Golf Williamsburg drops executive director Mitchell

Golf Williamsburg, a promotional arm for golf in the historic Virginia city, has eliminated its executive director position, leaving David B. Mitchell without a job.

The decision, several golf directors of different courses in the area said, was made because Mitchell's salary couldn't be justified.

"David is a very good guy, but I think the expense of having the offices of an executive director doesn't generate the volume of rounds," said one director of golf, who didn't want to be identified.

Golf Williamsburg acting president Glenn Byrnes didn't return phone calls for comment on the decision.

Mitchell said he supported the idea, and said several recent projects, as well as the loss of state grants, made the expense of his position untenable.

Mitchell said three financial factors were involved in the elimination of his position: the loss of grant monies from the state, a $1 million advertising campaign the group has embarked on and costs associated with the 400th anniversary of Jamestown-Williamsburg in 2007.

"We want to maximize our ability to capitalize on those two events, particularly the advertising," Mitchell said. "Therefore, we're going to shuttle every dollar we can get our hands on into those promotions. They were competing with the costs of staffing Golf Williamsburg."

The advertising will be mainly television commercials, focused on the area from New England to the North Carolina coast, and will last until August.

"For a small town like Williamsburg, that is a monumental amount of advertising," Mitchell said.

The 400th anniversary celebration will include the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown in southeast Virginia.

Williamsburg is one of the more popular destinations on the East Coast, mainly because of its historical significance: it has arguably more pre-Revolutionary architecture than any other area on the Coast.

But, golf has come to play an important role in the area's tourism economy as well. A recent study by the area's Chamber of Commerce showed that the area's 13 courses played an important part in the decision of the 3.5 million visitors to the area.

"The word ‘golf' golf goes through an awful lot of people minds as they consider a trip to Williamsburg," Mitchell said.

There has been some criticism of Golf Williamsburg's decision to partner with golf packagers such as Go Golf, which charge a yearly cooperative advertising fee. Golfers who book through the packagers must subsequently sometimes pay surcharges at some area courses. Mitchell defended the decision.

"We needed somebody who was in the booking business, somebody whose first line of business was not seeding greens or running tournaments and so forth, but was in fact in the booking business," he said. "We went into business with them to the extent they fulfilled our demands. About two years ago, we went out to try and find other wholesalers. Some of those other outfits have warmed to our product and the way we do business, others have not. But, we now have six wholesalers who sell our product and that number will increase."

Mitchell started as a consultant for Golf Williamsburg, later agreeing to commute from Richmond as the full-time executive director.

"I'm happy I did because I think we've had very good success in a pretty difficult golf environment, I would think from all that I've read," said Mitchell.

Mitchell also said he would stay in the travel and tourism business, though not necessarily in golf. He said he is currently considering offers from at least two companies.

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