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December 2020

No Contraction In Multi-Course Management Space

By Steve Eubanks

No one questions that COVID-19 shook the golf industry with a strong hand. Layoffs, shutdowns, deferred capital expenditures and increased sanitation expenses put a lot of operators in a bind. But on the whole, golf management did not contract, especially among multi-course operators. If anything, demand for competent management accelerated, especially as golf operators had to learn about virology and contagion protocols.

Touchstone Golf is a good example. In a year when you would think a company that has close to 40 clubs under management – the 10th largest golf operator in the country – would pull back, solidify its core properties, and regroup for expansion in another year, Touchstone and others like it actually grew, and not just in their home markets.

In mid-September, it was announced that the Austin, Tex.-based company added the Northeastern 18, one of the oldest courses in Colorado, to its management portfolio. The Sterling club was built in 1916, 46 years after Colorado became a state. It was originally called Sterling Country Club. A local family bought the club and took it public in 2011. And while the club never closed, it needed a refresh. At the end of the summer, a group of local investors under the name Sterling Golf LLC bought the club and brought in Touchstone to rebrand it. 

“We are thrilled to be a part of the future of Northeastern Golf Course,” said Touchstone CEO Steve Harker. “This is a unique and special property that we will bring back to its grandeur under the new ownership group.” 
One of the people in that ownership group, Paul Schrade, said, “We are looking forward to the challenge of returning this golf course to its past glory and making this facility a gathering spot for the entire community by providing a fun, family atmosphere.”

Touchstone has two other courses in Colorado and has clubs under management from Hawaii to North Carolina. That sort of geographic diversity is a challenge in the best of times. During a pandemic, a reduction in business would have been natural if not expected. Instead, the company grew – another “go figure” moment in the year 2020.

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