[caption id="attachment_232960" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The Delaware parks division has selected Troon to take over management of Deerfield Golf Club, seen here, along with Garrisons Lake Golf Course. | DBT PHOTO BY JEN & KATIE PHOTOGRAPHY[/caption]
NEWARK – Troon, the international golf club management company, has won the state’s next long-term contract to manage Deerfield Golf Club near Newark and Garrisons Lake Golf Club in Smyrna.It marks the first change in management of the state-owned golf clubs in more than a decade, after locally ownedForewinds Hospitalityhas long managed both.Headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., Troon is the world’s largest golf and golf-related hospitality management company providing services at more than 680 locations around the globe. It has an extensive presence in Delaware, where it manages nine other courses from Greenville to Selbyville.“We are thrilled about this new partnership with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and we’re very much looking forward to the future of Deerfield Golf Club and Garrisons Lake Golf Club,” Troon Vice President of Operations Justin Smith said in a statement. “As we move toward assuming management operations in 2024, we expect a seamless transition for employees, golfers, guests, pass holders and friends of Deerfield and Garrisons Lake.”While the new management contract is not finalized, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), which manages the courses under its Division of Parks and Recreation, has proposed that it begin Jan. 1 and run for 15 years, with the option of a 10-year extension held by the state.The contract includes both golf courses and their facilities, the golf pro shops, banquet rooms, bars, restaurants and conference facilities as well as Rankin House, a four-bedroom historic house located at Deerfield. Only Troon and Forewinds bid on the state contract, according to Ray Bivens, the state parks director who doesn’t weigh in on the bids. DNREC hired golf industry management and consulting firm Morningstar Golf to develop and coordinate the RFP process. About 80% of the bid scoring was related to quality of services, while the remainder compared proposed payments, Bivens noted.Unlike other states that operate all state-owned facilities with in-house staff, Delaware contracts out operations for assets like golf courses.“Our model really seeks to find the best at what they do and try to recruit them to be our partner in all the different aspects of a facility. That allows us to focus on our core business of maintenance, park rangers and public education,” Bivens explained.In the end, Troon’s breadth of experience and larger network, producing purchasing power, marketing opportunities and other economies of scale, helped to boost its bid, Bivens said. It also bid a larger annual operating fee than Forewinds, starting at $250,000 a year and escalating to $350,000 by the end of the contract along with a percentage of its gross receipts.Those funds are put into an enterprise fund that supports capital improvements at the properties, and the state is preparing to build a new clubhouse at Garrisons Lake and improve cart paths there as well.
[caption id="attachment_232961" align="alignright" width="300"] Deerfield Golf Club hosts many weddings and events, including this year's Delaware Business Times CEO of the Year banquet. | DBT PHOTO BY JEN & KATIE PHOTOGRAPHY[/caption]
With Deerfield being one of the most popular wedding and event venues in northern Delaware, Bivens said Troon would honor any contract previously signed with Forewinds, heading off any potential issues. He added that the new operator has been impressed by the staff at the facilities and aims to retain as much as possible.“Forewinds have been a great partner. They've done a great job and I hope that a lot of them are still going to be part of the Deerfield and Garrisons Lake story as we move forward,” Bivens said.In a message to golf course patrons, Forewinds Director of Hospitality Operations Jeff Robinson said he hoped Troon would retain the staff.“Our current managers and staff members should be very proud of the way they have conducted themselves during the past months of extended, unnecessary uncertainty. Since the beginning of this bid process, each of them did a wonderful job of putting the customer first, and not allowing the unknown outcome of the contract renewal to impact our primary mission of delivering great golf, dining and special event experiences. I am hopeful that this wonderful team will be retained by the future management company, Troon, who will now operate most of the golf courses in northern New Castle County. Each of these managers is a talented hospitality professional that has given a significant portion of their lives and careers in service to our guests over many seasons. It was the honor of my career to work beside them,” he wrote.Robinson also noted that the operations remain strong at both properties amid a resurgence of interest in golf following the pandemic and the PGA Tour event last year.“Deerfield has enjoyed record success over the past three years, coming out of the pandemic stronger and busier than ever. Garrisons Lake is on the precipice of a renaissance, with new buildings and expanded offerings finally about to be fully realized. Each has become very important and well-loved destinations for golfers, clients and guests,” he wrote.It’s not yet clear how the loss of the state contract will affect Forewinds, the company founded by Dale Okonow that also manages the Jonathan’s Landing Golf Course in Magnolia. The company managed Deerfield for 18 years and Garrisons Lake for the last 12 and has previously managed courses in New York and Connecticut.Editor's note: Morningstar Golf developed the RFP for the contract, but did not assist in the scoring the bids.