Daily fee golf courses missing from PGA rotation


SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Anyone wishing to take on the Whistling Straits course where Martin Kaymer won the PGA Championship and Dustin Johnson was buried by a bunker ruling need only to make a reservation and have $340 handy, along with $100 for the caddie.

That’s still not as much as Pebble Beach.

Even so, there is a difference in public play between resort courses, such as Pinehurst or Pebble Beach, and true public courses, such as Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines.

The PGA Championship is lacking in the latter.

This came to mind last week during the PGA of America’s annual news conference, in which president Jim Remy shifted the focus to public golf. He noted there are more 9-hole courses than 18-hole courses in America, and that 75 percent of the rounds played in the country are on public courses. He cited the average fee at just under $30.

“There are availability of reasonably priced golf courses, and I think that we need to get the message out that there is a real value to a family to be involved in a sport,” Remy said.

So why isn’t the PGA Championship going to such a course, which can provide a proper test and have room to stage a big event? It has been more than two decades – 1989 at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago – that the PGA Championship was held on a daily fee course.

“We’ve had discussions with a number of daily fee facilities, along with traditional clubs,” PGA chief executive Joe Steranka said. “We’ll step out of the box every now and then and try something. And right now, the USGA is doing a great part in taking it to the Bethpage Blacks and Torrey Pines.”

Also on the U.S. Open rotation is Chambers Bay outside Seattle in 2015.

The PGA Championship is booked through 2016, and this would be a good time to look at a public course anyone can play. Steranka said that is a good possibility, although such a public course might first go through a rehearsal at a smaller event, such as the Senior PGA.

“The challenge we have short-term is we are booked out so far in advance,” he said. “When looking at adding a new site, we want to be able to predict with a degree of certainty that it will be able to stand the test of the top players.”

Steranka said the recession has caused the PGA of America to think anew about the model it uses in finding courses and running a major championship. He noted that going to private clubs gives the PGA access to influential business leaders who might be members of the club, which helps build corporate support. That’s not as easy when dealing with state or municipal governments.

“Our investment in government relations is laying the groundwork to show us a model of how to build community support outside of relying on the old model,” he said. “This latest recession is making us all look at the old business model. The daily fee course can help us from a marketing perspective of the game.”

The USGA has done its part.