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May 2019

Final Thoughts with Debbie Jeffries

Owner 
RiverRidge Golf Complex
Eugene, Oregon

What do you think is the main reason the number of golf course closures keeps climbing?
The short, simple answer is economics. Many suggest it is a correction due to the oversupply created by NGF forecasts in the late 1980s. It is primarily a demand issue today. I think it is the lack of precedence by the leaders of the industry (USGA, PGA, NGF) to prioritize teaching the basic skills of the game to develop new golfers. The long answer is far more complicated. The leaders of the golf industry fail to understand and embrace changes that directly impact the demand side of golf. This is not an “if you build it they will come” industry.

How has downsizing from a 36-hole course to a 9-hole course changed the demographics of your customers? 
This will be our first year. At a glance, it does not appear to change the demographics. Almost 90 percent of our golfers are within the 974 zip code prefix.

You have a separate events center at your facility. How important is incorporating hospitality/events into your business? 
It is an important option for interested groups. For example, we might have a wedding with guests that enjoy hitting on the range for the first time.

What kind of events do you host and are they primarily related to golf? 
It depends on the time of year. During the winter, most events are not golf related. This is the first full season at the new location (the building was moved from across the street), so we do not have statistics at this time.

Do you have any programs focused on junior players or growing women’s participation? 
Get Golf Ready, The First Tee, Special Olympics, University of Oregon golf classes, PGA Junior Golf League and hosting high school golf teams. This past year, the PGA Junior League of our facility had four teams, creating our own league in addition to playing other teams. This is in large part due to Aaron Oakley, PGA apprentice, pro shop and event manager, who focuses on the fun as well as teaching the physical skill and growing the game.

What is the best advice you ever got from someone about running a golf course? 
We have been in the industry since 1975. Honestly, we can’t remember the “best” advice. There have been many people that coached and guided Ric [Jeffries, PGA, director of golf instruction, co-owner] and me. Our advice: This industry is not for the “faint of heart” and MUST recognize growing the game is the foundation for success. 

What do you think is the No. 1 thing that golf industry organizations can do to assist business owners like yourself? 
Establish the No. 1 priority as teaching the game of golf to grow the number of players.

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