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Metro-Detroit is Getting Serious About Golf
By Art McCafferty

Larry Alexander, acting president and CEO of the Metropolitan Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Mike Callahan, the CFO, have served notice that the Bureau is getting very serious about the golf business. Earlier this summer, in a meeting of golf businesses and media, Alexander outlined the resources the area had to offer and some of their plans.

The product that the Bureau intends to market is the over 200 public courses that reflect the entire golf inventory and lodging properties in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties. That course total represents over 25% of Michigan's total of 783 public and municipal courses.

Callahan pointed out that the area offers a variety of experiences that golfers cannot replicate in other golf venues. For example, golfers could play one of the great courses in the area and then take in the Tigers next year at their new ballpark. They could golf and then visit Greenfield Village or the DIA. They could attend the Freedom or Renaissance Festivals or enjoy the car or power boat races around Belle Isle. They could also take in the new MGM Casino before or after a round. Obviously, there is much to see and do in the Metro Detroit area.

Callahan indicated that they would concentrate much of their effort on courses in the outskirts of Oakland County and many of those in Macomb. He feels it will be easier to get tee times at courses farther from the city's core. In fact, Janice Schmeeze of the Bureau had started some of the marketing earlier in the year with the Bureau's sponsorship of the Golfing the Great Lakes television show at Marsh Oaks, this year. The show was shown on Channel 56, WTVS and then sent around the Midwest for stations to pick up.

The Bureau will be representing the likes of Copper Hills, Pheasant Run, Cattails, Fox Hills, Glacier Club, Greystone, The Orchards, Marsh Oaks, Partridge Creek, Inkster Valley, Dearborn Hills, Fieldstone, Mulberry Hills, Pine Knob, Blackheath and Twin Lakes, to name but a few. There certainly is no shortage for top drawer courses in the metro area.

One of the sales tools that the Bureau will be utilizing is a new golf reservation call center in place. The bureau is working with Don Jagoda of Golfe Network along with 70 participating courses in the metro area.

According to Jagoda, their goal is to "establish a cost effective, central reservation network promoting golf in Detroit and the Metro area." The goal is to create demand through aggressive marketing and then fulfill the reservation through an on-line computer network.

The network provides golfers the ability to find their desired tee time by calling one easy-to-remember phone number (888-818-GOLF), to book a round over the Internet. Hotels, third party packagers, and golfers also have the ability to book complete packages quickly and easily. The participating courses have set aside some tee times for the system and can make adjustments as they see fit. Basically, it is one of those win-win-win situations. The courses get the chance to expose some of their inventory to new golfers, the Detroit Metropolitan has a new product to entice visitors to the area and golfers can book a tee time with one phone call from their room.

According to Jagoda, they have another eight courses in Grand Rapids that have signed up, bringing their total to 78 courses. The company has also contracted out with both Ohio and Georgia.

At press time, Golfe Network was still working out some of the details, but interested golfers should just call its number for an update. I did get a chance to preview the registration online pages and saw how they interfaced with the call center. From what I have seen, this company seems to be the closest to bringing about a successful launch into this very complicated area of the golf business.

To assist with the product rollout, golfers in the Detroit Metro area should be on the lookout for a mass distribution of a Golfe Network 48-page brochure. It will be sent to participating golf courses, hotel properties and other golf related facilities this fall.

For Craig Belmondo, COO of ProAir airline, and members of his team, golf has the type of demographics that the Detroit-based airline business loves. ProAir, launched on July 4th of 1997, has continued to grow at its Detroit City Airport location. It has doubled its fleet of Boeing 737-400 aircraft and is also exploring additional aircraft purchases. They currently serve New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Chicago and Indianapolis. They realize that golfers like to escape the steamy south in the summer months and that Michigan's golf courses are just the ticket. Conversely in the wintertime when people are skiing Otsego Club rather than golfing it, it is certainly time to take a flight to Florida to thaw out on the links. It might be added that places like Atlanta and Indianapolis offer great courses for those that choose to go to less crowded venues during golf's shoulder seasons. Both ProAir and the Metropolitan Detroit Visitors and Convention Bureau are meeting to explore how they can bring golfers to the area.

And finally, the Detroit area is in the news for the successful opening of the much vaunted First Tee Program on Belle Isle. On May 22, 1922 at Belle Isle, a nine hole course opened and accommodated an astounding 56,863 golfers before it closed on December 6th. The course got its second round of spotlight when it was lit in 1967. And now this year, it has the become the home of the inaugural First Tee Program of Michigan.

For years we have been exposed to the excitement promised and delivered by various local and regional cooperative golf marketing groups from around the state. Now it seems the Detroit Area is fully gearing up to launch itself into the golf marketing frenzy that has gripped this state.

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