The Colony Golf & Country Club in Bonita Springs, Florida
B A C K G R O U N D E R . . .
Ed Weber joined The Colony team in 2016. His previous country club background includes working at The Club Pelican Bay in Naples and serving as Head Golf Professional at Pelican’s Nest in Bonita Springs and Director of Golf at Pelican Sound Golf & River Club in Estero. Prior to his arrival at The Colony, he held the position of General Manager and Director of Golf at Raptor Bay Golf Club for 15 years. Weber graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and gained Class A membership in the PGA in 1993. His passion for golf extends beyond The Colony’s gates to Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, where he has served on the University’s PGA Golf Management Program advisory council for 12 years and helped establish a nationally acclaimed freshman mentorship program.
I was introduced to the game of golf at an early age through my father, Art Weber. In fact, he tells a story that one of the first words I spoke was Arnold Palmer. He said he was holding me while watching a golf tournament on TV, and when The King — Arnold Palmer — came on the screen, I said his name out loud. I am not suggesting this propelled me into the golf industry – but it might have been an early indication golf was going to play a big part in my life going forward.
I started playing the game at age 6, and I was fortunate to have a father that took me out to play as much as possible. We also lived in areas where I had access to public golf courses that gave juniors the chance to play and eventually, work. My summer breaks from school were spent playing golf every chance I could get, which lead to playing in high school and then in college. I worked at golf course during this time, but it was more for playing privileges versus looking at it as a career choice.
When my game was not good enough to play past the junior college level, I did not play for a few years and started working in the retail field. I soon realized that was not for me, and I left that job and moved to SWFL to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Since I knew golf, I started working at a course in Naples to earn some money until I figured out what I wanted really wanted to do. This is when the golf industry found me, versus me finding it. I started working for a great PGA professional, John Carroll, who mentored me every step of the way.
Having someone give me the opportunity to grow my skills, provide the patience to work through my mistakes and to show, by example, how to work with all types of personalities, was the reason I am in the golf industry today. He showed me that when you love doing something, it gives you more than you give it. This holds true for me today some 25+ years later, and I am grateful for him and all the people in my life that I have met along the way who have inspired me.
MATT WARD: what lessons were learned by the various golf facilities in Southwest Florida following The Great Recession?
EW: In the past, Southwest Florida golf had remained largely unaffected by economic downturns: retirement plans were intact, people still took vacations, and the area’s wealth was untouched. The first lesson learned in 2008 was that we can be impacted – Southwest Florida is not in a protective bubble. Golf courses learned that we are in the entertainment business and we must compete for the consumer dollar. We can no longer just build a golf course and assume it will be filled with players. Today, we must exceed people’s expectations when it comes to service, playing conditions and playability of the golf course. It’s the major focus of WCI® Communities and our golf operations.
MW: What’s the general feeling among those in the golf arena in Southwest Florida for the ’17 golf season and beyond?
EW: Very positive. Many private clubs are at or near membership capacities, and both public and resort facilities are starting to see GF rates increases. Many golf clubs are making capital investments on their golf courses and club facilities to meet the expectations and demands of their members and customers. At The Colony, we just completed a comprehensive course renovation and a clubhouse redesign – we believe the investment was well worth it to enhance our members’ experiences.
EW: The Naples market over the past 20 years has moved north to include Bonita Springs and Fort Myers. It truly is a Southwest Florida market now, and we’re seeing a resurgence of high-rise tower construction in the area – including WCI’s 21-story luxury Altaira® tower in The Colony Golf & Bay Club. These discerning home buyers expect nothing less than a premier golf experience in their community, which we’re committed to providing at The Colony.
MW: You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
EW: Eliminate out of bounds and play everything like a lateral hazard. It would speed up play and make the game more enjoyable.
MW: It’s been said by a few outside golf observers that the sport would likely regain its footing if roughly 20% of the existing supply of courses were to disappear. What’s your take on that?
EW: I don’t agree. Those courses that would disappear are the training grounds of many of the new golfers of the next generation. If we find ways to make the game more enjoyable, less expensive and faster, we wouldn’t have enough golf courses!
MW: Organizations within golf are making conscious efforts to attract Millennials, women and minorities to the game. What steps do you think need to be taken to do that?
EW: There have to be multiple approaches. The PGA® is doing a good job with the Team Golf, but we could implement more caddy programs at golf clubs to introduce players to the game. Also, we need to remove obstacles like cost and dress codes and present programs that emphasize fun over competition.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
EW: John Carrol, my first PGA boss, told me, “We are in the entertainment business, so don’t take yourself too seriously!” I work closely with my team at The Colony to ensure we’re all having fun and creating exceptional experiences for our members.
MW: What’s your take on what’s being done by TopGolf and other non-traditional golf outreaches such as Foot Golf, Hack Golf, SNAG Golf and others?
EW: Anything that introduces people to the concept of golf is good. We need to build fun into golf, and these programs accomplish that.
MW: Plenty of golf facilities are now focused on customer service. Define the term and what it means in today’s ever connected world?
EW: Great customer service is about adding the entertainment factor to your customer experience, and at WCI®, that experience is everything. We’re not talking about balloons and costumed characters or busting your budget. You need a modern day game plan based on how your golf facility, products and services best connect with your customers.
MW: You’ve got one course to play and three people who can join you. Where do you tee it up and who joins you?
EW: Augusta National, with my dad, Art Weber, and my two sons, Ron and David.
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