Much to Celebrate – and Monitor – as we Close the Book on 2022

 As seen in Golf Business November/December 2022 

jk.jpgBy Jay Karen, NGCOA CEO

Here we are, nearing the end of 2022. I’m going to use my column inches this issue to highlight what I feel are some of the more promising developments in our industry from the past year, as well as things that concern me.

What excites me:

Watching the Toptracer installation happen at Augusta Ranch through Don Rea’s social media posts gives me great hope that “golf entertainment” will continue to be another reason America’s golf courses will thrive. In 2022, more Americans swung a club at simulators and places like Topgolf than on green grass courses. This is a first, and it doesn’t have to be a threat. You have the ability to marry – and benefit from – both! NGCOA has partnered with both Toptracer and aboutGOLF to assist you on this journey.

I just left the PGA Annual Meeting where I had the privilege of witnessing the delegation vote unanimously in favor of a new clause in their Constitution, espousing the importance of diversity and inclusion for the game and profession. On the arc of time, this was a milestone worthy of note. So much work is being done by many people and organizations to have golf look like America, and I’m heartened by all of it. 

It’s great to see Supreme Golf step up and offer more options for online tee time aggregation (they have a pretty cool partnership with Barstool Sports), so that we see competition in the online tee time market. The only way course owners will get healthy and good terms and service in that sector is through competition.

It’s also great to see companies like GolfBack, Metolius, PriSwing, Sagacity and others building tools to give golf courses the power to take full control over their marketing, dynamic pricing, customer development and retention. I’m very heartened by the technology available to course owners and operators.

What concerns me:

I’m worried about the too-cozy relationship between golf management software (GMS) companies and merchant processing. Merchant processing costs will continue to rise for courses, as more and more transactions will be cashless. Most courses, when selecting and using a GMS system, do not have the ability to choose from among competing merchant processors. I believe residuals from merchant processing fees are becoming a larger income source for GMS systems than the fees they charge for the software. This is problematic and belies a typical relationship of paying for product, service and value. Instead, companies may get paid more off your success, instead of their increased value.

I’m concerned about the growing chorus of voices among the employee ranks in our industry that tell a story of burnout. For three years, we will have lived at the intersection of increased play and labor shortages. This is not a good place for anyone, employer or employee. We need to fix this as an industry if we expect golf to be a wonderful place to call a career for the coming decades. I’m encouraged by the work being done by GCSAA, PGA and others on this front. We will work together.

I hope everyone has a safe, enjoyable and relaxing holiday season.  You deserve it.