SALT LAKE CITY — Golf is of growing importance to Utah's economy as well as the quality of life in the state.
That was one of the conclusions from the first annual Utah Golf Summit, which was held last week at the This is the Place Heritage Park.
Several speakers, including golf legend Billy Casper and representatives from the Utah Golf Association, the Utah Section PGA and Utah Sports Commission talked about the state of golf in Utah and its future.
"When it comes to golf promotion, it is no longer good enough to merely keep up," said Jeff Robbins, president of the Utah Sports Commission. "The golf industry has to continue to explore new strategies and opportunities to grow if it is to position itself ahead of the curve."
Robbins pointed out that Utah will be the "epicenter" of the golf world the second week of July when the U.S. Public Links Amateur Championship is played at Soldier Hollow at the same time the Nationwide Tour Utah Championship, Utah's only official PGA Tour event, is played at Willow Creek Country Club.
Both events will be covered by the Golf Channel, giving the state unprecedented exposure.
Utah has always been known for its skiing, which attracts skiers from all over the world every winter. However, the Utah Section PGA revealed statistics showing that there were actually more rounds of golf played in Utah last year — 3.9 million — compared to 3.8 million skier days. For the past five years, the golf rounds and skier days have been almost equal.
"The statistics on golf starts and participation along with total skier days is a great story about how Utah should be perceived to tourists as well as those that live here," said Scott Whittaker, executive director of the Utah Section PGA. "We truly are unique in the state's ability to have such a varied sporting landscape. Utah provides some of the most distinct and dynamic golf-and-ski in the same day opportunities anywhere in the world."
Casper was the keynote speaker just days after presenting Webb Simpson with the U.S. Open Championship trophy. He said Utah needs to push the diversity of its 116 courses, as well as the affordable pricing, some of the lowest in the country.
"No place in the country has such varied topography and locations as does Utah, and the average price for most courses makes it ideal for the golf tourist," Casper said.