On episode 23 of the On The Green Podcast, I sat down for a fascinating conversation with David Reese, President of Florida’s First Coast of Golf. This incredible 501c6 organization was formed by tourist boards, lodging properties, and golf courses to highlight and market Northeast Florida as a top golf destination for golf enthusiasts and tourists around the world. Read on to learn more about the intersection of golf and tourism, or listen to the podcast episode above to hear the full conversation.

In Florida, tourism is a big deal – it’s the number one industry in the entire state. David has been leading the efforts at Florida’s First Coast of Golf to help market Northeast Florida as a golf destination for almost three decades, specifically in the areas that his organization covers: Amelia Island, Jacksonville and The Beaches, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, Clay County and Palm Coast & The Flagler Beaches. He and his team work on everything from social media marketing to public relations to focus on a very specific type of traveler: the golf tourist.

Recently, Florida’s First Coast of Golf was awarded Visit Florida’s Henry Award for Best Tourism Website as well as North America’s Golf Destination of the Year – two prestigious accolades that speak volumes of the work that David and his team do. “To be recognized as one of the best cooperatives in the state of Florida – a tourism rich state – that’s quite an accomplishment that our group has made,” said David.

When it comes to navigating the game during the pandemic, it’s been easy for David to stay optimistic. Although Florida saw devastating losses due to lack of travel in 2020, golf has done very well despite tourism taking a hit. One thing he notes in the podcast episode is there was a 14% increase in total golf rounds played nationally in 2020 over 2019 and an 18% increase in rounds of golf played in the eastern region of Florida alone.

These numbers are impressive on their own, but in March and April, there were over 20 million rounds of golf lost compared to years past due to the nationwide lockdown. It’s easy to see that golfers quickly made up for lost time on the course, and tourism professionals across the country are hopeful for similar trends when it comes to travel.

On the podcast episode, David goes into great detail about Florida’s First Coast of Golf’s economic impact, expanding into the international market, and even the tourism industry’s recent support from Florida’s government officials. Listen to the full episode above, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.