Kevin Baker boasts more than 30 years in the golf industry, starting off in North Dakota where he worked at top municipals throughout the state. He moved to Florida in 1998 joining the team at PGA National Golf Resort. From there, he has spent time at Palm Coast Golf Resort and as Director of Golf at Ocean Hammock overseeing their six courses. He relocated to Orlando in 2002 joining Reunion Resort where he’s been ever since.
The Baker Story
I always wanted to be in the golf business. My first, and favourite, job was the driving range picker at the Fargo Country Club. I loved everything about golf from the game itself to the business of running a club. I soaked up knowledge like a sponge and played as often as my high school and college schedules would allow. Upon graduation, I moved to Florida to test out the competitive golf life but quickly learned it was not where my passion lay.
My work at PGA National Golf Club (home of the PGA of America) opened many doors for me to meet outstanding golf professionals and providing a wealth of learning opportunities. My path to club management started there.
You wake up in the morning – what is the driving passion?
To create memorable guest experiences and to strive to always be the best.
What critical lessons do you believe golf facilities learned following The Great Recession in ‘09?
You have to adapt to the changing consumer. Figuring out ways to say “yes” to the guest while facing financial and other constraints.
How healthy is the overall Orlando golf market? Is there too much golf availability chasing far fewer players than 10-20 years ago?
Orlando is booming and seeing growth over the past few years, in part due to course closures. Golf memberships have flattened due to declining interest. People are spending their disposable income on other things. Clubs are starting to add additional amenities to spark the “Club” feel and attract both the “lost” market as well as new folks.
Is there a difference in the approaches followed by Baby Boomers versus Millennials and how is Reunion shaping efforts to appeal to both?
Baby Boomers, I would say are more conventional in their approach to playing golf. For example, they will spend half a day to play golf and have lunch. Millennials are looking at similar experiences, but in a shorter amount of time. We offer 9 hole playing opportunities, and recently just added Footgolf, which will help gain interest in golf, especially for families.
The facility has recently completed an updating of what you provide on the golf front - how much of a difference do you see that having with the high season coming up now?
We just recently renovated all green side bunkers on all three courses. As most of our players are repeat guests, we are certain they will be thrilled with the fresh new changes.
Customer service is routinely touted by those at all types of golf facilities. Define the term and the approach pursued by you and all involved at Reunion?
Provide an exceptional hospitality experience in a gracious but unpretentious way. The goal is to “Wow” the guest at every opportunity.
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally - what would it be and why?
The amount of time it takes to play a round of golf. Too many other activities are going on in the world and time is precious. Shorter, easier golf courses need to be re-conceptualised, allowing 2-3 hour experiences, including food.
The major golf organisations - USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA - are all seeking ways to attract Millennials, women and minorities to the game. If you were counselling them what would you advise they be doing?
I think that many people are under the impression that golf is a solitary sport. To lure new players and potential club members I suggest holding one day seminars, to attract the beginner. This could include complimentary lessons, golf etiquette, or expectations of the whole process of getting onto the course. Following that, get them hooked into a weekly league where they can socialise prior to their rounds and get the feel for the camaraderie.
Biggest challenges facing Reunion - short and long term is what?
Short term – figuring out new ways to get homeowners purchasing in Reunion to get involved with the club. Long term is to figure out a way to keep the programming fresh so the club members want to enjoy Reunion for years.
Best advice you ever received - what was it and who from?
Past golf pro I worked with: “Don’t worry about something you can’t change.” And from my father: “Be the best at whatever you’re doing.”
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