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» Featured Columnists | By Scott Kauffman | August 13, 2010 9:00 AM ET

(NEW YORK, NY) -- As the golf industry searches for ways to attract new customers and retain current players, a recent research study indicates appealing to and appeasing women is a prudent path to economic health and well being.

Moreover, the study reveals that golf club or resort facilities willing to make the investment to woo and maintain women stand to benefit financially as the majority of those surveyed acknowledged they would pay a premium price to play their "ultimate" facility.

Women find the game costs too much,  takes too long to play and is too difficult, according to "The Right Invitation," a comprehensive research study to guide the golf industry to meaningfully increase women's golf participation and satisfaction. The study was funded by the Little Family Foundation and conducted for the National Golf Course Owners Association.

"The golf industry needs customers and the obvious group to pursue is women," the study noted. "There is a great economic opportunity for the golf industry to attract and keep a large underrepresented and underserved portion of the golfing public."

The Little Family Foundation focused on women in their study because "they are underrepresented in the golfing public, have discretionary money to spend and often will make the decisions on how family leisure time is spent."  Arthur Little and his wife, Jann Leeming, learned first-hand about how to attract women (and families) at Province Lake Golf, the course they owned from 1996 to 2005 in Parsonfield, Maine.

The upshot of the new study, carried out by Jon Last of New York-based Sports & Leisure Research Group, is that Little and Leeming will be producing a "how-to" guide for the golf facilities to follow if they hope to achieve economic success with women, in addition to a new web site: The purpose of the web site is to educate the golf industry on "best practices" for increasing play and enhancing revenue from women and families. 

"We are struck by the lack of inventiveness on the part of the golf industry in addressing these issues," Little and Leeming observed. "Many of the barriers can be overcome without great additional cost with relatively rapid monetary return. Our aim is to provide the industry with educational information and tools that will encourage (and retain) women and families."

At Province Lake Golf, which became a Golf Digest "Top 50 Courses for Women" under Little and Leeming, the pursuit of women, juniors and families necessitated an initial capital investment of $80,000, with yearly marketing expenditures of $20,000, having the effect of improving the bottom-line by $200,000.

"The industry must be aware that the economic effects of following our how-to recipe won't be immediate; patience will be necessary," Little and Leeming said. "Based on our experience, the changes will take two to three years to reach full effect, but we believe it is well worth the effort. Golf with women playing more will be a better sport in many ways."

To ensure the study reached a wide swath of women golfers, current players as well as lapsed players were interviewed. Women were asked to detail their "ultimate" golf facility and experience, and it was determined that they would pay and 8 to 15 percent premium once they found a place matching that description.

But the study concluded that, when women players and facility operators were surveyed, there were large gaps in the perceived delivery of benefits. Specific examples of how the perceptions of women differed from the golf operators who believe their facility is "women-friendly" include:

  • Almost one-third of golf facilities are currently charging higher fees than the $50 women expect to pay even for an "ultimate" facility.
  • Most facilities have multiple sets of tees, although those that describe their facilities as "woman-friendly" have no more sets than facilities in general.
  • While less than 25 percent of golf facility customers are women, nearly all facilities consider women important to their financial success and to the overall environment at their facility. Yet only two-thirds of facilities consider themselves as "women-friendly" and only a very few of them provide the features that women want in a golf facility.

In a surprising development, the study found the game's difficulty did not rank as highly by women as the inability to reach greens in regulation, which is a result of limited tee positioning.

According to the study, "It is critical to remove the intimidation factor by providing tees at the proper yardages for the full range of swing speeds. Properly designed sets of tees reduce round times and makes the sport much less difficult and more enjoyable." The study concluded this could be a make-or-break issue for facilities if they expect women to return. For example, for an average woman golfer with a 65 mph swing speed (140-yard drive) the optimal tee yardage is 4,200 to 4,500 yards, and for women with 75 mph swing speeds (165- to 170-yard drive) the best total yardage is 4,800 to 5,100 yards. 

The new website,, showcases Old Macdonald, the newest course at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort as setting a new standard in the proper positioning of tees."

Beyond tee positioning, other key issues uncovered by the study include:

  • Courses need to be more flexible in providing play options that address both time and cost, such as nine-hole rates, pay-by-the-hole and low junior fees that are part of a family play plan.
  • Fifty percent of women who no longer play said if they would continue with the game if they had steady and enjoyable playing partners.
  • Childcare must be provided at a reasonable cost, a fact that has been duly recognized by the ski industry for many years.
  • Facilities must select personnel, especially in their pro shops, that are receptive to and completely supportive of the issues that are of greatest importance to women. Staff members who are not true believers, the study says, can and will undermine all of the positive programs that a facility adopts.

Troon Picked to Manage Mediterranea Beach & Golf Community

(COSTA DORADA, SPAIN) -- Troon Golf, the world's largest operator of golf course properties, has been selected to manage the 45-hole Lumine Golf Club within the exclusive Mediterranea Beach & Golf Community. Mediterranea, located near Portaventura in Tarragona, Spain is a luxurious community situated adjacent to the sea, boasting stunning views of the Mediterranean. Home to three courses, two of which are designed by golf legend Greg Norman, Mediterranea Beach & Golf Community is regarded as one of the most exciting and rapidly growing golf and leisure destinations in Europe.

Owned by one of Europe's most renowned financial establishments, Criteria CaixaCorp, Mediterranea Beach & Golf Community is beautifully designed to face the Balearic Sea and is ideally located in the heart of the Mediterranean and only an hour's drive from the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona. Home to year-round glorious weather, Mediterranea will see Troon Golf manage its three golf courses and tranquil beach club.

 "We are excited to be working with the team at Mediterranea Beach & Golf Community," commented Bruce Glasco, managing director, Troon Golf Europe, Middle East and Africa.  "The golf course design has been first class and when you add the Beach Club, restaurant and the nearby Port Aventura amusement park, the resort experience becomes very appealing to both golfers and non-golfers alike. The facility's master plan is hugely impressive and we look forward to bringing our expertise to the project to enhance the quality and services on offer."

The par-71 North course and the nine-hole Centre course, which opened in June 2008, were designed by Hall of Fame golfer Greg Norman, and have played host to Sergio Garcia's Pro-Am tournament in two of the past three years - a further testament to the developments rapid maturity and expansion.

"With the collaboration of Troon Golf, we are convinced that Lumine Golf Club will soon be recognized amongst the finest golf resorts in the region," said Luis Rullan, president and managing director of Mediterranea Beach & Golf Community. "Troon Golf's expertise in managing golf courses, combined with our team, will enable us to further develop our project and services and offer a high-end product to our customers."

The North course is arguably the most technically challenging of Norman's designs at Mediterranea, which requires a certain level of precision and strategy. The Centre course has integrated archeological remains, historical towers and sea views that make it unique to the Spanish region. The par-72 South course was founded on environmentally sustainable concepts and includes an irrigation system that utilizes recycled water. All three courses at Mediterranea are the first in Spain to be granted the "Audubon International Gold Signature Sanctuary" certification for their sustainable environmental practices.

Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, Troon Golf EMEA is committed to developing Troon Golf's presence in Europe, Middle East and Africa. This rapidly expanding division now oversees operations at 36 courses in 12 countries including Dubai, Portugal, Spain and England with further expansion planned across all regions.

Headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., Troon Golf is the world's largest golf management company, overseeing operations at properties located in 31 states and 26 countries. Among Troon Golf properties under management are Oneida Golf and Country Club, Green Bay, Wis.; Troon North Golf Club, Scottsdale, Ariz.; The Golf Club at Equinox, Manchester Village, Vt.; Classic Club, Palm Desert, Calif.; One&Only Ocean Club, Paradise Island, Bahamas; and The Grove, London, England

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