Startup hopes to find niche with golf travel packages: Former players emphasize ability to customize trips

April 4, 2005

Two men with a gift for golf hope their success at the game will give them an edge as they tee off on a new business venture.

Brian Pearce, 26, and Nate Stout, 23, have launched ReadyGolf Getaways, an upstart venture that puts together customized travel packages to courses throughout the country.

Pearce and Stout plan to capture a market they think is underserved.

While duffers can search the Internet with ease to locate myriad travel packages to golfing destinations around the globe, the pair said many options are fraught with restrictions that offer little flexibility.

The packages may only be valid for certain times of the year, for instance, and might include pricey frills too expensive for some travelers. For those brave enough to arrange their own itinerary, Pearce and Stout want to take the burden from the unlucky hacker who otherwise gets stuck planning his group's escapade.

"The nature of the vacation should be up to the consumer," Stout said. "That's where the industry is neglecting the market."

The two are targeting professionals who enjoy an occasional trip in which they can mix business with pleasure at a warmweather course. Retaining clients who make annual treks will be key to building the business, they said.

Tim Greenwell, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Troon Golf in Scottsdale, Ariz., which manages 140 courses around the world, including The Sagamore Club in Noblesville, said the golf-travel industry is booming. Troon Golf Vacations, which arranges trips to Troon courses, will generate $15 million in revenue this year, Greenwell said.

While many offerings available are prepackaged, customized options are becoming more prevalent as courses look to lure more golfers, Greenwell said. A glut of course construction during the past decade has led to more supply than demand.

"There's not a destination golf market where you can't get your customized or pre-packaged golf vacation arranged these days," Greenwell said.

The interest in golf vacations spans abroad, too. Atlanta-based PerryGolf specializes in arranging trips to Scotland to play legendary courses such as St. Andrews.

Pearce and Stout founded their company in January and are beginning to market the service-they plan to distribute promotional materials to central Indiana courses-with hopes of attracting golfers by the time temperatures begin to drop. Pearce and Stout are relying on their passion for the sport to propel them as entrepreneurs.

The two Tipton natives played on their high school golf team and are graduates of the Golf Academy of the South in Orlando, Fla., a division of the San Diego Golf Academy. To be accepted, students cannot have a handicap of more than six.

Pearce earned a scholarship to play golf at Butler University, where he graduated in 2002. The Carmel resident enrolled in the academy's two-year program to learn about the business and teaching aspects of the game. He was the assistant course pro at Victoria National Golf Club near Evansville and now is an account executive for Cobalt Publishing LLC, a division of Louisville-based Cobalt Ventures LLC.

He's also enrolled in the Professional Golf Association's apprentice program and needs to take a few more courses before he can become certified by the PGA.

Stout, who resides in Tipton, is completing his bachelor's degree in marketing from Indiana University and is set to begin a job later this month as a sales representative for California-based golf equipment maker Callaway Golf Co.

The two expect to earn a commission of about 15 percent on each booking. Costs will depend on the destination, how many rounds are played and other variables. They said their familiarity with courses in central Florida should be an attribute.
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