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A slight twist: Hamilton golf developer asks players to name, help design course

What to do in a market where there are already too many golf courses and at least a couple of rumors each week that a club or two might file for bankruptcy protection? Apparently, you turn to golfers and ask what they want.

At least that’s what Bryan DeChunha, a developer working to create a golf course near Milton thinks. He told the Hamilton Spectator:

“I’m very cognizant of the number of golf courses that are currently in financial difficulty because there are not enough golfers,” said DeCunha. “We don’t want to be there so we are trying to anticipate some of the issues that cause them to be there. We’re trying to think outside the box. And you have to build what the market wants.”

So that means DeChunha, who was involved in the exorable Royal Ontario with the Kaneff Group, plans to ask golfers what they want — including naming the course and design features. He’s even set up a web site called www.namethecourse.com.

“We want to build a full championship golf course that will be just a nice as any of the high-end golf courses in the area,” said DeCunha. “Having said that, we have no delusions about charging high-end rates.”

DeCunha, a Mississauga real estate developer who is investing between $12 million to $15 million in the project, said the course, which will be public, will probably charge greens fees in the $85 range.

The remarkable thing about this is that DeChunha is using Danoff to do the work. Royal Ontario was bad, and Thundering Waters is worse. While DeCunha’s take on the market and wanting to do something different is admirable, using a dodgy golf architect isn’t a good start.

What about forgetting about the bells, whistles and name games and simply building a great golf course with a superior architect? Wouldn’t that attract players? Garry McKay’s story on the subject can be found here.

– Some final thoughts on the Raven at Lora Bay. After playing an additional nine holes at the course earlier this week, I believe it might be better than I initially thought. The bunkering is extremely strong, and the routing provides options while being walkable. In my mind this would be in the running for the best course I’ve played in Ontario this year.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • The developer of the course would be wise to learn a lesson from the much-hyped movie Snakes On A Plane. Lots of noise, but flopped where it mattered the most – i.e. the box office.

    Having the general public pick the color of the apron of the line cooks or the hair colour of the cart attendant would be a safer bet.

  • Hey KC, where’s your sunshine band? I think you missed the point. What made Snakes on a Plane different was the use of the online community in promoting and hyping the movie as opposed to the traditional marketing used by production houses. There was little input from the community in making the film or key decisions. Sure the name was kept but the guts of the movie was still in the hands of the producers. It was an interesting test on how effective the online community was in getting the movie public to see the film (without any advance reviews by critics). It flopped because the film was bad and the online community loved to wrote about it but did not motivate them to see it.

    If Snakes on a Plane had key decisions made by the community, then your analogy would be appropriate…and this what Bryan DeChunha appears to be doing with the new golf course. “User generated content” of the Web 2.0 world brought to the golf industry. Interesting challenge that hopefully can work. But do not use a “Snakes on a Plane” analogy as an indicator of success or failure.

  • Hey Weekend Enthusiast,

    My point was: using the internet for promotion and bypassing the traditional media is not working for the movie. The bloggers might like to have their inputs, but they do not like to leave their computers to buy a movie ticket to watch a movie in the cinema.

    By the same token, the online users will have their input on the golf course, but they probably would not go out and play the golf course.

  • Hey KC:

    Agreed….but you recognise contributing to promotion of an event is different than contributing to content…and that is the distinction between the Snakes on a Plane example and this golf example.

    The online community likes to engage in an issue (whether it is promoting a film or contributing to the content) but this historically has not translated into purchase behaviour. Snakes on a Plane was about online community being involved in promotion, this golf course is about the community (online and otherwise) contributing to content. The translation from contribution to participation did not pan out for Snakes on a Plane and only time will tell if contributing to content on a golf course will translate into increased purchase.

  • I think the whole concept is a Buzz generator.
    It is highly unlikey he would get much useful feedback from the general golf public. What will they say, it should be “fair”, “challenging” and good value. It is difficult to get five golfers to agree on anything about golf design.
    But the whole feedback concept will generate buzz and could bring about some anticipation which cannot be bad. Locals may feel that they have been part of the project. Interesting to see how far he takes the interactive design concept.
    So I am sceptical about the actual feedback and his sincerity in using it but optimistic about the loyalty it may intially deliver.
    It is different.

  • I tried to locate “exorable” in my dictionary. Admittedly, said dictionary is an inadequate reference source, but I could not locate the word. I think, Robert, you may have, if I correctly understand your attitude toward Royal Ontario, combined the terms “execrable” and “horrible”. Perhaps this term “exorable” will gain a foothold on the internet and become part of common usage. If so, you deserve recognition and I will vouch for your having coined it.

  • Actually:

    exorable – Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

    Exorable Ex”o*ra*ble, a. [L. exorabilis: cf. F. exorable. See
    Exorate.]
    Capable of being moved by entreaty; pitiful; tender.

    In other words, your dictionary is exorable. I can’t say I coined this, but it was better sounding than pitiful!

  • Thundering Waters is worse than … what? The golf course is outstanding, with a blend of dynamic par three holes, flexible par fours, and relentless par fives. If you are going to criticize a course, back it up with testimony, evidence, etc. I am willing to go toe-to-toe with you on this one.

  • Keldonis,

    You must be involved with the Thundering Waters project in order to make that comment. Anyone who is at all familiar with GCA could without hesitation declare that at least 14 of the 18 holes at Thundering Waters are flawed in either several minor ways or in too many major ways. Granted the back nine improves significantly over the front but I guarantee TW will struggle to get players for a repeat visit – and frankly that is a major factor in the financial viability of any course.

    You cannot build OB on at least one side of every hole, line the other with lost ball material, pinch in every green complex, and expect players to enjoy their round. The starter told us that the day previous a scratch golfer shot 84 from the middle tees and that we should consider moving forward a deck or two. Give me a break. How often have I heard that line? He was right, I was wrong. So if that’s what the developer(s) wanted then congratulations and don’t necessarily blame Bo. Remember Daly pointed a finger or two with no clue on what he was doing – Wicked Stick anyone – so Bo can’t be held completely responsible. Similarly remember what happened the last time a PGA Tour player helped design an intentionally difficult course – The Rock – yeah no one came back. Hence the reason Faldo is now coming back to fix what he screwed up in the beginning.

    Unlike its fellow new competitor on the Niagara golf scene, Grand Niagara, Thundering Waters does have a very nice locker room that’s worth checking out if you’re in the area.

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