Chip Gist, a member of the PGA, said he launched the Austin Golf Trail as an answer to a basic economic problem.
“In our market there is more supply for golf than there is demand,” he said. “To respond to this problem, most courses lower their rates at certain times [of the year]to attract more local golfers.”
Dissatisfied with the general model of the local golf industry, Gist and business partner Jason Ashley created Austin Golf Trail to entice golf enthusiasts throughout the country to vacation in Austin, a city that was not yet on the map of golfing destinations, Gist said.
“There are 100 million people in this country going on a golf trip every year and spending the night away from home,” Gist said. “These golfers are eating, drinking and shopping—and Austin was not pursuing any of that business.”
Gist served western Travis County as the general manager and golf director at Southwest Austin’s Grey Rock Golf Club and has served in various capacities at Barton Creek Resort & Spa.
Austin Golf Trail, which Gist and Ashley launched in 2012, offers a golf-themed concierge service to vacationers. The typical Austin Golf Trail client is a male golfer setting up a “buddy trip” for a group of friends, Gist said. However, the business also creates golf experiences for couples getaways, ladies’ weekends and conventioneers.
Depending on the needs and wants of the client, Gist said he and Ashley may arrange tee times, coordinate transportation, hire caddies, book restaurants and hotels, and even suggest entertainment and shopping options.
“We’re in the hospitality business,” Gist said. “Golf is our hook, but we’re selling the Austin experience.”
Customers often ask Gist to extend his concierge know-how to other golfing locations, he said.
“They’ll tell me, ‘Hey, that [Austin trip] was great. Can you send us [elsewhere]?’” he said. “So now I’ve booked trips to Cabo San Lucas, Palm Springs and the Bahamas.”
Because its clients are spending money at golf courses, hotels, restaurants and stores—in addition to renting cars, hiring vans and paying caddies—Austin Golf Trail has a positive impact on the local economy, Gist said.
The company books clients at more than 25 golf courses in the Austin area, he said. The business is a boon to many local clubs, which typically have inventory to spare, he said.
“We bring a good clientele paying a good rate [to local vendors],” he said.