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Monday, June 17, 2013

Championship Golf of the Future

Zach Johnson aside, the biggest criticism of Merion was the amount of revenue an Open could generate.  The reason why that's important is that the USGA relies heavily on Open revenues to fund itself.  Have a historic, memorable Open on a smaller track that allows for fewer spectators, generate less revenue.  Forget TV revenue, forget mechandise, think spectators.

And that got me to thinking.  If I ran the USGA, I would. . .build the ultimate golf complex in conjunction (or at least in consultation) with Disney.

Picture this:  1) a huge resort, replete with interactive activities, courses, pools, ranges, golf school opportunities, spas, good food, and 2) the ultimate in stadium golf -- that is, the best championship golf course ever, a course that lends itself to TV, to great photographs, and to the ultimate in stadium golf experience, perhaps allowing 60,000 spectators to attend. 

And here's how you get them there:  you take the best of seating experts, Disney "fast pass" experts, computer programmers, corporate marketing people and the like, and you put together all sorts of packages.  If you pay the premium price, you'll get preferred seating and times in the grandstands of your choice for all four rounds.  Want to be at the first tee and last green on the fourth day, you'll pay X.  Want closer seats during those times, you'll pay 2X, and so forth.  You'll stay on the campus of hotels at a price point you prefer, and shuttles in the park will take you to the course -- access, once you're on the campus, will be easy.  There will be all sorts of restaurants, big-screen TVs, air-conditioned venues, corporate hospitality tents, pre-arranged.  The ultimate championship course will have topography, blind shots, the need to use all sorts of wedges, the need not to use driver on each par 4 -- the designers will get all that.

The "price-point" concept will enable fans to purchase autograph session tickets, with the PGA to provide players at various intervals.  You could sign up for the ultimate experience -- a golf school early in the week, perhaps a few dinners with older pros (a la baseball fantasy camps), good seating at the tournament, various sight lines, you name it.  And then, when the course isn't being used for the PGA championship or another major, it can be used for Q school (whose drama compels televising, given what's at stake), for the U.S. Amateur, for the NCAA championships, what have you, with, of course, various tee boxes depending on who's playing).  The possibilities are endless.

Organized golf needs to find a place to continue the legends of places like Merion, Winged Foot and Baltusrol, but, at the same time, should consider the "mega golf" experience of the next quarter century.  "Golf World," somewhere where the land is cheap but the access is relatively easy, could be an amazing place for the evolution and growth of golf.

But, not at the expense of the grand, old courses.


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