September 2023 | The Homestretch of 2023: Here’s What I’m Watching

   As seen in Golf Business September/October 2023   

jk.jpgBy Jay Karen, NGCOA CEO

Well, autumn is nigh, and for me this is my crazy season. Admittedly, every season is a bit crazy, but there is something about fall. There is so much on my mind right now, and here’s a sampling of what’s bouncing around the ole skull these days. Enjoy the autumn hodgepodge!

DEI seems to be taking a turn. Label it whatever you want, DEI efforts around America are facing headwinds and cancellation at corporations, colleges and more. A competition between core values seems to be at play. The problem is that it can feel like a zero-sum game, but mostly it is not. Especially not what we are trying to do in golf, which is to welcome, embrace and support more people coming into the game and workforce. This should not be a battle, nor should it be controversial in our industry. Golf should look like America, if we stand the best chance for long-term sustainability and success. This is about expansion and inclusion, not replacement. Keep it up, good people!

Where are the lenders? Gross and net income have taken a hockey-stick move upwards the past few years in golf. Interest rates have moved into unfriendly territory, which means loan applications are probably down. Golf is an asset-rich business (um, land). For years, the word “golf” seemed radioactive to banks. But now? C’mon, lenders. The water is warm, the business is good and capital projects are plentiful!

Hot Deals. Why, oh why, do courses continue to barter rounds of golf and give price control to those who don’t share your cost of goods sold or expenses? We haven’t seen this level of demand in ages, and yet I get daily emails pushing hard for me to buy the lowest-priced tee times available. The begging, pleading, cajoling and educating on this matter will go on, unabated. Pay for marketing and technology – don’t barter. It’s an anchor and kryptonite wrapped in one flashy package.

High demand changes everything. I had a great chat over coffee with a peer golf leader. We shook our heads about a course that refuses to take credit cards for payment. The course owner is in her 90s and won’t budge on this. We discussed how a full tee sheet may cause some operators to have confirmation bias about their policies. This also illustrates how very different every golf course operation can be. It’s equally awesome and frustrating.

Budget time! As the summer season looks to wind down and minds begin to shift towards 2024, it’s natural for owners, operators and leaders to think about priorities. Your priorities are reflected in your budget. I’d advise our readers to consult both the soon-to-be-released Golf Business Pulse Report and the Compensation and Benefits Study as you plan for the next year. Context is critical for every important decision you make. Go to for information on both member-only reports.

Hope to see many of you on the road this fall! If not, tune in to our Golf Business LIVE shows and engage as an audience member in the comment areas, and we may highlight your question live on the show!





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