Emery County Business Summit Part IV David Wilkey: promoting the Millsite golf course
At the recent Emery County Business Chamber Economic Summit the spotlight was on the Millsite Golf Course in Ferron and the recently completed back nine. With the 18 hole course more economic opportunities abound according to David Wilkey who was asked to speak on golf course promotion and development. He is the developer of the Sand Hollow golf course community near St. George. Jo Sansevero introduced Wilkey and his wife Lynn to those attending the summit. In the early development stages of the Millsite golf course back nine Wilkey visited the golf course at that time and worked with those interested in pursuing an 18 hole course.
Wilkey said promotion starts with a mind set, there are many out in the world today who forecast doom and gloom. He chooses to look on the bright side. People are surviving and they are still spending money. "Sometimes you're better off not listening," said Wilkey.
He said he scaled back his development at Sand Hollow when the crunch came, "But, we're still there. We're still promoting our golf course. We offer great service and the golf course is in great shape. Do what you need to do to keep this golf course in great shape. If the grounds keeper says we need fertilizer then get them fertilizer. Keep it green and beautiful. Give golfers a great experience." In the recession years at Sand Hollow, Wilkey said they would concentrate only on the golf course and let the real estate side rest for awhile. In those years rounds of golf played have been up 10 percent in 2009, 5 percent last year and up 5 percent this year. Last year there were 45,000 rounds of golf played.
"It's our surroundings and our uniqueness. The golf course is draped across the land, you shoot over gorges. You have that here at Millsite. You have beautiful views. I am impressed with this area. You have something special here," said Wilkey.
Wilkey told of a group of Asian tourists who were from the largest television shopping show. They hosted them and they attended a convention in Las Vegas and then came and stayed in Southern Utah. They took them golfing, to Zion's park and trap shooting and on an ATV ride all in one day and a rodeo that night. "How many things can you do here in one day? Incorporate all those opportunities into your promotional materials. Cater to tour groups. You are in close proximity to the Wasatch Front. Target people off of I-70. You have ATV riding here that can't be duplicated. You have world class fishing. You need to entertain the whole family. Teach golf lessons to the young people while their parents are golfing. The only thing you lack here is accommodations. You need to get creative. Get people talking about your golf course. Try things that are a little crazy. Look at those cliffs, dig out some caves, build accommodations in those caves. All over the world there are motels in caves. Subtropolis accommodations, these can attract people from all over the world. The trends these days are family oriented. The golf course gives you exercise and fresh air, but what are we missing? Get the family out, get golf lessons going. If people don't know how to play, then have a training facility and offer instruction. You need a bunny hill for golf for the young people.
"This is a great event (the summit), you need to get people out to the golf course, even people who don't play. Have events here at the golf course. Make it a convention center destination. Have dinners, have cook-outs on the golf course have a steak dinner, it doesn't matter, just get people out to the golf course.
"When we were starting Sand Hollow we had to convince the BLM it was a good idea, we worked with them. Get your course in the golf magazines. Word of mouth is some of the best advertising. You can hunt rabbits and then go golfing, it doesn't matter, just brainstorm think of activities and events and ways to get people out to your golf course, to golf and for other activities. We had a fundraiser golf tournament for Gov. Herbert and he told me it was one of the best weekends he'd had all year. They golfed and went to Tuachan and had a great time. On the national level we can't control much, but at the state level there are things we can do. There is great leadership in Utah. It's the healthiest state, the best managed state and it's one of the best places to start a business. Gov. Herbert is concerned about the state of Utah. The jobs are coming here. We have a quality workforce and a quality life, the people are flowing here," said Wilkey.
Wilkey told of visiting Millsite golf course after it first opened, the Leavitt brothers invited him to come and play with them. He loved it. Wilkey said the golf course needs to work on getting groups down here to discover the beauty and uniqueness of this golf course. He said one activity they might try is a giant slip and slide event on the course one day, to attract visitors with children. Create some energy and awareness. Try unique fun things to involve more people with the course. At Easter time you could turn loose Easter bunnies and the kids could find them and take them home, do something unusual out of the ordinary. Make people think, "Wow, what are those guys doing." Bring events in, down south we have a kite festival. Kevin Smith from Tuachan went and sat in Disney's offices until he got an interview, he asked them to bring Broadway to the desert. They thought it's just crazy enough it might work, so last year they brought Tarzan to Tuachan and this year they brought Little Mermaid and every performance has been sold out and they even extended the season as long as they dared. Try new ideas. Next year they are bringing in Aladdin. It brought in 2,000 people a night. Seventy percent of those people were from the outside area. You have an incredible asset here. Make sure you have a good high quality golf course. Sand Hollow was voted number one in its region.
Wilkey said he is proud to have an affiliation with Millsite and will do everything he can to help it be a success.