A Tour of Shingle Creek

Last week, I attended the annual conference for the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA).  It’s held every year sometime in February and is the perfect way to get energized for the upcoming year.  There are golf course owners from all different walks of life.  There are people who are like me.  Family owned and operated.  There are others who are managed, either a single course or multiple courses.  Some people have 18 holes while others manage courses with 27 or maybe even 36 holes.  There are private clubs as well as large management firms like Troon Golf or Billy Casper Golf.  As you can see, there are many perspectives that all come together to better the golf industry.

For me, the highlight of the conference is the tour.  In previous years, I have learned more from the tour than any other class I attended.  It’s so interesting to get to hear from the managers that are in place and actually see what they are doing to improve the golf industry.

This year’s course that we toured was Shingle Creek located in Orlando, Florida.  Shingle Creek is a resort golf course whose green fees are about three to four times more expensive than ours.  It’s fun for me to get to see a different way of doing things.  I don’t think I’ll use their tips on valet service, although, it was fun to listen to their system and I definitely have a huge appreciation for what they’re able to accomplish.   Shingle Creek is owned by Mr. Harris Rosen.  When we first arrived to the golf course, we were greeted with a pretty dense fog.

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I didn’t mind one bit.  After being stuck in Iowa all winter, it felt great to be able to see someone mowing greens and smelling freshly cut grass!

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We were treated to a great breakfast.  I had to take a picture of the cantaloupe turned into a flower for my mom.

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It was a beautiful set up near the driving range for breakfast.  Bus loads of golfers for the day as well as attendees of the tour helped themselves to the food and coffee.

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After breakfast, we headed over to the driving range.  For the golf course tour, there are many golf related businesses that are set up.  Here’s a shot of a company called Birdie Ball.  They have golf balls that are shaped like napkin rings.  It is designed for beginners.  Golfers use their own clubs, but hit the birdie balls off of a special mat and aim them at targets.  Check out these fun targets!

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Once we made our way over to the driving range tee, we had the honor of listening to Mr. Harris Rosen tell his story and business philosophy.

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This gentlemen was an incredibly impressive person on all accounts.  Philanthropist, businessman, family man, motivator.  You name it.  He’s done it and he’s done it well.  He came from humble beginnings on the lower east side of Manhattan.  His parents were immigrants from Russia.  They preached to him the importance of education.  He went on to earn a degree in hotel management while his brother became a doctor.  He told the audience that he was living the American dream.  When he got out of the Army, he had the honor of working and helping to start up the hotels of Walt Disney World in Orlando.  After working there for three years, he was called into the office.  He thought he would be getting a raise.  His boss told him that he was doing a great job and they were very pleased with all of his efforts.  Then, Mr. Rosen heard that one word.  But.   That’s right.  He was released from Walt Disney World.  This just goes to show you, that no matter what gets thrown your way, you always pick yourself up and try again.

Shortly after that, he purchased his first hotel on International Drive.  His company now owns seven hotels on International Drive in Orlando and basically dominates the conference and convention business.  The most amazing part of his story is that he doesn’t have one ounce of debt.  His grandparents always taught him to never take out a loan, so he never has.  He always saves his money before he makes a purchase.  The audience applauded this incredible feat.  Mr. Rosen went on to explain how he has provided a medical center for his nearly 4,000 employees.  He donated ground and built a school for underprivileged students as well as a college for hotel management.  His healthcare model that he has provided for his employees has been examined by many large corporations including our government (obviously they didn’t pay much attention).  It was just truly remarkable to listen to all of the great things he has accomplished as well as what he has given back to the city of Orlando.

After listening to the ins and outs of how the Rosen Properties work, we separated into groups to tour the resort.  Here’s a shot of the hotel portion of the resort.  It has 1,501 rooms and attaches to the clubhouse.

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By the time Mr. Rosen was done talking, the fog had lifted and the sun was shining.  Our tour group began with the maintenance facility.

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His superintendent, Ricky, was a class act.  He was organized and appreciative of his staff.  Part of Mr. Rosen’s philosophy is keeping everyone healthy on staff.  That means everyone begins their day with exercises.  Mr. Rosen explained that athletes stretch before they begin working, so why shouldn’t we?  The outside crew lifts heavy pieces of equipment, the housekeepers lift hundreds of beds to change linens, so he has a company wide policy that the day begins with stretches.

After the tour of the maintenance, it was time to break for lunch.  Shingle Creek is a feeder to the Florida Everglades.  Because of this, Mr. Rosen used a book titled A Land Remembered as the theme to the resort.  This story talks about what it was like in this area of the country back in the 1800’s.  Guests will notice that down home theme throughout the resort.  We were treated to a banjo player during lunch.

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Following along the health theme, the Rosen Resorts also do their best to provide healthy food for their guests.  Each hotel has a garden where the chefs gather herbs and foods.  The lunch was delicious!  They had turkey sandwiches and two different salad options.  This was an antipasto salad.

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In keeping with the down home back in the 1800’s theme, they also had a hillbilly golfer on hand.  He had a golf bag with only three clubs in it.  Part of his act included reading a bunch of goofy golfing rules.

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My absolute favorite part of the lunch were these real life copper golf posers.  These people were absolutely AMAZING to watch.

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They kept changing poses.

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They would stop and hold the pose before moving yet again.

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It was yet another reason why I want to live in Florida!  Easy access to theatrical makeup artists!  I haven’t broken it to my brother yet, but I think I’m going to experiment with some copper spray paint on him.  Do you think he’ll go for it?

One more shot because they’re so cool.

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Because I can’t help myself.  Here’s a video of them moving.

Seriously!  How cool is that!!!!

After lunch, we were treated to a tour of their golf shop.  I had to chuckle when I saw their huge supply of winter gear.  It was 86 degrees outside.  Did I mention that I was here on the day we had the terrible snow storm in Iowa?

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It’s always fun to see how other people display their merchandise.

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They had their merchandiser speak with our group and offered tips.  It’s always amazing to me how you have to analyze how the mind thinks when displaying products.  Certain colors should be grouped together and displayed in a manner which the eye naturally follows.  It’s truly an art form.

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Unlike previous years’ tours, we weren’t able to go into the kitchen to see the prep work taking place.  They simply had too many events taking place.  We were treated to a pass through of their restaurant named  A Land Remembered.

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When we walked outside the doors to the restaurant, we were greeted by a magnificent view!

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Here’s a shot of the clubhouse!

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We were treated to a presentation by the starters and valet service at Shingle Creek.  It was fun to see so many people who were very passionate about their jobs and serving others.  It was clearly evident that Mr. Rosen’s desire for service and healthy living had made an impact on every staff member.

I loved this sign.

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Our last stop was at the driving range where we were taught about a new sport that has recently been introduced to the United States.  The first Foot Golf course in the United States was at Otto’s course in California called River Ridge Golf Club.  Otto talked to us about the American Foot Golf League (AFGL).  The concept of Foot Golf was introduced in Europe in the 2000’s and Otto loved it.  He brought it to the United States and it has been growing ever since.

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Otto is the General Manager of River Ridge and he’s full of energy and great ideas!  Here he demonstrated the idea behind foot golf.  Basically, all of the same golf rules apply, but Foot Golfers use their feet (hence the name, duh) and a soccer ball.

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The course puts a 21 inch cup in the rough and you try to kick it into the cup.

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Shingle Creek even had a small foot golf course set up where people could go check it out and maybe play a couple of holes!

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Otto uses the layout of his golf course and puts the 21 inch cups in the rough.  He explained that one of his par 5’s would be three holes in foot golf.  The whole concept seems pretty cool to me and has a lot of potential.  The best part about it is that it takes half of the time that regular golf takes, so you can play 18 holes in two hours, plus get some great exercise.

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Our final stop of the day was a social gathering where attendees could mix and mingle with one another and talk about all they had learned from the day.

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The evening wouldn’t be complete without a Lochness Monster on stilts, right?

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Shingle Creek also provided a down home country band to entertain their guests.

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Of course, here’s the food display shot that I had to take for my mom.

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When the servers came up to ask me if I’d like a crab cake, I declined their offer.  I’m more of a meat and potatoes kind of girl, but I did request a picture.

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They also had shrimp that was wrapped with potatoes.

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I’ve been blessed to be able to attend this conference on five separate occasions and have learned something every time.   Two years ago, Theresa and I attended the conference in Las Vegas where we toured Angel Park Golf Club.  Last year, my parents as well as Jason and Theresa toured a golf course just outside of San Diego called Maderas.  Every year, we have returned with many great ideas and ways to improve our business.  This year, I took our superintendent, Ron (he’s in the bright blue shirt), along for the ride.  He has been injured for most of the season last year, so this tour was a good way to get him excited about the upcoming golf season!

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There you have it!  A Tour of Shingle Creek.  If you ever go to Orlando, I recommend you take a peek.  They have mastered the art of customer service.  Personally, I’d like to extend my appreciation to Mr. Rosen and his staff for allowing nearly 300 golf course owners and operators to tour his facility.

Post by Allison

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