The newly formed Greater Portland Golf Association is looking to target the occasional golfer who likes to play different courses rather than being a member at one.
Riverside Golf Course in Portland, Val Halla in Cumberland, Nonesuch River in Scarborough and Dunegrass in Old Orchard Beach comprise the Association.
The group is offering multi-play passes, handicapping services, Friday night scrambles and a tournament series. The tournaments will rotate among the four courses.
“This is a way for us to grow a segment of the golf population with the hope they become regular golfers,” said Brian Bickford, the director of golf at Val Halla.
“Many golfers aren’t members of a course because they say they don’t play enough to justify a membership. Most of the people we’re targeting work in downtown Portland. The Greater Portland Golf Association will provide access to public golf within 20 to 25 minutes after getting out of work. They will be able to go to one website and know whether the course is busy or not. We think there’s a whole segment that will be interested in the concept.”
There are three levels of membership. The first level gives a golfer a discounted green fee at the participating course he chooses to play and enrollment in GHIN, the USGA’s golf handicapping service for a one-time fee of $75. Most occasional golfers don’t have a USGA handicap, a requirement to play in tournaments.
The second level is the multi-play pass. Golfers can also enroll in GHIN for an additional $59.
There are five-, 10- and 15-play passes being sold for nine and 18 holes. The five-play nine-hole pass is $89. The five-play 18-hole pass is $149. The 10-play pass is $159 for nine holes and $269 for 18 holes. The 15-play pass is $229 for nine holes and $379 for 18 holes.
The third level is for players who are already a member of one of the four courses of the Greater Portland Golf Association. They’re automatic members of the GPGA and are eligible to play in any of the events by paying the entry fee.
Riverside and Val Halla have long had a reciprocal agreement where members can play at the other course for discounted fees. If one of the courses had a tournament on a certain day or days, the other course would likely be available. Late in the golf season last year, Val Halla members played Riverside after their course had closed.
“We’ve always worked out a reciprocal agreement with Ryan Scott at Riverside,” said Bickford.
“We were looking to take it to the next level. Dan Hourihan, the owner of Nonesuch, and I have been good friends over the years. We were looking to expand the program south.”
Hourihan took over the operation of Dunegrass last year through a long-term lease agreement.
“Brian approached me about the concept,” said Hourihan.
“This is a new way to get golfers more engaged in the game and offer the occasional golfer a chance to play more. By running Friday night scrambles and a small tournament series, golfers will have the opportunity to play all of the courses over the course of the summer and play in tournaments.”
All four courses were built in a different era and each have their own characteristics that make for unique playing experiences.
If it proves successful, Bickford said the GPGA could expand to the junior ranks and offer other tournament formats.
While all four courses have their loyal members, there are still plenty of openings on their tee sheets.
At most golf courses, the popular times are Friday afternoons and weekend mornings. There are plenty of openings Monday through Friday in the mornings and on weekend afternoons.
The bottom line is to get more people playing golf on a regular basis.
For more information or to join the Greater Portland Golf Association, go to www.gPGAme.us. The GPGA will have a booth at this weekend’s Portland Golf Expo at the Holiday Inn By The Bay on Spring Street in Portland. The hours are Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: [email protected]