By JOHN REITMAN
Perception might be reality, but in golf there are some things you just can’t fake.
“This place is a gem of a golf course. You can tip it out to 7,200 yards, and if it’s windy, it’s one of the most difficult tests of golf you can find within a two-hour radius,” said Joe Klein, the new managing partner of Red Hawk Run Golf Course east of Findlay.
“We have a tournament-ready golf course that can host any number of events, including local tournaments and larger events, like the Ohio Golf Association or USGA. It is ready for that kind of thing. But the course also needs some TLC and some equipment upgrades. Course conditions are a big deal.”
The former director of clubhouse operations at Findlay Country Club, Klein took over day-to-day operations of Red Hawk when business partner Nick Reinhart bought the 20-year-old property last month from Cook Golf.
Golfers might not notice too many immediate changes, but there is no questioning that Red Hawk is in a state of transition.
Along with upgrading playing conditions, the new ownership group hopes to improve the overall golfer experience — from the moment customers enter the parking lot, on the golf course and in the clubhouse.
“We have to figure out what we can do to differentiate ourselves from other golf course, besides pull into the parking lot, put your clubs on a cart and go play,” Klein said.
“We have to evaluate what those experiences are going to be. You can’t beat the scenery and the layout of the golf course. Now, we have to get where everyone leaves here with a positive impression of this place. We have to create that personal touch, so people feel that and feel better about coming back the next time.”
The new ownership group sees Red Hawk in the mid- to upper-daily fee slot in the market, mostly because of the quality of the layout designed in 1998 by Toledo golf course architect Arthur Hills, and a dearth of other area courses in that price point.
“In this market, there is a niche for this kind of golf course,” Klein said.
“Nothing really exists in that $40 to $50 range, and that’s where we want to be. We want the quality and the conditions to demand those types of fees. We know there is some work involved to get there. When you can situate yourself in a part of the market that has not been captured, that’s a good thing. We just have to figure out how to get there.”
In the meantime, Red Hawk has implemented Range Happy Hour on its practice range in hopes of attracting new business and showing the public what the property has to offer. For $12, each customer receives a bucket of golf balls and two beers.
“We want to lighten the mood and get people to come out here,” Klein said.
“The upside of this place is huge, but it’s not something that is going to happen overnight.”
Red Hawk’s new team also operates Broken Birdie Golf Club, formerly Wayside Golf Course, east of Findlay on State Road 568.
Golfers who purchase a membership at Red Hawk will automatically receive membership at Broken Birdie. The course will supplement play at Red Hawk and can serve as a home for youth tournaments, Klein said.
“If you don’t have time to play at Red Hawk, you can get around there in an hour-and-a-half,” Klein said.
Klein brings several years of experience in the golf industry to Red Hawk.
Prior to his most recent position at Findlay Country Club, Klein, a native of Defiance, was an assistant club professional and later general manager at the Back Nine Club, a par-58 layout in Lakeville, Massachusetts.
Besides the golf course, Red Hawk’s greatest asset, he said, is its staff.
“We have a great staff. They all know what needs to be improved and what was lacking from the previous owners,” he said. “We have to get them excited about the changes that are coming, and hopefully that will translate down among the golfers.”
John Reitman is director of news and education for TurfNet, an Orlando, Florida-based online news and source for the golf industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.