9th hole on the Oasis Course
We have had a few discussions on this trip concerning the rules of golf and particularly equipment rules such as the use of a belly putter. With touring the factory at PING we finally got the opportunity to see a behind the scenes look into the manufacturing of golf clubs and equipment. PING is headquartered in Arizona and was founded in 1959. While they produce your typical off the rack clubs you see at pro shops, they pride themselves in being a company that makes personally fitted clubs, which they do so by taking a persons measurements and also analyzing their stroke either on a launch monitor, or out on the course. It was great to get a look at their manufacturing process. Drivers and woods, irons, and putters are all built in separate buildings. Each building contains multiple cells, where each cell has an assembly line that builds a club from start to finish, and each cell depending on the type of club is able to produce anywhere from 750-1000 clubs a day.
Following our tour of PING, we made our way to an afternoon session with Kevin Betts from the Phoenician. Betts is a director of golf through the Troon Golf Company, which specializes in the management of high-end golf courses. Troon is a separate company from the Phoenician Resort, and they are hired out to simply run the golf portion of the resort. While the scenery and condition of the course at the Phoenician is top notch, they are also able to draw golfers to their result with their dynamic pricing system. Similar to other sports, such as basketball, where a courtside seat is more expensive than an upper level seat, the golf course at the Phoenician doesn’t treat a tee time at 9 am the same as a late afternoon tee time. Everything from the time of year, to the time of day affects the price of a round of golf at the Phoenician, which allows them to attract more golfers during less popular times—currently the Phoenician draws about 48,000 rounds of golf a year.
Betts stressed the fact that what he provides is a service, and that a players golf experience starts at the time of booking, and doesn’t end until they leave the restaurant after their round. Players are allowed to wear whatever they want on the course, and the nine minute separation between tee times is toward the high end of the scale. One question I had for Betts is that if golf becomes a niche sport, and never gains the popularity back that it had in the late nineties, will in be courses like the Phoenician or would it be budget courses that are able to survive. Because at the Phoenician they charge a high price they have more room to cut down, in which case they can still maintain a profit, and Betts believes this extra room will allow places like the Phoenician to continue to be around, even if golf continues to lose popularity.
One of the highlights of the trip came after talking with Betts where he gave us the opportunity to get out on the course and play nine holes of golf on the Oasis course at the Phoenician. Those of us that took the advantage of the opportunity to play had a great time, at probably one of the nicest courses many of us will ever play at.