The number most significant to the 2014 Masters Tournament is undoubtedly 1. It will be the 1st Masters since 1995 without Tiger Woods, the world’s No. 1 player, in the field. And three individuals – Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Jason Day – actually have a chance to overtake Woods in the world rankings come Sunday.
This just goes to show how much things have changed since 2005 – the last year Woods took home the green jacket. Both the golf industry and the economy were riding high then, buoyed by the real estate market’s bubblicious growth. But the housing market collapsed and disposable income dried up, leading to the closure of nearly 650 courses and forcing 4.7 million people to give up the game, according to the National Golf Foundation.
Now, it seems like both the $177 billion golf industry and the economy have turned a corner in the wake of the recession, even though the foundation of each – Woods and America’s industrial infrastructure – have shown signs of breaking down. New generations of talent from Augusta to Silicon Valley are poised to carry us into the future, and they’ll be on full display at The Masters this weekend – from the Workday logo on Matt Kuchar’s shirt to the numerous players in their 20s with a legitimate shot of taking home the coveted green jacket.
You’ll have to wait until Sunday evening to find out who is ultimately victorious, but you can check out some more interesting facts and figures related to The Masters and the business of golf right now in the Infographic below. You can also find some helpful money-saving golf tips from PGA professionals in the Ask The Experts section that follows.
Ask The Experts: Saving Money & Making Connections on the Golf Course
WalletHub asked a number of PGA professionals and other golf industry experts for tips on how to save money on the game and do business on the course. You can find their comments – as well their picks for the 2014 Masters champion – below.
Saving Money on Golf
Get Golf Ready: Getting a lesson with a PGA professional is perhaps the most cost-effective purchase an amateur golfer can make. Very few people can teach themselves the game, and paying for range balls or greens fees is pretty inefficient if you don’t know what to work on. You’re just as likely to commit bad habits to muscle memory as you are to improve.
Local courses and driving ranges usually charge reasonable fees, and you can generally save some money by opting for a lesson with an assistant pro or for group instruction. The PGA of America’s Get Golf Ready program is a particularly good option for beginners.
“Get Golf Ready is an instructional program delivered by PGA Professionals geared to introduce new players to the game of golf,” says Jeff Adkerson, director of the Mississippi State University’s PGA Golf Management Program. The program costs $99 (may vary by location) and provides a 5 week program, 2 hours per week, preparing participants to play golf.”
Buy Used: Most amateur golfers have little need for a complete set of brand new clubs. There’s far too much value to be had on the resale market to warrant paying at full freight at a local course or a store like Golf Galaxy, especially when the benefit to your game will be negligible at best.
“The outcome of your golf shots is greatly more related to the skills of the person holding the club than to the club itself,” says Dr. Paul Miller, professor of accounting and academic advisor to the PGA Golf Management Program at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “New clubs should be a rare acquisition, not a common event. Spend the money on lessons to learn how to hit with the clubs you own instead of buying new clubs and keeping your old bad swing.”
My advice is to look at the Golf Digest Hot List from last year to see what the best clubs were a generation ago. Shopping a season behind will drastically reduce the price that you can expect to pay, whether you end up buying used or not. Then do some serious price comparison online, across sites like TGW.com, RockBottomGolf.com and, most importantly eBay. You can find amazing deals on any golf item you can think of on eBay. Just make sure to hunt around for a bit, take shipping costs into consideration, and only buy from extremely reputable sellers.
Book Tee Times Online: “The best way for golfers to save money on rounds,” according to Charles Powell, a professor at the National University Golf Academy, “is to take advantage of online reservation systems that work with courses to discount their fees.”
I personally book all of my rounds on GolfNow.com. It’s a great way to see what tee times are available across all of the public courses in your area, and you can often find great deals. Courses offer discounted rates through GolfNow when they have unsold tee times or they are trying to round out a foursome. You can also save if you don’t mind racing to finish your round at twilight or putting on recently aerated greens.
Get on a Mailing List: If you don’t mind sifting through semi-regular promotional emails that don’t pique your interest, signing up to receive email updates from your favorite local courses can be a great way to find out about discounted tee times or membership specials.
“Often courses will email an offer for certain open times at a discount and all you have to do is take the code or call and make your tee time using that code,” says Barbara Easlick, professor of sport management at Malone University.
Pay Twilight Rates: Not only is the early evening one of the most pleasant times to play golf in the spring and summer, but it’s also one of the cheapest. Courses reduce their rates after a certain time, usually around 4pm, with the understanding that people who play then may not finish a full 18 holes.
“Many daily fee facilities will have different prices for different days and times of day," says Cole Mize, director of the PGA Golf Management program at the University of Idaho. "Consumers looking to save money should ask their local course about twilight or any special rates they have. Many facilities will also offer a membership or punch card that will reduce the dollar amount paid per round significantly."
- Play Out of Season: This one applies mainly to golf travelers. If you want to save money on a buddies golf trip, yet still play great courses, try going to a seasonal destination outside of peak tourist months. For example, I went to Scottsdale last year over Labor Day weekend, and all of the courses cost a fraction of what they do in the winter.
Pick a Club for the Whole Family: Membership in a golf or country club is a major expense that should only be considered by folks who are stable financially and have a lot of disposable income. But if you’re in the market for a membership, now might be a pretty good time to pull the trigger, as “initiation fees and monthly dues have never been so competitive,” according to Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association. “But you need to be careful,” Kessler says, “when you join an equity club you become an owner/seller in a buyer’s market.”
You also need to take your whole family into account if you’re at all concerned with your wallet wellness. You don’t want to be paying for a golf club membership as well as outside recreation for your kids when you can get it all at one place. Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of quiet on the course.
“Golf clubs, especially full service golf clubs are not just a place for one member of the family to play; but must appeal to all members of the family,” says Rodney B. Warnick, professor of hospitality & tourism management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “A club membership's value is how participating through the club and its activities makes you feel. In the essence of the value of the decision, it is about the value a person attaches to attaining a desired lifestyle.”
Do Your Homework:The golf industry is distinctly a buyer’s market these days, with competition among industry brands, the sluggish economy, and online price comparison putting downward pressure on prices. So, the best and most timeless overall advice for saving on golf is definitely to do your homework prior to making a purchase.
“In order to remain competitive with third party tee time sites and on-line stores, many pro shops and golf stores have come up with their own unique marketing strategies and plans to attract customers and to build customer loyalty,” says Robert Wade, director of the PGA Golf Management Program at North Carolina State University. “Whether a person is looking for a reduced price for a green fee or some new equipment - a little research and a few phone calls can save that person a substantial amount of money.”
Golf & Business Tips
Golf and business mix often, from industry conferences and charity tournaments to random pairings at the local muni. How can we make the most of the mixture? Our panel of PGA experts shares some pointers below.
- Learn the Game Executive-Style: The PGA of America’s Golf for Business and Life program “introduces business executives to the game of golf and prepares them to play the game in six weeks,” Adkerson says. “The fundamentals of the golf swing and course management are taught to participants, but the key aspect taught in the program is the etiquette of the game.”
- Make Sure the Mood is Right: Business on the golf course is perfectly acceptable as long as all parties involved know what they’re getting into. “If not, then the party to initiate ‘business’ on the golf course better be sure that it will be welcomed by their playing partners and that the golf game is not interpreted as an insincere attempt to sell something or gain a business advantage,” says golf course architect Richard Mandell. Fun, relaxation, and relationship-building are often all a situation will warrant.
Use the Game to Study Clients & Colleagues: You never know who you’re going to get paired with on the golf course, but at the end of the day you’re going to know a great deal about them. Not only is golf a great barometer of people, but it also provides us with plenty of time – not to mention a pleasant backdrop – with which to forge relationships that may or may not be of some business significance along the way.
“The sport of golf provides an opportunity to assess the character of others,” says Dr. Alan E. Baquet, director of the PGA Golf Management Program at the University of Nebraska. “Since golf is built on integrity and fair play, it provides the opportunity to observe others in that type of environment. While it may not be the place to make a deal, it is certainly a place to decide if you would want to make future deals with the individuals you are playing golf with.”
Plan a Corporate Outing: The most lavish corporate golf outings often feature famous touring pros and exorbitant appearance fees. You don’t have to go that crazy to benefit, though. A free day of golf and refreshments for a handful of important clients or employees can go just as far, and there are certainly group discounts and various other bargains to be had these days. Just don’t lose sight of your primary goal.
“Shop around, but don’t become so fixated by a bargain that you forget that the goal of a corporate outing is to treat your employees, customers and guests to a good time,” Kessler says. With that in mind, Mandell recommends simply finding a course that will be fun for players of all skill levels. “You want to make sure the participants have fun and can finish a round, as most people who play in outings aren't core golfers,” he says. “Finding a beginner-friendly venue can maybe help bring those people out more than for the once or twice-yearly corporate outing. Maybe they will take up the game on a more regular basis.”
Host a Charity Tournament: Charity golf tournaments are dreamed up far more often than they are implemented effectively. They can become a drain on resources if you don’t know what to expect, so it’s important to keep a few best practices in mind.
“Keep it simple,” Miller suggests, “especially the meal afterward so it doesn’t wipe out the profits. Look for one or two big sponsors instead of a whole lot of little ones. Offer things to get people to contribute more, such as raffle tickets and mulligans. If you do a silent auction, get items that are somewhere in the mid-range for your group. Cheap things won’t sell and people won’t bid enough for the expensive things. Be sure people know that they’re participating for fun but also to support a really great cause.”
Finally – and this might seem obvious, but it’s important to mention nonetheless – have a good long look at a calendar before settling on a date. There are myriad potential conflicts – both for you and your guests – that you’ll need to take into account.
“Doing some research about a charity event before you decide to do it is important because you don’t want to interfere with someone else’s event,” Easlick says. “Creating a conflict with another organization or business would be a bad first attempt at putting on a charity event.”
Play in Local Tournaments: You don’t have to host your own tournament to benefit from the local corporate golf scene. You can also keep track of the local tourney docket and sign up for any event that fits your schedule, your charitable interests, and your networking needs.
Warnick recommends playing in “a variety of different tournaments that attract a variety of different individual players, professional executives and clients.” He says that “some of the best opportunities can be meeting a new person and spending 4.5 hours getting to know them over an 18 hole round. You will be surprised who you may meet and the opportunities you have to exchange information and create meaningful social connections through the game that may lead to future business opportunities.”
Expert Picks: 2014 Masters
Miller: “I am going with Kuchar. He choked at the Shell Houston Open, and the week before. I don’t think he’s going to do it again. Besides, this is the Masters where he broke onto the scene. He’ll win it someday but he’s 35 already.”
Mandell: “I'm going with Jordan Speith. Also wondering how Russell Henley and Harris English will do. Maybe it is time for another rookie winner to join Fuzzy Zoeller.”
Baquet: “I like Jason Day, I think he’s due!”
Adkerson: “Picking a winner for the Masters' is always difficult, but I am going to go with Rory McIlroy. He has been playing well this year and has played some really nice rounds at Augusta National. With a couple of major championships under his belt, I like his chances this week.”
Warnick: “I like one of these three as the odds-on favorites: Adam Scott, Jason Day or Jordan Spieth. My wildcard is Graeme McDowell. I would love to see him win! What an exciting player to watch when he is on!!”
Kessler: “I subscribe to the Yogi Berra school of thought that holds that predictions are dangerous things, especially about the future. Like golfers all over the world, I’ll be glued to my television this weekend enjoying the beauty and competition that is The Masters.”
Spear: “Sergio Garcia.”