Our Towns

Golf Packages Draw Visitors to Valley

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Jim Angelo, general manager of the Park Inn by Radisson in West Middlesex, Pa., points to the presence of a golf coordinator dedicated to sale of golf packages as evidence of their popularity.

“It’s significant that we have our own sales person doing just golf packages,” he remarks.

The hospitality property in Mercer County is one of several in the region that target the golf market with packages that include play at nearby courses.

The Mahoning County Convention & Visitors Bureau doesn’t specifically track such activity but does promote the packages in its advertising, says its executive director, Linda Macala. This includes regional issues of Golf Digest and AAA publications.

Based on responses at the travel shows she attended this year, Stephanie Sferra, executive director of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau, finds considerable interest in local courses, particularly among golfers from Canada and Pittsburgh.

“We get a lot of business from those two market areas,” she says. “We talk to people all the time and what they like about our courses – they’re beautiful, they’re competitive – but the cost of playing a round of golf is cheaper than in other areas.”

At the West Middlesex Park Inn, demand has increased steadily, Angelo says.

“You can call us with two rooms or 40 rooms and we’ll arrange your accommodations, your tee times – we’re a one-stop shop,” he remarks. “You pay us and we take care of everything else.”

While reluctant to say what percentage of his bookings result from the golf packages, he reports it’s significant.

“The vast majority of our packages are three rounds of golf, two-night stays,” he notes. “Many of our groups will play more than 18 holes a day. So courses offer what we call a replay rate.”

The packages include breakfast each day and cocktails in the evening. Golfers come from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo and Canada, although the exchange rate is hurting the Canadian business a bit.

Among the courses he books are Tam O’Shanter, Oak Tree County Club, and Avalon Holdings’ Avalon Lakes Golf Course in Howland, Squaw Creek Country Club in Vienna Township and Avalon at Buhl Park in Hermitage, Pa.

Golf is a big draw at the region’s newest hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott in Canfield.

“This year is very good. It’s going very well,” reports Katie Betts, director of sales at the hotel, which is part of the Westford Lifestyle Community. “We have quite a few weekends already filled up.”

Golf packages – the most popular is the two-night, two-round package – represent about 25% of bookings for the hotel, just off the Kennsington Golf Course. Courtyard books packages with other courses as well, most of them within 20 miles of the property but obviously many guests play Kenn-sington, she says.

“Definitely it helps to have the golf course right here. They can see it,” she says. “The Kennsington Grille is right here, too, and it’s only 30 steps away from our hotel.”

The Holiday Inn-Boardman, just south of where South Avenue and U.S. Route 224 meet, probably does the most golf-hotel packages of the hotels at the intersection, says Melissa Prystash, group rooms manager. Three courses lie within four miles of the hotel, another two within seven. “We’re very strategically located in the middle of all of these courses,” she points out.

The full-service hotel has relationships with “quite a few” nearby courses and offers packages with several properties, she says, including the Mill Creek north and south courses, Kennsington, Reserve Run, Knoll Run, Pine Lakes and Oak Tree courses. Most guests book a year out, and 95% of her golfers come from Pittsburgh, she says.

Demand for the packages isn’t as strong as four years ago, “only because it’s hard to get the younger groups into golf,” she says. “We have all these die-hard older groups and we’re not having the younger groups come in for a weekend.”

Cory Pagliarini, head golf professional at the three Avalon courses, also handles bookings for packages with the affiliated Avalon Inn and Resort in Howland, which Avalon Holdings acquired in 2014.

The most popular package is the Tri-Avalon Package, he says. The three-day package includes two nights in a luxury double-room with full breakfast each morning, a round of golf on each of the three Avalon courses and other amenities.

“Response has been tremendous,” he says. “It’s been as good as we can hope for.”

Pagliarini reports weekday activity is also strong.

“We’re as full as we are on the weekends,” he reports. “Word of mouth has really spread, especially in Pittsburgh and Cleveland – probably more Pittsburgh than Cleveland. It’s spread and people want to see it and experience it. We’ve had a lot of great reviews.”

Pine Lakes’ Penn Ohio Golf Trail in Hubbard books packages for 24 courses throughout the region, including in Salem Hills Golf & County Club in Salem and Links at Firestone Farms in Columbiana as well as Erie and Meadville, Pa. J.V. Ferrara, owner of Penn Ohio Golf Trail, also owns properties that include Pine Lakes Golf Club, Julia’s Bed & Breakfast, the Tod Mansion, The Chalet and The Pine Lakes Club.

“It’s very popular,” Ferrara says. The variety of courses “makes the region a great region to bring golfers.”

In addition, he works closely with retail establishments, wineries and sports venues. “So when you come, we give you a lot of reasons to stay,” he says.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.