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Way Beyond the Buddy Trip

There are statistics behind this new emphasis on attracting families and second-home buyers. According to the National Golf Foundation, which collects data for the industry, the number of male "core golfers"—men who play at least eight rounds a year—has been declining since 2001. Resorts that depended on groups of men coming in to play thirty-six holes a day over a long weekend—the classic buddy trip—have felt the impact. "The buddy trip is dwindling," says Tim Greenwell, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Troon Golf, which operates courses at a number of American resorts. "The percentage of Generation X men that plays golf is lower than the baby boom generation." As a result, resorts must reach out to golfers who have been classified as "occasional players." Women and children fall disproportionately into this category.

Fundamental changes in values and lifestyle lie behind the changing statistics. "The parents of the baby boomers are people who spent all their time making money," says Mike Kelly, a senior executive at Reynolds Plantation. "The baby boom generation spends all its money making time."

One of the things both boomers and Generation Xers most want to make time for is family. "People want to do things together when they have some free time, not just take turns looking after the kids," says Diana Permar, a Charleston, South Carolina, real estate consultant who advises Reynolds Plantation. That's why resort marketing departments are sure to highlight the hiking trails, the boating and fishing, and the area's points of historical interest. It's why empty-nesters are buying homes with four or more bedrooms: They'll pay for the extra space and the nongolf amenities to have a place where multiple generations can reunite and do things together.

Golf may be one of the activities that a family can enjoy in these places, but it's not the only one. "The range of options [offered by a resort] has to be really broad,"Permar says. "Wellness and fitness will be very important."

Indeed, the line between health spa and golf resort is blurring. This year Miraval, the very luxe spa in Catalina, Arizona, began offering four- and five-day programs for golfers, led by Extraordinary Golf guru Fred Shoemaker. Guests can spend a few hours each day at a nearby course learning to think of the hole, rather than the ball, as their target. Then they can partake in seminars on nutrition or exercise in the spa's Life in Balance program. "Golf teaches mindfulness, being in the moment," says Harley Mayersohn, the spa's vice president of branding and marketing. Programs like Life in Balance can also induce men to join their wives at the spa. Just as the golf segment wants to attract more women, spas want to attract more men—or families.

Some major resorts are even edging into the medical services field. For years, the Greenbrier has run an executive clinic that offers clients a chance to combine a thorough physical exam with several days of golf. The WellMax Clinic at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California, offers guests a variety of diagnostic tests, from measuring hormone levels and "oxidative stress" to ultrasound imaging of major organs and blood vessels, as well as nutritional and physical fitness evaluations. And the Cliffs Communities in the Carolina mountains has broken ground on a new "wellness resort." When it opens in the spring of 2008, it will offer guests a Tom Fazio golf course plus a clinic that will feel more like a spa. Physicians there will offer diagnostic physicals, and the staff will include nutritionists, exercise therapists, cognitive psychologists and a chef who will demonstrate healthy cooking. "It's about changing behavior, and it will be geared toward families," says Richard Hayduk, vice president of hospitality at the Cliffs. "We think baby boomers are concerned not just about their own health but about their grandkids' health."

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