Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

The Michigan Golf Summit Enters the New Millennium!
By Sharon L. Collins

With less than three months remaining until the new millennium, the Michigan Golf Summit is proud to be a virtual summit! Now people involved with the business of golf in our state can access information online whenever it is convenient for them.

1999 marks the 10th anniversary of the first Michigan Golf Summit, which was held at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in Ypsilanti in November 1989. Its purpose was to bring together golf industry professionals to educate, communicate and plan for the future of golf in Michigan.

Subsequent summits were held every two years - in 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997. All were coordinated through EMU and financially sponsored each year by EMU and various organizations, businesses and corporations interested in Michigan's golf future. In addition, the first Michigan Women's Golf Summit was held in 1993, with additional summits in 1995 and 1997. Unlike the industry summit, the Michigan Women's Golf Summit was designed for individual players as well as those employed in golf. Its purpose was to educate women golfers, assess the status and needs of women golfers in Michigan, promote women's golf leadership and help establish a cohesive network for women's golf in Michigan.

Many people worked very hard over the past ten years to coordinate the all of the summits. Organizers felt that it was time for a change this year. Thus, the virtual summit was born. With your input, we will evaluate ideas for future summits-both virtual and traditional.

At the 1997 Michigan Golf Summit, one of the panel discussions featured the topic, "Leading Michigan Golf Into the 21st Century." Panel members agreed that future issues included personnel shortages, operating costs, access/price, real or perceived environmental issues, the length of time it takes to play a round of golf, the perception of golf as an elitist sport, and industry consolidation. Many of these issues have been addressed since 1997, but will undoubtedly continue to be a concern for many years to come.

When asked, "What's been happening with Michigan golf since the 1997 summit?" Don Wyckoff of GOLF Michigan/Travel Michigan responded that many new courses have opened, the industry has realized an increased need to market outstate, and Michigan golf has been recognized in places like Toronto and Chicago. Wyckoff also noted that there has been greater industry cooperation and partnerships in marketing golf. He also said that there has been increased media awareness and coverage of Michigan golf, including media interest from East Coast golf writers.

According to Wyckoff, "Major challenges [over the past two years] have included budgets and diligence in outstate marketing, as well as looking for new and effective ways to reach our target markets."

As for plans and goals for Michigan golf in the new millennium, Wyckoff had several suggestions: "Continue doing what works. Be diligent. Look for new ways to market the Michigan golf product. Continue to work together with the golf industry to raise the awareness of the Michigan golf product."

Brett Marshall, executive director of the Golf Association of Michigan, also offered his opinion about what's been going on with Michigan golf since the summit in 1997: "Over the past two years, golf has continued to grow here in Michigan. We still rank #1 in new course openings in that time frame and rank among the top three in courses under construction. Most of the clubs have had successful years financially although there does seem to be some early signs of more supply than demand."

According to Marshall: "A number to mid-Michigan and northern Michigan resorts seem to be lowering their group prices to attract golfers up north. And there are more "twilight" rates available than in previous years, which is an indicator that tee times are not full during the day."

Marshall also explained what's been happening with the GAM since the last summit: "The GAM continues to provide an extensive tournament schedule of events to its membership and has expanded to include the Senior Women and Women's mid-amateur in the last couple of years. Both events have been well-attended."

As described earlier, environmental issues were brought up as a concern at the 1997 panel discussion on the future of Michigan golf. Marshall brought us up to date on one example of such a concern: "The environmental debacle at Arcadia Bluffs has been a black eye on the golf course community in Michigan, receiving negative publicity in some national publications. However, Michigan State University, the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation, the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environmental Quality and the GAM have combined to have the Michigan Environmental Stewardship Program (overseen by Greg Lyman at MSU), which has been very well-received by golf courses to date."

Regarding the future: "In 2000, the GAM will unveil a new handicap service to its members, which will be very exciting with touch screen score posting and new technology advances to make posting and transfer of scores easier," said Marshall.

According to Marshall, expanding services is high on the list of GAM's priorities for the new millennium. For example, beginning in February 2000, Michigan Links magazine will be expanded to six issues a year. He also noted that the GAM will continue to educate the golfing community on topics of interest, including handicapping, the rules of golf, turfgrass issues and issues concerning both private and public golf clubs.

As we move closer to the next century, it's clear that many challenges will face the golf industry in Michigan. Of course, the new millennium also brings with it many opportunities for clever marketing campaigns. Think of this virtual golf summit as a launching pad for new ideas for the 21st century!

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