don’t have to pay for my mistakes.”
He found a partner in Tom Walsh,
who applied the concept to courses he
owned in Sioux Falls, S.D. His story
is similar — only on steroids, jokes
Walsh got stuck with a golf course.
He had co-signed a note for it with a
doctor friend, who then went bankrupt. Walsh had two choices: Cut a
serious check or try and make the golf
He chose the latter. Soon after taking over, he heard about Farrant’s
He started GreatLife Malaska Golf
& Fitness Club in January 2014 and
now has nearly 20 golf courses participating — three of which he owns
— and eight fitness centers, with more
As with Farrant’s model, the membership prices are incredibly low and
offer unlimited golf and fitness. He
already has 14,000 members.
“It’s beyond anything we imagined,”
The company’s mission is to help
people live happy, healthy, balanced
lives, he said.
“I get people thanking me every
day,” he said.
And it’s great for golfers, he noted.
Two of the biggest obstacles for today’s
players are time and money. This solves
both. A golfer can play five holes and
leave and not feel guilty, because he’s
not throwing money away.
“Or they can play 36,” he said.
Chairman and CEO of Billy Casper
In big companies, innovation comes from
the top down. If your leaders aren’t about
innovation, chances are your organization
is not about innovation. Look at Kodak,
whose leaders failed to see the digital age
coming. Which brings us to Peter Hill,
chairman and CEO of Billy Casper Golf,
the nation’s largest owner-operator of golf
courses and country clubs.
He’s all about innovation. He embraces
it. He encourages it.
“It’s necessary,” he said. “If not, we’d still
be driving Model Ts; we’d still be using
Windows 1.0. But we’re not.”
Check this out: At Billy Casper Golf, you
will find Casper Labs, a think tank and test-
ing stage for new innovations.
Golf? And a think tank????!!!! Aren’t
think tanks devoted to public policy and
hemispheric affairs and collaborative
Yes golf, even though it’s rooted in tradition, needs innovation — just like anything
else, Hill said. Everything from how golfers
interact with each other to how they pay
for their time on the course is evolving, he
“I think it’s healthy. It’s not a threat to tra-
ditional golf. It’s a compliment.”
Hill leads by example. You can’t proclaim
an edict for innovation and expect people
to follow, he said.
“You have to have people buy in,” he said.
“You have to convince them it’s important,
that you need to do so to remain competi-
By doing so, you create a “bunch of
ambassadors,” who then take the mes-
sage to their people, he said. It spreads. It
becomes part of the organization’s culture.
That certainly appears to be the case with
Billy Casper, which has used its courses as
testing grounds for FootGolf, a soccer-style game played on golf courses, and
GolfBoard, a skateboard/golf cart hybrid.
Kaanapali Golf Courses in Hawaii, which
BCG operates, added FootGolf in mid-June.
The company also started a program,
Woman on Course, a networking system
aimed at bringing more women to golf.
More than 2,000 golf and non-golf events
attracted nearly 20,000 women in 2014.
Hill conceived The World’s Largest Golf
Outing, an event played at more than
150 courses nationwide to benefit the
Wounded Warrior Project. Since 2011, it’s
raised more than $2 million.
In May, Hill received the Talkhouse
Award for Community Service from the
Wounded Warrior Project for the fundraising event.
No big surprise: That’s the innovation
he’s most proud of.