Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Archive for May 15, 2010

Golf tourism in NM — how good can it get?

Published on 5/14/2010 by the Las Cruces Sun News

Written By: Mary Armstrong Golf Architect

Perhaps you’ve been to some of golf’s meccas – the Myrtle Beaches, Pinehursts, Palm Springs, or Scottsdales. Hard to imagine Las Cruces fitting into that group? It could happen. As compared to those four, Las Cruces has the best all around golfing weather by far.

But why should non-golfing businesses care? Golf is big business, that’s why! A 2006 NMSU study concluded that golf contributes 500 million dollars per year to the New Mexico economy. The study also suggested that increasing golf tourism was the fastest way to boost lodging bookings and associated tax collections for local governments. Arizona has aggressively developed its golf tourism. The result in 2004 was nearly 3.5 BILLION dollars in economic impact. One of the reasons I came to New Mexico and to Las Cruces specifically was because I felt and still do feel that New Mexico is where Arizona was twenty five years ago.

Golf attracts affluent, high-value-adding tourists who generate significantly above-average per capita revenues at their destinations. Hotels, restaurants, wineries, theatres, shopping malls, art galleries and museums could all benefit dramatically by making Las Cruces perfect golfing weather a focus of our tourism marketing.

About three years ago, the New Mexico Golf Tourism Alliance was formed. That was a good start and the matching grant from New Mexico Tourism Department Cooperative Advertising helped, but a $40,000 investment was hardly sufficient. Despite having the

best climate, Las Cruces and the southern part of the state haven’t seen the results that the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas have. This may be partly due to the fact that most of the golf course development in the last 20 years have been associated with casinos and resorts. Las Cruces is of course at a severe disadvantage in this regard.

Yet, Las Cruces has the foundation for a strong golf tourism industry. The Las Cruces Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has a very nice webpage about our area golf courses. About the only thing Las Cruces can’t offer the typical golf tourist right now is a strong selection of places to play. NMSU and Sonoma Ranch are public courses, but Las Cruces Country Club expects to become totally private when their project is complete. If the old LCCC golf course is lost to development it will be a step backward. Even without an increase in golf tourism there is a demand for a short, well-conceived golf course there. Keeping golf on that property is the only way the City can afford to preserve this valuable in-town green space. New golf courses will come, but only with the right marketing, and a real investment of time and money.Las Cruces has much to offer the non-gambling tourist. We have a tremendously vibrant community with many well-run festivals that bring us out to celebrations. We can offer the tourist one of the most inspiring mountain views, wine tasting, hiking, biking, horseback riding, interesting shopping, art galleries, museums, theatre, and lots of old west history.I’ve just experienced what most people have told me is the coldest winter in many years and there were very few days that I couldn’t have played golf. A golf vacation can be glorious or a disaster depending upon the weather. With 350 days of sunshine and comfortable temperatures nearly year-round (unlike our neighbors to the west), who wouldn’t choose to risk their vacation dollars here? We need to focus our advertisements on our terrific weather and vibrant lifestyle.The reality is Las Cruces has the natural resources and associated amenities that high spending golf tourists seek. All we have to do is let them know. Las Cruces can be known in the same breath as the Pinehursts, Palm Springs and Pebble Beaches. In fact, like these places, Las Cruces possesses all that’s positive about a great place to live, work and play.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for close to 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. Armstrong is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects.