Messe Frankfurt Ausstellungen (MFA) GmbH has announced its first Golf Course International (GCI) trade fair and conference, to be held from 5th to 7th December 2000. Subjects covered will range from golf course planning, design and maintenance to course and club management. It is hoped that the event will be of considerable interest to greenkeepers and other golf course staff, course and landscape architects, club managers and committee members, golf professionals, local authority representatives, project developers, investors and others with a business interest in golf.
The objective is to provide a European forum where all concerned can co-ordinate their activities and exchange know-how and experience with a view to promoting golf as a popular European sport. According to figures recently issued by the DSB – the German Sports Association – golf is now far from being the exclusive sport it once was. The German Golf Association (DGV) has expanded steadily and is now one of the country’s most successful associations. In 1999 it came third in the league table for new members recruited, being outstripped only by the German soccer and gymnastics associations. However, when golfers are considered as a percentage of the population, Germany lies fourth from the bottom of the international table with a figure of only 0.42%, well below countries such as Canada with 17.24 %, the United States with 9.70 % or even the European leaders Ireland (5.60%) and Sweden (4.94%). (Source:DGV January 2000).
Surveys say that some 10 million people in Europe would be keen to play golf but have no opportunity to do so because of the lack of provision for beginners. Public golf courses charging reasonable green-fees or offering free “taster” lessons without the obligation to join a golf club are few and far between. As far back as the late ‘seventies, the Dà¼sseldorf municipal sports authority grasped the situation and took action to create the first public golf course. Known as the Lausward course, this is still a lucrative source of income today.
Even then there was a desire to follow the American example and develop golf as a popular sport but the plan was frustrated by the absence of suitable courses. Dà¼sseldorf’s municipal golf course project not only worked, it proved very profitable. Although initially the course had no bunkers and still has only a kiosk instead of a comfortable clubhouse, it operated successfully with only a small subsidy even in the first two years of its existence. By 1981 its finances were no longer in the red. By 1988 the surplus of income over expenditure was a very respectable DM 96,000 and by 1992 it was DM 380,000. Udo Skalnik, the sports authority’s managing director, reckons that about 70% to 80% of golfers in North-Rhine Westphalia used the Lausward course to learn on for one or two seasons before switching to an established golf club – of which there are now 16 in the vicinity. The Lausward success story, Skalnik maintains, shows what can be done.
Providing all the relevant factors are analysed carefully beforehand, creating a public golf course on these lines could be a very interesting investment for a local authority or private landowner. The Dà¼sseldorf municipal authority, Skalnik points out, only leased the course to a commercial operator in 1998 with great reluctance when the regional market showed signs of saturation and the course needed substantial investment.
Golfprojection International GmbH, MFA’s partner in organising Golf Course International in Frankfurt/Germany, has assembled a first-class conference programme. Among the subjects covered are ways and means of getting a public golf course up and running, experience of dealing with planning authorities, waste water for re-use in irrigation, and the latest research results on new methods of cultivating turf grass. The international panel of speakers will include Dr. Michael Hurdzan on “Affordable and Accessible Entry Level Golf Facilities”. Dr. Hurdzan is one of the most eminent golf course architects in the United States and a pioneer in the design of low-cost, easily maintained courses.