Local courses expect increase in rounds with Open at Erin Hills

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Owners and managers of local golf courses and driving ranges are optimistic about increases in business this year because of the US Open Championship being played on the nearby Erin Hills golf course in June.

The international sporting event is expected to attract 225,000 spectators, volunteers, event organizers, and golfers and their entourages, during the week of June 12 to 18.

More than 35,000 spectators are expected at the Washington County golf course during the final four days of the championship and an additional 12,000 to 15,000

people are expected to be involved in staging the event.

The United States Golf Association officials estimate the event will pump about $120 million into the southeastern Wisconsin economy.

But they acknowledge those economic calculations do not include anticipated additional income that will be earned by local golf courses and driving ranges because of the US Open being played on the 600-acre golf course in the town of Erin.

“Many fans, volunteers, corporate clients and guests coming from around the world to experience the US Open do have a tendency to take advantage of playing a round or two at some of the nearby courses,” according to Eric Steimer, manager of the US Open.

“Historically, when we’ve done followup with some of the local clubs, they will mention they saw an increase in demand during US Open week,” he added.

Owners and operators of local golf courses and driving ranges expect the US Open will pique the interest of both golfers and non-golfers, which will result in more playing time on the courses and driving ranges.

However, one local driving range owner expressed concern that business might be slower on the weekend of June 16-18 because so many local golfers will be at Erin Hills.

Andy Mireau, the teaching professional at the Fairways of Woodside golf course in the town of Lisbon, says anytime one of the four majors is played there is an increased interest in golf that translates into increased business.

“The television coverage of the majors causes golfers and even non-golfers to become more interested in the game and they want to go out and practice or play,” Mireau said.

Mireau says any potential reduction in play on the weekend of the final rounds of the championship will easily be offset by the additional business generated as a direct result of the US Open being played within about a 25-minute drive of Fairways of Woodside.

“Because we are one of the golf courses closest to where the US Open is being played, we have been getting calls from people oversees who are planning to attend the US Open but also want to play some golf while they are here,” he explained.

Some of the estimated 10,000 vendors, contractors, media members, USGA officials and others involved in operation of the championship are also going to play some golf on local courses, according Frank J. Romano.

“The event set up itself generates more local rounds by the sheer number of setup and take-down people at the venue. Most of these people are golfers and will drive more local rounds,” Romano said.

Romano, of Menomonee Falls, is the CEO of the Milwaukee Golf Company, which owns, or has interests in, about a half dozen local golf courses including the Silver Spring Golf Club in Menomonee Falls and the Blackstone Creek Golf Club in Germantown.

Romano agrees with Mireau that television coverage of the championship will contribute to more rounds of golf played locally.

“We believe the coverage will prompt local consumers to get out their golf hats and think about the game, which will trend more local rounds,” according to Romano.

Romano said some of his courses located within a 30-minute drive from Erin Hills are receiving inquiries from foreign visitors who will attend the open.

“Yesterday, I made arrangements for a small group from Toronto,” Romano added.

Pete Gilsinger owns or has interests in three driving ranges, including Swing Time in Germantown.

He says he experiences a slight increase in business – less than 25 percent – whenever a major golf event receives extensive television coverage.

However, this is the first time one of those major championships has been played at a venue that is within 35 minutes of all three of his driving ranges.

He wonders if his business might decline during the weekend, June 17-18, of the final round of the championship because of the number of local golfers who will attend the US Open.

USGA officials acknowledge that about 70 percent of ticketholders live will live within a few hours of Erin Hills.

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