Ohio golf course owner shows Christmas spirit and holiday savvy
What we all wouldn’t do to be able to find a way to extend our golf season into the off season. For innovators like Walter Miraglia, sometimes all it takes is a little creative thinking.
A savvy businessman but also a romantic at heart, Walt had a vision after purchasing Berkshire Hills Golf Course in Chesterland, Ohio, in 2015. He was already familiar with the business, having helped manage the facility before deciding to buy, but this realization didn’t come until he actually stepped on to the golf course as its new owner. In addition to being a great layout for his golfers, Walt saw that the Berkshire Hills’ property provided a perfect driving path for a Christmas lighting display.
If you’ve read posts like this in The Index before, you know that GolfNow specialists recommend that every golf course operator explore and consider any kind of programming throughout the year that can introduce their facilities to residents of their local communities – both golfers and non-golfers, alike. Doing this extends goodwill and also can be good for business.
Driving through the Berkshire Hills Christmas Light Park has become a popular family activity in Chesterland and surrounding areas.
Located 30 miles east of Cleveland, and exposed to the weather effects of Lake Erie, sometimes it doesn’t take much to turn the hamlet of Chesterland into a winter wonderland this time of year. Knowing this, Walt tapped into the expertise of his designer friend, Rod Nagy, to collaborate on a drive-through lighting display for his golf course like no other. The two men started drawing up plans and the Berkshire Hills Christmas Light Park – two years in the making – made its debut on Nov. 23.
“The drive through the golf course is absolutely perfect for this, there’s a surprise around every corner,” Walt said, referring to the 1.25-mile drive across his 240-acre course.
Admittedly, Walt’s motivation to create the park was not 100 percent financially driven, although he’s excited about the prospects for future business. “This was never about making money, but really about making people happy,” he said. “It may sound cliché but it’s really about bringing joy to others. I have a big family and the holidays are significant to us in many different ways, so I look at this passion project of mine as a gift.”
It costs $25 per car to drive through the display, but Walt says “there’s a $5 discount if you say ‘Merry Christmas.’” There’s also a charitable component, with the majority of the proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland, American Cancer Society, and the VALOR Retreat at Highrock, a free recreational facility in the Ohio hills that provides combat veterans a chance to reconnect with their families. The remainder of the proceeds help cover his overhead.
“I’m really surprised by the amount of support and coverage we’ve received,” Walt said. “This was supposed to be a labor of love, but the outpouring from the community is blowing me away. It’s humbling and I’m very appreciative.”
It’s not surprising that a project this big in a small community has attracted generous media attention. Walt is using the news coverage and leveraging social media to spread the word about his golf course.
“We also put a full-page ad on the back of the program, which offers an awesome deal for next year’s golf season,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.