For six years, Todd Miller has been General Manager of Santee Cooper Resort — a 36-holes location just off I-95 at literally the halfway point between the mega cities of the Northeast and southern Florida. The Santee is home to over half a dozen golf facilities all grouped nearby. Santee has made its mark specifically tied to the various cost-effective golf packages provided — encouraging multiple rounds, friendly service, quality food and lodging with practicality and cost awareness at their core.
Miller is one of many frontline golf professionals affiliated with the PGA of America — having been a Class “A” member since 1998 after having enrolled in the program in 1992.
Born in 1968 in South Bend, IN — Miller grew up and was introduced to golf in Peoria, IL. At the age of 13 his grandmother introduced him to the game. This would be the beginning of his long involvement within the golf industry as Miller has worked at the private, resort operations and daily fee.
Miller sees the challenges of an ever-evolving industry and how today’s players are indeed a far different cry from those when he first started. At Santee Cooper Resort — beyond the 36-holes — there are 24 villas and a full-time Golf Packaging operation. 70,000+ rounds of golf are played — with $300,000 dollars in pro shop sales and with $3 million dollars of golf vacations run through the package department.
What noticeable changes have happened with today’s golf consumer versus the one that played 5 or even 10 years ago ?
Miller: Ten years ago customers had more disposable income — playing once or twice a week was normal. Now customers have had to be more cautious and golf has been cutback. Golfers today expect more for their money and they will head elsewhere when such a need is not met.
Can the game of golf really succeed in the 21st century with the Millennial Generation that seems to favor past times of more immediate gratification such as video games, texting, etc, etc ?
Miller: Sure, the game can survive and even thrive. Golf changes with the times so that it will continue to survive. Golf offers a relief to the high sensory overload world we live and work — but no question minor changes will be necessary to attract the younger generation.
What specific steps can golf course providers do to bring them into the fold ?
Miller: That is the big question we are all struggling with now — we ignored them for a generation and now we need them. At our facilities we’re trying in three areas. First, keeping our pricing down so we very affordable. We have 18-hole rates as low as $20 with cart throughout the year. We’re pushing 9-hole rounds more than in the past. Second, we are moving to being more active in social marketing — staying in touch with them through modern techniques they use. Third, we’re offering more non-traditional events such as 18-hole par-3 events — where we turn all the holes into par-3’s with night light golf with the flashing golf balls and a Crazy-Day tournaments where every hole has a different format for the team.
So golf can still be relevant for those not at the elite income level and playing ability?
Emphatically yes. Our job is to introduce people to the game, make it affordable and keep it fun. Once a golfer is created — they will find a way to stay in the game.
Can players in the States really play the game under 4.5 hours?
We need better education of players — they just sit in their golf carts too much. At Santee though the rounds generally stay at 4.5 hours or shorter.
Can golf provide a recreational outlet that satisfies the pocketbook of both the receiver and the provider?
Use your slow periods as a discount lure to driver players to play. We use the prime tee times to make the revenue — the quieter times to help grow the game. Other facilities should do likewise.
The final issue is the difficulty of the game — what about 12-hole courses? Is the 18-hole model fixed?
The 18-hole model will continue to be the standard — as well as a growth in 9-hole rounds and smaller / executive style courses gaining in popularity. Myself and other PGA professionals need to get back to teaching the game — not so much focus on teaching the swing alone. Think of it this way — what’s more important for a new student — knowing how to make a tee time and how to play “ready golf,” or worrying about their angle of lag in the downswing?
As a member of the PGA — can such pro-player initiatives such as Golf 2.0 and Play it Forward help?
I think the leaders of the PGA have a good handle on what is going on with the rank and file. They’ve all been there on the front line at one time or another. I feel we have identified the problems with the game and National (PGA Leadership) has given us some tools to help. Now we must treat our customers well and go and create new ones.
What’s your take on the proposed anchoring ban by the USGA and R&A?
Long putters have been around too long to take them away now. It may help some, but I do not see anchoring as a method that is considerably better than traditional putting methods. Give people that struggle with a certain technique the option in trying something different.
You’ve been in the business for a lengthy period of time — does the game and those connected to it still motivate you to remain in it?
Golf always has and continues to attract the best of people. I enjoy coming to work everyday and I do not see that changing anytime soon. I enjoy the people I work with in the industry and interacting with our customers on a daily basis.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?