The House State Government Committee is set to take action on HB 2188. Here are Marci’s comments in opposition to the Golf Trail.
June 28, 2016
The Honorable ________
State Government Committee
PA House of Representatives
Dear Representative ________:
The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation is writing in opposition to House Bill 2188 which establishes the Arnold Palmer Trails Program. This bill requires the development of four new golf courses to be based in Pennsylvania state parks. We oppose the bill for the following reasons:
While we appreciate the sport of golfing, the number of golfers has been in steady decline. http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/the-death-of-golf-20150625. The National Golf Foundation’s most recent statistics (2015) data show a plateau after several years of steady fall in the post-Tiger Woods era, “For the third straight year, the NGF reports the number of golfers in 2014 was near 25 million. This number (24.7 million) matches the figure for 2013, but is down from 2010 (26 million) and 17 percent off the peak in 2005 of 30 million. It also matches the pre-Tiger Woods number of 24.7 million in 1995.” (Source: Golf Digest).
Mechanicsburg’s former Silver Spring Golf Course is now Millfording Preserve, a housing development and park (http://millfordingpreserve.com); just last week New Jersey dedicated Tall Pines State Preserve, a 110-acre state park built on a golf course once owned by the Philadelphia Eagles’ Ron Jaworski (http://articles.philly.com/2016-06-22/news/73926857_1_state-park-maple-ridge-golf-course-new-park). Many more opportunities exist for the reverse engineering of courses into parks with a stable of properties available for sale (http://www.loopnet.com/Pennsylvania_Golf-Courses-For-Sale/).
There are already many golf courses across the state. A quick Google search indicates that Pennsylvania has an estimated 818 courses in the state, fairly well distributed across Pennsylvania from urban to rural areas: http://www.golflink.com/golf-courses/state.aspx?state=PA
The construction and maintenance of a golf course is expensive and natural resource intensive. According to William Amick, golf course architect, the average cost per hole to construct a course can range between $50,000 and $175,000 (or between $900,000 to $3.15 million per course). This does not include the expected practice greens and driving range associated with a course nor does it include a club house. On average, a golf course uses between 140-180 acres of land. Cost varies based on many factors including soils, permits, drainage, irrigation systems, size of course, topography.
Annual maintenance of a course can range between $700,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the course and the detail of the maintenance. (http://www.clubbenchmarking.com/blog/golf-course-maintenance-how-much-should-you-spend). One might safely assume that a series of golf courses intended to honor Arnold Palmer would not be expected to skimp on design and amenities and, therefore, cost.
Currently, two courses exist in state parks; both are managed privately. The 18-hole Skippack Golf Club at Evansburg State Park has a record of success, but DCNR has been called in several times to provide maintenance support. The 18-hole golf course at Caledonia State Park has a history of struggling to be successful.
At the Foundation, we laud the concept of “legacy” and appreciate the contributions made to his sport and his community by Latrobe native Arnold Palmer. We believe, however, that Mr. Palmer’s heritage in Pennsylvania can be honored without the construction of new courses. By creating criteria and identifying courses that meet the established criteria, the Arnold Palmer Golf Trail could recognize and promote existing golf courses in a fun marketing venture.
Several years ago, the state of Florida launched such a trail that highlights golf’s rich heritage by featuring courses that were built before 1950 (http://www.floridahistoricgolftrail.com/scorecard/). This trail showcases the sport of golfing in Florida, provides tools for tracking visits, and gained the support of Florida resident Arnold Palmer. In a conversation with Scott Edwards, who oversees the Golf Trail, he shared that tourism has increased due to the course, as golfers travel about the state working to visit the sites on the trail, as well as local recommended historic sites. The trail has signs, logos, a monthly email, and a score card (which also incentivizes visits).
A trail could be built that highlights Mr. Palmer’s accomplishments in Pennsylvania and does not require new courses to be built. For example, there are seven Arnold Palmer designed courses in Pennsylvania that, if open to the public, could be part of a trail. We also have Foxburg Golf Course & Country Club, the oldest golf course in continuous use in America. The trail might include places where Mr. Palmer played prior to becoming a champion, or courses where he competed (“Be Arnie. On this course he shot an X.”). Another theme could be amateur courses where he played as a youth (which may attract new golfers). Perhaps as a twist on a round of 18 holes of golf, 18 golf courses that have an association with Mr. Palmer could be identified and promoted as the Arnold Palmer Golf Trail.
This approach to a trail could be accomplished with very little investment of resources, a more fiscally prudent measure. This trail also reflects the legacy of Arnold Palmer, and would more readily win his endorsement. (He opposed the idea of building golf courses in state parks in Florida.) More importantly, this new approach could increase tourism spending and attract new visitors to Pennsylvania who want to be a part of the legacy.
In closing, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation opposes HB 2188. Instead, we offer this more fiscally-prudent marketing idea for your consideration. We would be happy to meet with you and discuss this approach.