Skip to main content

While many big-league sports are based in nondescript New York skyscrapers, golf’s leaders are moving into modern offices to raise their profiles and consolidate growing staff

Open this photo in gallery:

The PGA Tour's new head office, shown in this rendering, is under construction in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and is expected to open in 2020.Handout

Spring means the beginning of golf season in northern parts, and for many players, it’s a fresh chance to change the way they approach their games to improve for the year ahead.

The golf-industry organizations that lead the sport throughout North America are feeling the same transformative spirit, too, but their change is to their office space, as they look to a more progressive and modern approach to promoting golf.

The PGA of America recently announced it’s relocating its head office into a new US$520-million, private-public facility in Frisco, Tex., while the PGA Tour is primed to move into a 187,000-square-foot headquarters in 2020 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Their pending changes of address follows the United States Golf Association’s move into a new corporate headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., two years ago.

The new golf offices aim to bring all their staff under one roof and into modern working environments. But they also serve as statements to the organizations’ brands, identities and ambitions, and may even serve as a catalyst for other development in their surrounding communities.

Not wanting to be left behind, and on the cusp of celebrating its 125th anniversary, Golf Canada is investigating a relocation because its current digs at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., are in jeopardy.

It’s a coincidence that the biggest organizations in the sport are all looking to the future of their office space – the sport as a whole is doing the same, attempting to attract new players at the grassroots while keeping the historical core of the game intact – but Darrell Crall, the chief operating officer of the PGA of America, says all the organizations have the same thing in common.

“We have a desire to operate at the highest level possible. We’re all in the pursuit of excellence,” says Mr. Crall, who describes the new PGA of America office as a “progressive centre of innovation,” which historically have not been words associated with the golf industry.

The PGA of America represents golf professionals who work at clubs and each year it stages the PGA Championship, one of pro golf’s four majors. (This year’s edition begins Thursday.) The organization has been in its current space in Florida since 1981 and the office was built to accommodate 70 to 80 people. The team outgrew the building and expanded into a second one. The PGA’s space, says Mr. Crall, was “tired” and two years ago the organization reached out to 212 cities across the United States to see what they could offer.

The shortlist of candidate cities included Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., (where its current office is), Charlotte, Atlanta, Phoenix and Frisco. The Texas city near Dallas, he says, stood out because of the vision of the city, its sports culture (its moniker is “Sports City USA”), and its central U.S. location – key for its 29,000 members.

On a 600-acre site in north Frisco, PGA of America will have a sprawling new campus that is to include a US$30-million, 100,000-square-foot global headquarters, plus a 45-hole golf facility, an Omni Hotel, retail space and conference centre. Other partners in the venture, including local government and private interests, are contributing the balance of the investment.

(The southern part of the city is anchored by the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys.)

“Frisco provided us the most clear pathway to elevate our brand,” says Mr. Crall. “The city has so much to offer. Their master plan, their commitment to business and sport specifically really lined up with us. This can-do attitude is attractive to any corporate relocation; it’s hard to ignore what they’ve done.”

But while the PGA of America is moving four states over, the PGA Tour is staying put – albeit expanding its operation.

The tour represents touring professionals and holds tournaments around the world on several circuits, including the top-level PGA Tour that’s seen on TV each week. The majority of its 1,100 employees are based in Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville, but are spread throughout 17 locations.

A new facility will be key in not only consolidating employees but also in attracting top talent from around the world, according to PGA Tour spokeswoman Kirsten Sabia, adding the new facility will allow the tour to be “more efficient in the way [it] communicates, collaborates, and operates as an organization.”

Site work was launched in June of 2018 while actual construction on the modern-style, three-storey building began this past January. Ms. Sabia, vice-president of integrated communications, says it was an easy decision for the PGA Tour to build its new global headquarters on land it has owned for more than 40 years.

Although the PGA Tour’s office is not a public building, golf as a whole is a key part of the surrounding community.

“Having the world-renowned PGA Tour headquartered here only serves to strengthen that bond,” says Melissa Glasgow, the director of economic development for St. Johns County, the jurisdiction south of Jacksonville that includes Ponte Vedra Beach, dozens of golf courses including famed TPC Sawgrass and St. Augustine, home of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“As the largest corporate headquarters in St. Johns County, the PGA Tour project represents an innovative public-private partnership that will generate extraordinary long-term benefits.”

St. Johns County has made an effort to inspire more commercial development, according to Jason Ryals, the executive director of real estate service Colliers International in Northeast Florida.

Mr. Ryals says the PGA Tour’s investment in its new headquarters could signify the county becoming a suburban part of the Jacksonville metropolitan area rather than just an isolated bedroom community.

A Colliers report in 2018 showed the county has been adding new homes at a pace of 3,000 to 4,000 a year recently – making the area a desirable place for retail growth. Sixty per cent of new retail construction in the Northeastern Florida region is happening in St. Johns County.

“As St. Johns County matures into a full-functioning market within the Northeast Florida region, I anticipate we will see widespread office development likely attracting more corporations such as the PGA Tour,” he says.

And while the golf’s governing bodies are bucking the trend of other major sports organizations in terms of where they’re headquartered – the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association are all located in nondescript towers in New York – and have included green space and an expansive campus in their head offices, they’re looking as well to the future with a new vision for an old sport.

“We want to be peak performers,” says Mr. Crall at the PGA of America, “and the environment in which we operate is a piece of that puzzle.”

Open this photo in gallery:

The PGA Tour hopes its new head office will attract top talent from around the world.

Interact with The Globe