Interview With Mr. David Downing II February 27, 2015

Interview With Mr. David Downing II

By Patrick O'Brien and Chris Hartwiger, USGA SE Region Agronomists

January 7, 2009


Mr. David Downing, II, CGCS and President of the GCSAA.
Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Dave Downing, CGCS, and current president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Mr. Downing has been a member of the GGCSA for 28 years and was elected as the 72 nd President on February 1, 2008 at the association's annual meeting in Orlando, FL.

Question: Please describe your current position with Signature Golf?

Answer: I became a partner in the company earlier this year and have the title of VP of Operations / Construction. I am responsible for all facets of the operations at three of our managed properties; Rivers Edge Golf Club, Belvedere Country Club and Woodland Valley Golf Course. I have also been doing some consulting and property evaluations.

Question: How have your years as a superintendent prepared you for this position?

Answer: I believe that having come from the golf course management side of the business has helped me tremendously, as well as the variety of work experiences I have had.

Question: What are a few ways the golf business has changed since you began your career?

Answer: Well, I think it was more about the game of golf when I first got started, not as much about the business. Now at every level we all have to be better business people. But I also think we need to get back and focus on the game. The new Golf 20/20 initiative of "Get Golf Ready" has the ability to get our focus back to the game. We need to grow the players and show the fun and time well spent playing the game. This will require a grass roots effort, but I think the business of golf and the economy as a whole are forcing all of golf to work together like never before, but each facility has to try and expand the player pool!

Question: The development of many resort and daily fee courses over the last ten years were highly leveraged to the housing industry. How are golf courses dealing with the unfavorable housing economy?

Answer: We need more golfers, that is the bottom line….or less facilities, which means lost jobs, etc. There have been a lot of bad business decisions made about building golf courses. This concentration on business will help golf in the long run for sure. Golf has been running pretty lean for the past 10 years and this tough economy will force more cutbacks. This may be good as well as we focus on playing conditions not lush green playing fields. Golfer's expectations may be able to be lowered as far as the aesthetics of a facility and get focused on enjoying the game. We also need to tell the story of what a community asset a golf course is. Issues like storm water management, positive carbon footprints, economic viability, green space, habitat, etc, are all reasons a golf course is an asset and not a liability!

Question: As your tenure as GCSAA president comes to an end, please share one or two of the highlights of the past year.

Answer: The partners at Signature Golf Group told me to enjoy my year as president. I was able to take my youngest son Alex to the Masters and PGA Championships and my oldest son joined me for the US Open. Jo and I were able to attend the Ryder Cup Gala and enjoyed the time together at Valhalla. So being able to share some of these really cool events with my family was huge! From more of a GCSAA perspective getting Mark Woodward hired and up to speed quickly has been pretty intense. We will begin meeting with the volunteer leaders of the other allied associations over the next year. This is something I wanted to get done and we will start it at our January 2009 meeting here in Myrtle Beach with the PGA officers. Finally, GCSAA has been working hard to build our relationships in and around golf. We are being very successful and now we need to translate that to the golfers so they realize how much we bring to their enjoyment of the game.

Question: In your distinguished career, you have seen the business as a superintendent at both private and resort courses, with construction experience, a management company executive, and an association president. What advice would you give someone just starting out in the business?

Answer: God has blessed me by allowing me to be involved in a profession and game that I am passionate about. If I had one word of advice it is to make sure you are passionate about whatever you decide to do. I cannot imagine doing this or anything else without loving it! When I have had the opportunity to speak to young people I encourage them to find their passion, then find a way to make a living at it….the cool part is in our country you can do it if you are willing to work at it and be persistent!

Source: Patrick O'Brien 770-229-8125 or and Chris Hartwiger 205-444-5079 or