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Golf study focuses on youths

WORTHINGTON -- Most of the 50-plus people who attended a review of a local golf course study were older adults, but if the study itself is any indication, the community's youths could determine the fate of Prairie View Golf Links.

The study, commissioned by the Worthington City Council earlier this year, aimed to analyze Prairie View Golf Links, the Worthington Country Club and other area golfing alternatives in terms of revenues, expenses and operations.

John Valliere of Effective Golf Course Systems presented his findings Tuesday at the Nobles County Government Center, first noting the positive features of the course.

"Prairie View is a very sound operation. The course conditions are excellent; I would put it up against any Minneapolis Public Golf Course," Valliere said, adding the course had "good management with dedicated workers," and that the food, beverage and merchandise sales were fine.

He said the course's weaknesses boiled down to a lack of marketing.

"The operations part is efficient, but we are not attracting golfers to this venue," he said. "The driving range needs desperately to be promoted ... there's no one using it."

He also suggested the presence of a golfing professional, strengthening the men's and women's golf clubs and reaching out -- to the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, people of different ethnicities and especially youths.

"We need to find ways to create more community activity and subsequent play at Prairie View," he said. "We need to reach out to the school system. I don't believe we're having enough opportunity for school children to be introduced to the game of golf."

The importance of hooking youths on the sport was emphasized throughout the meeting, especially by councilman Ron Wood, whose youth golf programs drew a duplicated head count of 1,497 youngsters to the course this year.

"if we don't pay attention to our young people, we won't have either course in 15 years," Wood said.

Valliere advocated the use of a quality Web site that would attract outsiders to the course. "It should be a situation where people are making reservations (online) without even calling ... that's possible," he said. "The youths are on (the Internet) all the time, and it's becoming so portable."

When asked about the cost of increased promotion (course manager Alice Hoffman reported that current efforts are limited to brochures and advertising in the Daily Globe), he said a number of avenues are surprisingly inexpensive, including ads on the golf channel.

Valliere presented the city with five options, including the closure or sale of the course, but advocated an attempt to retain both Prairie View and the Worthington Country Club and make a concerted effort to improve marketing.

Councilman Mike Kuhle said the standard need is for a population of 25,000 to support one 18-hole golf course; Worthington has two. However, Valliere pointed out, the Worthington courses draw from smaller area towns.

"Adrian is probably your primary competitor, and other area courses also draw from business," he said. "I contend that because you are an 18-hole course you could mange to garner more of the golf pie."

He also addressed the possibility of the two Worthington courses working together. "There could be collaboration between the courses in terms of maintenance costs," he said. "I would like to see the golfers in this community close ranks." He suggested country club members golf at Prairie View on occasion and the creation of events that utilize both courses: a round at Prairie View followed by dinner at WCC, for example.

"We want both clubs to survive. They are both jewels," said Mark Loosbrock, the regional vice president for the Minnesota Golf Association and a country club member.

Richard Peterson with the group Ideas for Worthington, spoke against the maintenance of two courses.

"I think we could merge everything together; all the efforts for training young kids could be done at one course," he said. "I'm not a golfer, but I am a taxpayer."

The study is available at Click on Hot Topics, then Golf Course Study.