Too good to be true – Family Golf Centers, Inc

You can’t talk about the 1990s and the golf course industry without talking about Family Golf Centers, Inc.In the roaring 1990s, a company that came out of nowhere went public and set out to become the world’s largest operator and owner. from “family entertainment facilities in the north”. America. The company was known as Family Golf Centers, Inc. and was marketed under the symbol “FGCI.” At its peak, Family Golf owned or operated more than 150 facilities. Its portfolio included golf courses, domed courses, pro shops, food service, miniature golf, and batting cages, as well as owning or operating several golf courses and more than thirty skating rinks.

Family Golf built quite a few facilities from scratch, but acquired most of its properties by purchasing from existing owners and operators. The typical deal was to offer the owner a substantial amount of cash, even more in shares in FGCI, and allow the owner to recoup an exorbitant lease on the property. Many ranch owners succumbed to these attractive offers. The effect on the industry was to raise prices for anyone else trying to enter the business. Publicly Family Golf’s revenue projections artificially inflated the expectations of anyone entering the industry.

For us folks in the golf course equipment business, we are all looking to capture that bronze ring of earning Family Golf exclusive supplier status. Many of us were able to do quite a bit of business with the company and they even paid us most of the time. Some of us were able to grow our business to new levels with the help of Family Golf. We all did our best to reach out to the decision makers of the company. What many of us saw early on was a total lack of focus on running the facility. There was this always upbeat positive public image of the company and then there was a totally disorganized operating part of the company, always frantic and never quite achieving its objectives. An example of this frenzied operation was the construction of an outdoor shooting range and dome facility in western New York State. The dome installation had a projected opening date, the project manager was promised a ridiculous bonus for opening the installation on time and on budget. To save time and money, he forced artificial grass installers to lay the grass on a poorly prepared base with no drainage. The result was that the dome was opened on time, FGCI got its press release, and the manager got his bonus. That spring, the artificial grass was swimming in the drain because the base was not prepared. Loss of revenue, expensive repairs, and no one takes responsibility.

At the end of the best decade of golf in history, all that was left of Family Golf Centers, Inc. were broken facilities, class action lawsuits, a bankruptcy sale of proportions never seen before in the golf industry and thousands of people lost money. Multi-million dollar facilities sold for less than fifty thousand dollars.

Family Golf Centers typified the greed and excesses of the nineties. He benefited from the intensity of the golf business, optimistic investors wanting to own a piece of golf, and the availability of cash in the nineties. Let’s hope for the sake of this industry that we never repeat this debacle again.