American Society of Golf Course Architects

Albanese, ASGCA discusses alternative facilities in Michigan GCSA publication

Paul Albanese, ASGCA shared his thoughts on the value and increased need for alternative golf facilities in "Course Conditions," the publication for members of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association.

Here is the article as printed in "Course Conditions"...


Alternative Golf Venues

Golf takes time to play. Golf takes money to play. And time and money are becoming scarce in the American family. As families sit around the kitchen table to decide how to spend their spare time and money, where does golf fit in? As a colleague of mine reminded me many years ago, golf falls into the entertainment/recreation category of most family budgets. So, golf time and golf dollars are competing with other family entertainment/recreation options. Because a typical 18 hole round of golf requires significant time and money for a family to partake, golf has been eliminated from the entertainment and recreation mix of many families. Add to this problem a difficult economic environment, and golf is at a significant disadvantage as a family activity.

Lowering rates to play is only part of the solution for getting golf back into the family budget mix. But, cost alone does not solve the time issue, which is as important to many families as money. With kids starting soccer, baseball and dance while still practically in diapers and parents working more hours to make ends meet, time has become a premium commodity in the household. Finding a few spare hours for family fun time is not easy, and playing golf for 5 to 6 hours is impossible for some families to fit in. Even playing nine holes in roughly half the time is not an attractive option. Golf needs a product that will enable families to play for less money – and less time.

Examples of these types of facilities are being developed around the country such as three hole courses; six hole courses, putting courses and par three facilities. These types of golf venues enable families to enjoy their golf in approximately an hour. In addition, playing golf at these alternative facilities does not take a big chunk out of the family budget.

And, just because these alternative facilities will appeal to families, does not mean they would be un-appealing to the avid and skilled golfer too. If well designed, they would enable skilled advanced golfers a place to get their golf fix as well. I know many an avid golfer that would enjoy being able play a few holes during their lunch hour, if made readily available.

These alternative golf facilities do not necessarily have to be built from scratch either. Through some creative design and minor tweaking, an existing golf course may have opportunities to transform the facility into one that would offer alternative golf options to their patrons, while still maintaining their existing golf course for those that wish to spend more time playing.

Car companies have responded to consumer demand for vehicles that don’t cost as much to fuel with gasoline by creating the hybrid automobile. Golf course owners and developers need to respond similarly to the demand for less expensive and less time-consuming golf experiences by creating hybrid and alternative golf facilities.

The family dynamic is changing. And, for golf to be included in people’s lives, it must change too. Alternative facilities will be a mainstay for the next generation of golfer. These will be places where the future customers of the golf industry will be created and developed. It is time to think outside of the tee box, and understand the realistic contemporary restrictions put on families with regard to recreation time by developing facilities that match their goals.