N.C. State University has chosen Northgreen Country Club as a classroom case study for students this semester who are trying to make a career in the golf industry.
At the PGA Golf Management course students have been analyzing Northgreen and its clubhouse and are offering suggestions for improving the business.
The students, who are taking the course in the university’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, also are making site visits and will be assisting with clinics and other duties at the course.
The golf course was chosen for this semester’s case study after residents of the Northgreen Village Association sat down with course owner Ed Holloman to discuss ways they could work together to improve the course, which is considered a major selling point for their properties.
One of the residents on the board of the association is Pete Armstrong, the former director of the Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department who now works at N.C. State University as director of Recreation Resources Service. He got the owners of the course, Ed and his son, Wayne, in touch with the classroom teacher.
“One of impacts to property values in Northgreen is having a golf course,” Armstrong said. “I think under the Holloman’s leadership, it can be even bigger plus for us.”
Chris Miller, a Rocky Mount Councilwoman whose home is next to the course, said she is excited about the partnership between the university and the course.
“I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “Obviously, anything that benefits the golf course and the club benefits the neighborhood. It improves the value of all our homes. It improves the value of the course to the community as well.”
The partnership between the university and course a win-win situation for everyone involved, Northgreen owner Wayne Holloman said.
He said Northgreen Country Club gets free advice about how to improve the course and improve its bottom line.
Residents said any improvements to the course can only be a plus for the neighborhood.
And students get a chance to work at a blue-collar course that is open to the public and similar to clubs some will be working at when they graduate, course instructor Andy Betz said.
He said his upper- level students are putting together a marketing plan for Northgreen.
Betz said he came to Rocky Mount to look over Northgreen as a favor to Armstrong. Once here, he got “very positive vibes.”
“We really try to find things for our students that are real-world situations,” Betz said. “When I walked into Northgreen, I saw potential there. I knew students could benefit by seeing what it’s about.”
He said he was aware that Northgreen had hosted the ACC Championship tournament several times, but that wasn’t the driving reason the course was chosen to become part of the this semester’s curriculum.
“We knew potential was there for this (course) layout,” he said. “My students have had the opportunity to work at some of the best golf courses in the country and have really been witnesses to great ideas. That’s what we’re basically doing – giving them lot of ideas to help them get back in swing of things.”
Each student goes on three internships, and they’ve interned at some of the more prestigious courses in the country, including Pebble Beach, Doral and Congressional, Betz said.
Three of the students were interning at Medinah Country Club near Chicago when the Ryder Cup was held in September.
“(The students) are there to learn as much as they can about individual operations,” Betz said.
Northgreen has potential to help the students in their learning process because it is more of a working-class course than other courses they have studied, he said.
“Probably 15 of my students have visited Northgreen. Some have played it,” Betz said. “They see the potential. It certainly is not like courses I mentioned. What we really are focusing on is understanding that there are so many types of courses out there. Some are having a tough go of it. We’re trying to figure out how we can help.”
Dakota Mincey, a student in the class, was among a group of nine students who visited Northgreen on Jan. 21.
“It is a wonderful golf course, a great community, a wonderful clubhouse,” he said. “It has a lot of potential as far as food and beverage. It could be a very functional, semi-private golf club with affordable rates. They are not going to be able to do anything overly demanding as far as pricing, just because of the area. But I believe in the future for them it could be a very, very family-oriented, semi-private golf club.”
Mincey said this is the first time that class has done a case study of a course like Northgreen.
“This opportunity is very unique for us in that we most of the time we go to very high-end, established golf clubs and typically are not in any kind of financial struggle at all,” Mincey said.
On Thursday, course owners Ed and Wayne Holloman and course superintendent Brantley Sapp sat in on the class and discussed some of the students’ ideas.
Wayne Holloman said the brainstorming session resulted in what amounted to a free consultation.
“They were basically giving us some coaching, some positives, some negatives, just good advice on what they saw we could do to improve this facility,” he said. “We listened to all four presentations and took notes. They gave us handouts and PowerPoint presentations. They basically had a question-and-answer session.”
Holloman said the students were enthusiastic about helping Northgreen.
“It was amazing to see college kids put that much serious effort into something,” he said.
Holloman said the students brought out ideas to improve the customers’ experience.
“They saw a lot of things that I just kind of took for granted, that I didn’t really think were important for the customer, so to speak,” Holloman said. “But it kind of opened my eyes. It was really good training for me as an owner of the business to kind say, ‘OK, here is what I can do to make the customer experience as meaningful as possible.’”
The students had suggestions for sprucing up the pro shop to give it “more of a wow factor” when people walk in your door of the clubhouse, Holloman said.
“They gave a lot of help on how to implement different membership incentives and different cost-raising measures when the time comes when rates have to increase a little,” he said. “They gave some great ideas on just kind of how to treat the customers better.”
The students will visit Rocky Mount on April 20, when Northgreen is having a kickoff celebration to the golf season, Wayne Holloman said. They will be giving clinics and helping out in other ways at the course, he said.
“We’re going to have all kinds of activities,” he said. “The driving range will be full of PGA students. They’ll have junior clinics, women’s clinics, and men’s clinics. We’re going to have a golf tourney out here that day, entertainment for children, bounce houses. A couple of the big golf representatives will be out here doing swing demos and letting people hit new equipment. We’ll have some food vendors, all kinds of prizes.”