NORTHFIELD - The Greater Atlantic City Golf Association is tired of seeing golfers bypass its courses in favor of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Ocean City, Md.
Armed with $250,000 from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the support of the state, the newly reorganized GACGA is trying to turn South Jersey into a top-notch golf destination.
"The (GACGA) has a great product and they made that clear to us," CRDA executive director John Palmieri said Wednesday during a news conference at Atlantic City Country Club. "We have a great casino sector here, but we need to grow the non-casino sector. We're very excited."
Having a bigger and stronger organization will help the effort.
Several local golf courses previously considered the other properties as rivals. At one time, the GACGA featured only nine members and did not have much clout in the golf industry. As the result of a reorganization meeting May 10, it now includes 18 courses in Atlantic, Cape May, Gloucester, Ocean and Salem counties, as well as Atlantic City Golf Vacations and the GACGA's website, GolfAC.com.
"It's true that the different courses do compete," said Blue Heron Pines owner Ron Jaworski, who also was named the GACGA's Ambassador of Golf on Wednesday. "We compete to be the very best we can. That being said, we have to have our arms around each other and work together to help grow the game and help make this the greatest golf community not only in the region but in the country."
The first step is to promote the area's golf courses so that they prevent golfers and vacationers from taking trips to places such as Myrtle Beach and Ocean City, Md.
The GACGA will use the CRDA's $250,000 to develop a marketing campaign that touts its courses, as well as the restaurants, hotels, casinos and other amenities that distinguish the Atlantic City area from some other vacation destinations.
Sullivan, who is general manager of McCullough's Emerald Links in Egg Harbor Township, said displays already have been placed at Atlantic City International and Ocean City, Md., airports and there are billboards in Myrtle Beach. More advertising in planned for Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and television. The GACGA also will have a presence at golf trade shows in Boston, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia and is redesigning its website, GolfAC.com.
"We've actually had people from North Jersey and New York coming to our airport (Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township) to fly to another golf destination," said GACGA president Tom Sullivan, general manager of McCullough's Emerald Links. "We want those people to look at Atlantic City as a premier golf destination.
"Ocean City, Md., has 17 courses and we have 18. Combine that with our beaches, boardwalks, restaurants and casinos and we feel like we have much more to offer than Ocean City and Myrtle Beach."
Besides the CRDA, the local golf industry has received support from state agencies such as the Department of Travel and Tourism and the Sports and Exposition Authority. Their involvment stems from Gov. Chris Christie's bid to revitalize Atlantic City's tourism industry.
The main goal is to increase the impact of golf and resort tourism in the Atlantic City region. They initially will target golfers who live 50 to 400 miles from Atlantic City, but eventually plan to expand into Canada.
Sullivan also said that the Atlantic City World Golf Open amateur tournament, which was first held in 2011, will return in October 2013.
Atlantic City always has lagged far behind Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas and Ocean City in terms of golf's economic impact. In 2010, Atlantic City generated $7 million from golf compared to $660 million by Myrtle Beach, $46 million by Ocean City and $401 million by Las Vegas. A.C. also trailed the Gulf Coast of Mississippi's $25 million.
"This has been my second-best week on the job," Wayne Hasenbalg, president and CEO of the Sports and Exposition Authority, said Wednesday. "The first was seeing the (New York) Giants win the Super Bowl and their parade.
"People perceive us as a North Jersey organization, but I see golf as an opportunity to see what we can do in the Atlantic City region. To Ocean City, Md., I say, 'Game on!' "
Contact David Weinberg:
Members of the Greater Atlantic City Golf Association
Atlantic City Country Club
Ballamor Golf Club
Blue Heron Pines Golf Club
Cape May National Golf Club
Harbor Pines Golf Club
Mays Landing Golf and Country Club
McCullough's Emerald Golf Links
Running Deer Golf Club
Sand Barrens Golf Club
Scotland Run, Golf Club
Sea Oaks Golf Club
Shore Gate Golf Club
Stockton Seaview Golf Resort
The Links at Brigantine Beach
Twisted Dune Golf Club
Vinyard Golf at Renault Winery
Wildwood Country Club
Hamilton Trails Golf Club
Atlantic City Golf Vacations