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Golf Channel To Tee Off Academies Next Spring

Continuing to expand beyond the linear network, the Golf Channel brand will play through instructional outlets at public courses, clubs and resorts, starting in spring 2015.

Unlike many of its other extensions that digitally enable golfers to set up their tee times, score their rounds and track their balls in the fairway or rough along the course, the 80-million subscriber channel’s latest initiative is a brick-and-mortar gambit in which it will hang its shingle alongside the instructional skills of some of the nation’s top club pros.

The  strategy calls for Golf Channel Academy (rendering, pictured) to tee off with a minimum of 20 charter locations in 15 states and one in Ontario, Canada, next spring, as the new season gets into full swing. In the meantime, Golf Channel Academy is looking to further build its base of elite instructors from the ranks of PGA of America and LPGA teaching professionals.

The credentials of its current crop include 11 of Golf Magazine top 100 teachers, a dozen of Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers in State” for 2013-14, seven books, and the current LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals National president. Among the notables: Martin Hall, Ibis Golf & CC, West Palm Beach, Fla., who also hosts School of Golf on the network and the 2008 PGA of America teacher of the year;  Dana Rader, Dana Rader Golf School, Charlotte, who is the national president of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional management; and Jeff Ritter, Poppy Hills Golf Course, Pebble Beach, Calif.

“Golf Channel Academy is another way we’re looking to enhance our position beyond the traditional network experience,” said Golf Channel president Mike McCarley.  “We want to continue to build deeper, richer relationships with our viewers and get more people playing the game.”

McCarley said that the network has augmented its audience ties with such lifestyle businesses as Golf, a review website by golfers for golfers that launched earlier this year, and Golf Now, a tee time booking venture, as well as its instructional Golf Channel Academy, GolfLive Extra streaming and Golf Channel apps.

“Five million viewers have downloaded our apps,” he said, adding that Golf Channel Amateur Tour, now encompassing 800 events nationally since its launch in 2006, also puts the network on the ground with players and watchers.

Golf Channel Academy coaches will benefit from business consulting services and products addressing marketing, sales, technology and back-office solutions needs, as well as shared best-practices across the network.

Coaches also will have the opportunity to appear on instructional programming across Golf Channel's television and digital platforms. Additionally, golfers enrolled at Golf Channel Academy locations will be able to track progress alongside their coach using advanced software to measure specific goals.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Although the support won’t begin until the new season draws nigh, McCarley said the Golf Channel Academy outlets will benefit from on-air and digital promotion.

Live tournaments and news fare notwithstanding, instructional programming, including Golf Channel Academy,  remains a key and highly rated component of the network’s lineup with a presence in early prime on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, totaling some 400 hours annually.

Moreover, McCarley said instructional programming is among the most popular of its on-demand offerings and Golf Channel is in conversations to provide additional genre VOD fare to affiliates.

Golf Channel, which has worked with NBCU parent Comcast in hosting some golf events, is also looking to broaden its ties to distributors with more tourneys, outings and now instructional opportunities. “We want to start working with affiliates,” he said.

McCarley said Golf Channel has been talking about opening instructional units for years, but “this format iteration came to fruition over the past 18 months.”  It stems from a collaborative idea between Golf Academy CEO Todd Wilson, who developed a "brand-within-a-brand" strategy during his tenure as NASCAR CEO, and Golf Academy president Scott Novell. 

Golf Channel Academy also will tap the acumen of executive vice president Lorin Anderson, founder and president of Proponent Group, a golf instructor membership-based organization that is now part of the foundation of Golf Channel Academy.

Inaugural group of Golf Channel Academy Coaches

  • Henry Brunton, Henry Brunton Golf, Maple, Ontario, Canada
  • Dom DiJulia, Dom DiJulia School of Golf, New Hope, PA
  • Chuck Evans, Chuck Evans Golf, Kansas City, MO
  • Jeff Fisher, Fisher Bryan Golf Academy, Mesa, AZ
  • Martin Hall, Ibis Golf & CC, West Palm Beach, FL
  • Virgil Herring, Westhaven GC, Franklin, TN
  • Dave Kendall, Kendall Academy of Golf, Ypsilanti, MI
  • Charlie King, Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, GA
  • Rick Krebs, Waverly Woods GC, Marriottsville, MD
  • Rod Lidenberg, Halla Greens GolfCourse and Training Center, Chanhassen, MN
  • Anders Mattson, Saratoga National GC, Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Kenny Nairn, Celebration GC, Celebration, FL
  • Rob Noel, Rob Noel Golf Academy, Abita Springs, LA
  • Chris O’Connell, The Plane Truth, The Courses at Watters Creek, Plano, TX
  • Chad Phillips, Blue Giraffe Golf Institute, Tucker, GA
  • Kip Puterbaugh, Aviara Golf Academy, Carlsbad, CA
  • Dana Rader, Dana Rader Golf School, Charlotte, NC
  • Jeff Ritter, Poppy Hills Golf Course, Pebble Beach, CA
  • Jon Sinclair, Sinclair’s Golf Training Center, Euless, TX
  • Kellie Stenzel, Palm Beach Par 3, Palm Beach, FL
  • Trent Wearner, Trent Wearner Golf Academy, Englewood, CO