average) and another 38 that are in planning.

All of this is great news for golf locales looking to attract an ever-broadening array of events. Here are eight destinations that are ready to swing into action.

Augusta, Georgia

Augusta, GA  |  Photo courtesy of Augusta Country Club

This renowned home of the Masters Golf Tournament boasts a plethora of courses that provide a variety of challenges in length and difficulty while maintaining an affordable price point. The options include public courses such as Augusta Municipal Golf Course, First Tee of Augusta, Forest Hills Golf Club (the home course of Augusta University), Goshen Plantation Golf Club and Pointe South Golf Club. The semi-private Gordon Lakes Golf Club, located on Fort Gordon, and the private Augusta Country Club and Augusta National Golf Club are also part of the mix.

In addition to the Masters Golf Tournament, the locale has hosted the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the Augusta University Men’s Golf Team’s Augusta Haskins Award Invitational presented by Valspar (the 2023 edition will be held in April), and the Augusta University Women’s Golf Team’s Valspar Augusta Invitational (to be held this March). Other events have included the Georgia High School Association State Championships.

“The Augusta Sports Council was responsible for bringing the Georgia High School State Championships to Augusta,” says Bobby Martin, the Council’s events manager. “The Augusta area hosted the 2012, 2014 and 2015 state championships for both girls and boys. Each event brought over 1,000 total people to the area.” In fact, he notes, “We are looking to attract any and all [players and ability levels]. A large focus for the Augusta Sports Council currently is adaptive opportunities. The desired results are starting a program and growing adaptive sports in general.”

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Cape Girardeau
Cape Girardeau, MO  |  Photo courtesy of Visit Cape

Hitting the links in Cape Girardeau is a special experience, and the locale’s Dalhousie Golf Club is at the center of the action. This private club has received numerous accolades and top rankings over the years from such arbiters as Golf Digest, Golfweek and Golf Inc. Magazine, and is also a recipient of the Rolex Award designating the facility as one of the “Top 1,000 Golf Courses in the World.” Cape Girardeau also offers several smaller courses such as the Cape Girardeau Country Club and the Jaycee Municipal Golf Course.

Dalhousie Golf Club has hosted numerous events including 10 Missouri Golf Association Championships, four AJGA Championships, three Missouri Valley College Championships, the 2012 Missouri State Amateur Championship, five Gateway PGA sanctioned events, and the 2015 USGA Women’s Team Championship.

“Dalhousie hosted an AJGA Rolex Tournament in 2020. However, Cape Girardeau does not regularly host golf events,” explains Joshua Robison, experience development specialist, Visit Cape. “There is the opportunity to expand the events offered based on availability.”

He points out that there are typically 20 golfers and roughly 400 attendees per tournament, each resulting in an economic impact of $150,000. The participants tend to come from out-of-state, most travel more than 100 miles, and they stay in town for about a week.

Dublin, Ohio

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

There’s plenty of golf action in Dublin and the locale 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 boasts a driving range, putting green, pro shop, indoor virtual facilities and a pub and meeting room that can accommodate 200 people.

“Dublin hosts Jack Nicklaus’ PGA event, the Memorial Tournament each spring. During a normal year, we host one professional golf event and occasionally Dublin will host a youth, amateur or collegiate event,” says Joshua Bricker, sales manager, Visit Dublin Ohio. “Muirfield Village is always looking at hosting another professional event such as a Ryder Cup, President’s Cup or Solheim Cup.”

He notes that the annual invitational Memorial Tournament hosts 144 pro golfers each year and averages about 40,000 spectators, resulting in an estimated economic impact of $36.5 million. In the future, Bricker says Dublin is looking to attract professional golf events as well as collegiate and amateur youth (AJGA) tournaments.

DuPage County, Illinois

DuPage County
DuPage County, IL | Photo courtesy of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

With more than 50 golf courses, DuPage County is one of the top golfing destinations in the country and is home to the first 18-hole course in the U.S. The region boasts three venues (Chicago Golf Club, Butler National Golf Club and Medinah Country Club) that Golf Digest has included on its list of America’s Top 100 Greatest Golf Courses, and the numerous accolades and awards don’t end there. Medinah Country Club and Butterfield Country Club are included in the Top 150 Platinum Clubs of America, and the new clubhouse at The Preserve at Oak Meadows is one of Golf Inc. Magazine’s 2022 Best New Clubhouse Honorees.

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. Senior Open, Presidents Cup and Walker Cup. “The amateur championships can draw a few thousand spectators with a couple million dollars of economic impact, to tens of thousands of spectators per day for the professional events as well as tens of millions of dollars for the economic impact,” says Igor Bakovic, DuPage Sports Commission’s director of sports. He reports that the 2019 BMW Championship hosted at Medinah Country Club generated $19.5 million in direct spending alone.

“Our vision is that we will continue to see the same types of [championship] events with very similar characteristics being hosted here at our prestigious, historic and unique golf courses and country clubs,” Bakovic remarks. “We are working with a few organizations in hopes of being able to bring some of their events to DuPage County as well. This is something we are actively working on and hoping to host in the next couple of years.”

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

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 us special is the quality of both 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 those venues to host tournaments 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 from 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 DI Golf Regional and other collegiate competitions are also part of the mix.

Paris notes that more than 7,000 spectators typically attend the Hootie & the Blowfish tournament, and the other events each attract nearly 6,000 people from more than 25 countries to the area, led by the World Amateur, which annually draws more than 3,300 players.

“We continue to work as a destination to grow our leisure golf rounds and we hope to host more amateur youth and collegiate events,” says Paris. “We are open to events for all ages and demographics, and have a track record of hosting a wide range of events.”

Rochester, New York

Rochester, NY
Rochester, NY  |  Photo courtesy of The Links at Greystone

The Greater Rochester area contains 62 resort, semi-private and public golf courses within a 45-mile radius of the center of Rochester and this, combined with affordability, helps set the destination apart from other regions. “Rochester has a tremendous track record of hosting golf tournaments of all levels,” says Rich Mackey, sports sales manager at Rochester Sports Commission. “In 2023 we will be home to the PGA Championship, returning for the first time since 2013. In 2027, the USGA will be bringing the US Men’s Amateur to Oak Hill Country Club. Some other events and organizations that we have hosted have included the LPGA Championship, Senior PGA, US Amateur, Ryder Cup, American Junior Golf Association, NCAA Division III Men’s National Championship and more.”

Mackey notes that the Rochester Sports Commission partners with the local USGA affiliate, the Rochester District Golf Association, on many of the events that are held in the area. The RGDA is working to grow junior golf in Rochester, as evidenced by the successful implementation of youth golf tournaments, coaching, training and golf education.

“There are countless events that happen in our area golf courses each year, which range from charity outings to local amateur golf tournaments,” says Mackey. “There is room to expand the number of events and we would be interested in exploring any and all opportunities to bring another golf event to Rochester.”

Springfield, Illinois

Springfield, IL
Springfield, IL  |  Photo courtesy of Visit Springfield

The two primary golf venues here are the Panther Creek Country Club and the Hale Irwin-designed Piper Glen Golf Club. Panther Creek annually hosts the Korn Ferry tour’s Memorial Health Championship, and this year the facility will once again host the NCAA DII Women’s Super Regionals.

Previously, the area has hosted the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship and the LPGA State Farm Classic. Piper Glen is the home course for University of Illinois Springfield (NCAA DII), and it has also hosted U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid- Amateur, and Illinois Amateur qualifying events. Piper Glen also hosts numerous junior camps and adult outings.

“We typically host three to four golf events per year, and we are always looking for future junior and collegiate-level events,” says Terry Truman, sales manager, Visit Springfield Illinois. “We host all ages, genders and ability levels.”

While the Korn Ferry event attracts golfers worldwide, collegiate and junior events draw regionally. It also helps that both golf courses are located within 15 minutes of nearly 4,000 hotel rooms, numerous restaurants, and many historical Abraham Lincoln and Route 66 sites. Truman points out that the NCAA Golf Women’s Super Regionals had 60 participants, 250 spectators and an economic impact of $55,000. The Memorial Health Championships attracted 150 golfers and 19,570 attendees over four days, resulting in an economic impact of $1,781,881.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

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

Tulsa features a number of golf facilities, including the world-class Southern Hills Country Club that hosted the PGA Championship for a record fifth time in May 2022, after hosting the Senior PGA in May 2021. The venue will welcome the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in 2024. Cedar Ridge Country Club is slated to host 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.

“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,” says Joel Koester, director of sports sales for the Tulsa Sports Commission. “The 2022 PGA Championship had 156 golfers participate with 45,000 to 50,000 fans in attendance each day, with a total economic impact of $143.5 million. The 2022 Rogers State University Tulsa Cup was estimated to bring a $212,000 economic impact to Tulsa with 500 attendees and 36 golf teams participating.”

With an eye toward the future, Koester reveals that Tulsa is reinvesting in its municipal golf courses, Mohawk Park and Page Belcher. New funds will be used for major improvements on the grounds. SDM

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