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20 Dic 2015 

First Coast bucking trend of dwindling golf course business

The number of golf courses in the United States is dwindling by the year. But on the First Coast, the availability of the sport remains strong as golf courses work steadily to keep up interest in the game.

The National Golf Federation, which tracks trends in the sport, published its annual report on the number of golf courses in the U.S. this year, and the trend showed the number of 18-hole courses dropped from 2013 to 2014.

The federation found that there were 14,437 courses left open in 2014; thats down by 128 for the 2013 figure of 14,565. The number of golf facilities meaning courses, driving ranges and training centers also dropped in the same period, from 15,516 in 2013 to 15,372 in 2014.

North Florida, for the most part, has dodged those trends.

David Reese is president of Floridas First Coast of Golf Inc., a nonprofit group that helps market the areas links and golf facilities to golf tourists from around the world, and said there are currently 68 courses running from Nassau County to Flagler County, with 44 of those 68 courses offering public access. The highest count of courses on the First Coast was in the 90s, when the figure reached 72.

A big factor for the First Coast is that ideal conditions for golf great weather runs from fall to spring, and that buoys the industry here, Reese said.

Northeast Florida is tied with Naples for being tops in the state according to National Golf Foundation figures from September, Reese said. Northeast Florida is showing a 5 percent growth in people playing golf as well, compared to the same period as a year ago.

Jimmy Powell, director of golf at Windsor Parke Golf Club in the Intracoastal West area of Jacksonville, is doing what he can to make sure customers keep coming to the semi-private 18-hole course. Powell said the club actually only has about 100 members who pay a $195 monthly fee for a single member and $225 per month for a family membership. Those memberships also provide access to the Julington Creek Golf Club. Both clubs are owned by the same company.

But its the general public playing the course that sustains the business with daily greens fees ranging from about $50 to $65 per round. Powell said membership is the base of the business, but the effort to attract public players is a matter of survival.

We have to give value for money, Powell said. We have to give more than what someones paying for, almost.

Individual service with a food and beverage department at the clubhouse, high-level course conditions and customer service are the elements that keep players coming back, he said.

People are choosing to spend their money with us instead of something else, Powell said. Its not golf against golf, to put it in those terms. The question is, Am I going to bring [friends] to play golf or am I taking them somewhere else and go out to dinner. We dont take that for granted.

Its basically the trend for any golf course thats going to remain open.

Reeses organization primarily attempts to bring golf visitors to the area through regional, national and global marketing, advertising and promotions. According to Reeses organization, golf tourism brought in an estimated $161 million in economic impact for the Northeast Florida region in 2014. Thats mainly for the players coming here to hit the links, not the impact of The Players tournament in Ponte Vedra in May.

Given that, the maintenance of the industry on the First Coast is essential, Reese said.

Its a huge deal. Its quality of life and local residents get to enjoy it. It serves as one of our areas largest beacons to come visit here, Reese said. I would attribute the stability to being in the state of Florida and the temperature bodes well for us.

Alan Verlander, executive director and chief operating officer for Jacksonville Sports Council, said the golf industry in North Florida has become one of the most important in sports business for the area.

If youre looking at participatory sports, golf is still a huge deal, he said. As we are trying to recruit different [sports] events here from all over the country, we sell our climate and we sell the fact that you can play golf and we have the worlds best golf courses. That is in our sales pitch.

Verlander acknowledged the business model for sustaining a course is drastically shifting from the private and exclusive clubs. He said market realities are dictating that many private courses virtually have to invite players from public, non-club members if theyre going to be profitable.

Twenty or 25 years ago, you had these private clubs that had huge initiation fees and big monthly retainer fees just to go play golf, Verlander said.

What Ive seen in the last few years is that, in an effort to boost their membership, initiation fees are just a fraction of what they used to be. And then monthly fees are a fraction of what they used to be. They are really trying to make it affordable to the average consumer, he said.


That effort in touting affordability goes to the greens fees for non-club members, too. Brown Golf Management LLC of Bluffton, S.C., which bought Windsor Parke and the Julington Creek golf clubs in May, specializes in making predominantly private golf facilities into profitable ventures that rely heavily on public access.

In fact, Brown Golfs purchase of the two clubs from previous owner Prudential Life Insurance Co. was a substantial bargain. Prudential paid about $13 million combined in the 1990s. Brown Golf acquired both facilities for a combined $2.7 million.

Whenever we are evaluating a property that were going to purchase, we do a total competitive analysis within that marketplace, said John Brown, owner of Brown Golf, which owns 15 golf facilities and manages another 15 in seven states. The company started with one course in 1979.

One of the serious competitors to the courses Brown Golf owns is municipal courses. Thats the case with the Windsor Parke course. Barely 5 miles away and a 10-minute drive is the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club, which is owned by that city. Annual memberships there cost $107 and greens fees for 18 holes for non-members costs $45 on the weekends with a golf cart.

Brown admitted thats a bargain but said the amenities are not the same at municipal courses. Plus, he said, the price for semi-private courses with public play are getting closer to municipal rates.

Weve got to be competitive with that, he said.

But I will tell you it is much more difficult for a municipal to compete with me because the payroll structure that is offered there, although we pay the same amount of money, the benefits packages that are offered at municipals are off the charts for the most part. That jacks up their costs and puts them at a competitive disadvantage to me, Brown said.

The profit margin at a private club is substantially higher than a municipal course and of course local governments prefer that, Brown said. Brown said semi-private courses make up the difference with more frills and options.

Anybody who joins our clubs, all of their golf instruction for them and their extended family is free. Its absolutely free and for me its the greatest retention tool in the world, he said.

Brown has detailed insight into the municipal golf course operations. His company manages one in North Carolina.

But in an era when hundreds of golf courses close each year, Brown sees his company as a financial savior of struggling facilities.

Ultimately, Brown admitted he targets exclusive private courses for acquisition because he sees a better shot at making a profit.

We have bought clubs that have been fully private clubs in the past and we got our hands on them because they went through a bankruptcy or had some kind of problem or issue. We convert those, if you will, to semi-private, Brown said.

The semi-private approach for both Windsor Parke and Julington Creek courses will apparently already pay for itself. Even if you have a lot of other priorities for instance, sports, extracurricular activities, etc., still you need to complete a senior project to graduate successfullyBrown said the 2016 projected revenue at Windsor Parke is about $2.5 million and Julington Creek is projected to bring in between $1.6 and $2.2 million.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098

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20 Dic 2015 

2015 Holiday Gift Guide Gifts For Golfers

"Here comes Caddie Claus, here comes Caddie Claus, right down 18th Fairway Lane!" This year the golf bag is full of cool and practical things you'll love to give or receive. And if you're lucky enough to receive any of these, what you give next year had better be great.

Oakley Flak 2.0 PRIZMOakley

Protecting your eyes should be on the top of your priority list, especially when playing golf. Oakley has just released a new PRIZM lens just for golf. Whether in bright sunshine or overcast skies, these lenses perform the same. I know it matters so think about this: When is the last time someone was disappointed they received Oakley's? Never, because they're awesome.

$170 |

Ventev's Powercell 3015cVentev

No more excuses from the ones you love when it comes to forgetting to charge their phones. Here's something the size of a wallet that comes pre-charged, gives 12 hours of talk time or 10 hours of browsing (so they can settle all those rules disputes), which should get them through at least 36 holes on a busy Saturday. We all have that person in our lives whose phone never seems to be charged. This will be like giving yourself a gift because you'll never hear them say that again.

$49.99 |


If it's true what they say about golf power starting from the ground up, then we've just found where Li'l Rickie Fowler gets a lot of his power. It's rare to buy shoes for a Christmas present because golfers are so finicky about their wardrobe, but these shoes will light up the face of the biggest golf prude you can find. Comfort, style, and power. Remind me again who's not looking for that?

$160 |

The NavigatorDirty Larry Golf

How many golfers do you know who come home and say, "I just couldn't make a putt today?" Well, now you can tell them they've got a training aid designed by a golf hustler who putted so well they called him "Dirty." The only thing you have to remind the person getting this gift? Keep the box. You use it to line everything up, but don't worry, it's as small as a cigar case. Make sure you get at least 10 percent of whatever they win after you give this. Even if you have a lot of other priorities for instance, sports, extracurricular activities, etc., still you need to complete a senior project to graduate successfullyPutt for dough, right?

$60 |

Wilson NFL Golf BagsWilson Sporting Goods

Seriously? You might endure broken ribs from the hug you get when someone opens this box. And the stink look on your sibling's face knowing he only got the NFL team head covers? Priceless! Make sure to find out whether they walk or ride because buying the cart bag for a golfer who walks ruins the awesomeness of the gift.

From $129.99 |

Bushnell Tour XBushnell

You want to tell someone you gave them the laser used by more PGA and LPGA Tour caddies than any other? This is it. Here's the coolest thing: When the red faceplate is attached, the laser gives you slope. But when the black faceplate is attached it doesn't, making it legal for tournament use. That's right, this laser can be used in tournaments but gives you the slope during practice rounds. You know what that makes Santa? No. 2 compared to you.

$499 |

SKLZ Accelerator Pro CompactSKLZ

It is winter and although you might not want to buy that full-swing simulator for someone who has only 8-foot ceilings, there is always a place you can find to putt. Especially when it's practicing a 3-footer. Have a crazy golfer you want to put in the corner so they'll stop talking about the round they played two years ago? This will keep them quietly occupied for hours.

$29.99 |

Ultimate Cleat Kit PulsarSoftspikes

Even if the golfer you're buying for gets new shoes, this is still a gift they'll appreciate because replacing spikes for golfers is like replacing the air filter in the A/C unit in the basement. When it finally gets done, you swear you're going to do it more often because it makes such a difference. And that golfer who won't get rid of those three-year-old shoes? These will make them joyfully not slip until you buy them another set in three more years.

$19.99 |

PGA Tour Pro SportTru Fragrance

You smell much better than your golf game. That's the only joke I could honestly come up with for this cologne. It smells clean but not too sweet or overpowering. As much as I give the Tour a hard time, they made cologne that is everything they are trying to be: understated yet elegant. You can give this as a gift and feel good knowing even if the recipient is not a golfer, they'll feel great if someone says they smell like one.

$58 |

More gift guides

Looking for the perfect gift? We've got you covered! During the coming weeks, we'll be presenting our picks, including gifts for women, kids, techies and more. Check back throughout the holiday season for more gift ideas.

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20 Dic 2015 

Golf on the Most Dangerous Course in the World

Americans love golf. More than 27 million of us play nearly half a billion rounds every year. Thanks to Adrian Levsky, some are now playing on a course that features very unusual hazards.

When he's driving on the golf course, Adrian Levsky is focused on distance. But off the links CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports he's working on a drive that will land much further away.

The obsession started last Christmas when his co-worker Mike Martin was transferred overseas, and expressed frustration on the new job. Immediately, Levsky thought golf was the answer - and started begging friends to donate golf balls.

Longmeadow Country Club

Golf's a sport associated with manicured greens and fairways. The golf balls that Levsky was sending would end up in one of the biggest sandtraps in the world: an Army base in the middle of the desert in Afghanistan.

To submit an idea for The American Spirit send us an e-mail: [email protected]

Levsky's friend Colonel Mike Martin is now in a war-zone, where golf has become a new pastime. Troops have launched a tournament called the Helmand River Open.

In truth, it's Operation Down Time.

"It helps out significantly with the morale out here," Col. Martin said. "It gives us something to do in the little down time we have - it takes our mind off the more serious business at hand."

With almost every swing of the golf club, the ball is sacrificed. It's too risky to retreive them from the hazard of a minefield.

So Levsky constantly works the phones to supply reinforcements. Levsky called Calloway, the golf equipment company which, coincidentally was already in the game - having donated golf gear over the past five years. Even if you have a lot of other priorities for instance, sports, extracurricular activities, etc., still you need to complete a senior project to graduate successfullyBut now they know exactly who was using it.

So far more than 100,000 balls have been sent and lost - but at this course no one's counting strokes.

Copyright 2010 CBS. All rights reserved.

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20 Dic 2015 

Evaluation of the Xtreme Charge XC Marine Battery Charger

The XC Marine Charger on an Automotive BattetyThe PulseTech Products Corporation of Southlake, Texas manufactures a single-station battery charger designed to both charge and condition lead-acid marine boat batteries. The Xtreme Charge XC Marine 12-Volt Charger (Model XC100) is designed to provide required battery maintenance that PulseTech claims will extend the life cycle of batteries up to five years.

In a press release describing the battery charger, PulseTech Vice President Smokey White says, Weve definitely found a niche in the marketplace, where consumers are willing to pay a little more at the sales counter for an advanced technology that is proven to not only fully charge but analyze, condition, maintain and extend the life of their batteries. There definitely is a sense of a true return on the initial investment for buyers.

The microprocessor-controlled XC Marine Charger accepts input AC voltages of 90 to 250 volts at a maximum charging current of 2.5 amps. This unit comes with a fixed, main battery cable that is six feet long and a clamp cable of two feet. The battery cables are fuse protected and the charger comes with safety instructions for the consumer. A five-year warranty covers any defects found in the workmanship or materials used to build the charger.

Operating Features the Xtreme Charge XC Marine Charger

The XC Marine Charger is easy to setup and use. The red (+) and black (-) battery cables are connected to the battery. There are two sets of cables included with the charger, one for fixed use with ring terminals and another with battery post clamps. Once the battery cables are attached, the charger is plugged into an AC 110 to 200 volt power source. The XC Marine Charger displays a number of LED lights to provide feedback on the status of the unit:

A green On light indicates the charger is receiving AC input currentA red No Connection light shows that the charger is not connected to the battery or is not receiving AC powerIf all the LED lights are flashing and an audible alarms sounds, the battery leads are reversedA red Bad Battery light indicates that the battery is unchargeable and cant be recoveredA green Charging light shows the unit is providing a bulk charge to the batteryThe charger has a series of green Pulsing lights that flash sequentially as the unit works to provide a maximum chargeA Test light shows the unit is measuring the batterys level of chargeThere are a series of four LEDs indicating 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% states of battery chargeAfter a period of up to 24 hours, the Charging light goes out and the unit begins to provide a float charge to maintain the battery. Even if you have a lot of other priorities for instance, sports, extracurricular activities, etc., still you need to complete a senior project to graduate successfullyIf the XC Marine Charger has been attempting a charge for over 24 hours without success, a red Bad Battery light will indicate a non-recoverable battery.Using the Xtreme Charge XC Marine Charger

PulseTech Products provided a XC Marine Charger for this evaluation. The fixed cable for the charger was attached to a one year old NAPA Premium Marine/RV Dual Purpose battery that was left installed on a boat through the winter. After leaving the charger on overnight, it was apparent that the battery was discharged to the point where the charger believed the battery was bad.

After an initial charge was given to the boat battery with a conventional charger, the XC Marine Charger performed as advertised and charged the boat battery to full capacity. To double check its performance, the charger was placed on an automotive battery using the included battery clamp leads and the unit started charging the battery immediately. It finished its initial evaluation sequence and charging of the battery successfully.

A boater using the XC Marine Charger with its fixed battery cable and optional mounting bracket can maintain their boat batterys state of charge by keeping the vessel plugged in between trips. This product from PulseTech Products Corporation worked as advertised and should serve boaters well. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for this PulseTech charger is $99.

20 Dic 2015 

How To Approximate The Age Of A Vintage Golf Club

Even though it is seldom easy to precisely distinguish an antique golf club from one that is merely an old golf club, there are several hints that can at least help us as collectors of golf memorabilia, to date a vintage club with relative accuracy, helping us to determine, ultimately, a golf clubs value.

The following 5 point test, which is really a preliminary golf club appraisal, can offer some quick insight on the approximate age of golf golf collectibles. Determing the age, as you would imagine, is the natural first step in establishing vintage golf club values.

The Grip - The texture of the grip can offer a meaningful hint about the age of an old golf club. Even if you have a lot of other priorities for instance, sports, extracurricular activities, etc., still you need to complete a senior project to graduate successfullyOlder clubs were generally equipped wit flocked suede grips. Generally speaking, clubs made after the early 1920's were manufactured with leather grips. It is also important to spend the time and energy to effectively determine whether the grip of a vintage golf club under evaluation is original or whether perhaps it could be a once or twice removed replacement. An accurate assessment here is critical as you begin your analysis.

The Club Face - The club face on antique golf irons is often smooth. Although many players manually scored their club faces, the marking of faces on vintage iron clubs was not introduced until the first few years of the 20th century. Again, even though this would certainly not rank as an exact method of dating old golf clubs, a smooth face would certainly indicate that you are in possession of a club that dates prior to 1905.

The Wooden Shaft Test - Whether or not the shaft is made of wood is a primary indicator of age. There were clubs manufactured after 1930 where preowned golf clubs with metal shafts were overlaid with plastic covers. Even though these are often represented as authentic wooden golf clubs, the old reliable magnet test can always uncover whether the original shaft is wood. If it not, this is a post 1930 age factor.

The Metal Club Head - Simple test. Prior to 1920, a different grade of steel was used to manufacture clubheads. This inferior grade of steel, as you would expect, results in clubs which today look more dated; dark colored, sometimes even rusty. An old golf club that still exhibits a shiny clubhead would point to a piece dated post 1920.

Markings or Stamps - If there is a marking or shop stamp, an Antique Gold Club Reference Guide , like our recommended resource could be used to date the club pretty precisely.

As with many antiques, often times the best way to preserve golf club value is to do nothing at all in the way of polishing, or painting, or shaft repair that would compromise the original integrity of the piece. Any reputable antique dealer, and particularly those in the golf collectibles arena, would be well equipped to help you understand those things that would enhance value vs those things which would compromise value.

Also, remember when acquiring a vintage golf club, especially through a commercial channel, to ensure that you receive a certificate of authenticity, and if possible, a golf club appraisal with your purchase.

Visit My Vintage Golf Clubs Site

K Harrigan

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