Jerry Moore and Keith Pope both attended college on baseball scholarships, but golf is the sport where they made their business mark.
The entrepreneurs, further, hope to drive more success in the coming months at their firm, Sarasota-based Pope Golf. The company is a behind-the-scenes coordinator of everything golf for public, private and resort-based clubs and courses. That goes from management and marketing to concessions and maintenance. Most of its clients are in the Sarasota-Bradenton region, though Pope, the founder of the business, says the growth potential is geographically expansive.
“From Tampa to Naples there are a lot of opportunities for us,” says Pope. “If our clubs are successful, we will be successful.”
One key to that mission is Pope Golf's hyper detailed planning-focused strategy: Managers use an array of software and data to predict sales — based on tee times — down to the day and hour.
It helps, too, that the golf industry, crushed by the recession, is in the early rounds of a Gulf Coast comeback. Indeed, PGA PerformanceTrak reports course fee revenues for clubs in the region increased through the first nine months of 2012 over 2011.
Revenues at Pope Golf, meanwhile, are up about 100%, from less than $10 million in 2011 to more than $18.5 million in 2012, executives say. Those figures cover revenues at all courses under management, not the fees the company collects.
Pope Golf, with about 250 employees, currently manages 12 courses. There are 10 in the local area, one is in Ashville, N.C., and another one is in Jackson, Tenn. The company also recently signed an agreement to manage full golf course communities being built by national homebuilder Taylor Morrison in east Manatee County and Naples. That includes the homeowners' association and related components, like kayaking and a bicycle path.
“It's a lifestyle program,” says Moore, president at the company. “These people want the same amenities they get at a resort.”
Pope Golf has essentially two divisions, one for municipal courses, and one for private courses. While the day-to-day tasks differ for each niche, the pitch to clients is somewhat the same: Pope Golf, for a fee, says it will streamline, improve and make a golf course more efficient and profitable.
The key to doing that, says Pope, is the company's ability to plan, and predict, what each course's tee sheet will look like every day. A tee sheet, what Pope calls a “perishable item,” is a list of who's playing when on what course. It's also the company's core pricing guide, where fees go up or down depending on how busy the course is and many other factors.
Pope Golf course managers will study past years' tee sheets down to the day for trends. They will then use up to 15 years of past weather reports to plan out each day and price accordingly. “We train our managers to look ahead,” Pope says. “We want to forecast out, as opposed to react.”
Moore, a pitcher for his college baseball team, and Pope, a second baseman, bring a variety of golf industry experience to the company. Both have been in the golf course and resort business for nearly 30 years, and have worked everywhere from Hawaii to New Jersey. Pope, onetime director of operations in club management for Palm Beach Gardens-based Kitson & Partners, founded the company in 2004.
The recent growth has brought a set of new challenges. Those are primarily ones that deal with running a multi-tiered operation that ranges from restaurants and a clubhouse to human resources and course maintenance. “You are in six or seven kinds of businesses when you run a country club,” Moore says. “You have to have your foot on the gas all the time here.”