Former NFL star Ron Jaworski is now taking snaps in the golf industry
Even the NFL’s most casual observers have seen or heard the name Ron Jaworski at some point. The former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and current insider for ESPN has dedicated most of his life to the league as a player and analyst, and his unique style and perspective has helped make him a key figurehead in the sport. But you might not know that he’s also an avid golfer, and currently owns seven courses throughout the Northeast. He recently sat down with Golf Business to dish on his business, the sport’s future and what he’s doing to help change the game.
GB: What is it about the game of golf that drew you into the business?
Ron Jaworski: It’s kind of funny. When I was playing football, Tuesday was our day off. And that was my day to golf. I mean, outside of summer and non-football season, but I looked forward to Tuesday because I’d play golf and just get away from the fans, the media and clear my head. It was that ability to just get away, enjoy nature and enjoy the
game. I loved that part of it. And the camaraderie, you know? I played with my teammates, I played with some coaches and that part I really liked. We got to know each other because we played golf together.
GB: Owning a course and being an NFL quarterback: How are they alike?
RJ: You compete. Through the years, I’ve owned and operated 25 golf courses. Twenty-five years of my life was playing the game of football. You compete every single week. In the NFL, you compete every single week for your job. So when I got in the golf business, those lessons I learned from being a professional athlete carried over. My staff competes. We know it’s a very tough business, so we’re not afraid to compete. We accept the challenge.
GB: The NFL’s really changed over the years. Players like Cam Newton are questioning the theory of the typical drop-back passer, while the Tampa 2 defense has gone out of style. With that in mind, how have golf courses evolved?
RJ: You have to adapt every single year, and if you don’t you’re going to be out of business. [The industry was] building the golf courses way too hard. They were building them way too long and they were eliminating the fringe player. The game has to be player-friendly for everybody. We hear so much about loss of play, and I disagree with that. I can only go by my golf course, the seven golf courses that I own and operate now. Our play’s been going up 1 or 2 percent every year, and the only time there’s a drop it’s weather-related. I think we’re pretty consistent in what we do as a management company and the only decline I see is either a bad winter or a rainy weekend.
GB: You’re also in the arena football business with the Philadelphia Soul. Have you learned any lessons in that role that you’ve applied to your golf courses?
RJ: The Philadelphia Soul were the world champions in arena football league last year and two out of the last three years. What it comes down to is people. Any way you look at it, you’ve got to have talent. Have I made mistakes in hiring people? Sure. We all have; it’s human nature. But I take direct responsibility for the people we bring on board; particularly in management positions and dealing with the public. And the same thing holds true in golf as in building a football team in arena football. Those concepts are still the same: quality people willing to work hard and sacrifice to be successful.
GB: You’re known for your unique NFL analysis and eye for detail. How has that helped you in running a golf course?
RJ: I still remember in 1987, with the NFL players’ strike that year, I was on the tractor, F-10, cutting grass at Eagles’ Nest Country Club, and all the media comes out and they were shocked. But I can’t ask guys to do a job that I haven’t done or at least don’t understand. I don’t want to be that guy, you know? Other people might be executives, but I’m a hands-on guy. My family’s hands-on with what we do. So those nuances of attention to detail are more important to me. People see three or four hours of Tom Brady playing great football. What they don’t see are the six other days of Tom Brady busting his butt to be successful, committing himself to excellence in preparation. Tom Brady’s won five Super Bowls and he still works as hard as anyone in the building. So those are the things I learn from being around achievers that want to be the very best. It’s no secret.
GB: Is there anything we didn’t ask you that you would like to add?
RJ: I’m tired of hearing all the negativity about the game of golf and its future. I think the people in the financial world have this negative stigma about the game. ‘It’s declining. It’s in recession.’ That’s a bunch of garbage. Now maybe there are some, but you know there are restaurants that fail, too. There are business parks that fail. That’s just normal business. We just finished up 2016. My seven golf courses all operated at a profit. And it’s not a fluke year. It’s been that way. So if you manage right, you move play, your price points are right, all those things, you could be successful in this business. There are a lot of guys in this business who are doing very well. They’re doing it the right way.
Watch the first half of this two-part video interview with Ron Jaworski online now at www.golfbusiness.com.