In the landmark sphere at Epcot Center at Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts, Orlando, the Golden Links Advisory Board, sponsored by the Meetings Group magazines, met at the Spaceship Earth Lounge to discuss trends in the golf industry as they relate to the meetings business.

Disney World hosted the session for the third straight year, welcoming attendees from the frozen north, where a winter storm hit the day before the January 28th meeting. This year’s panel of golf experts included many familiar faces and a few newcomers. In attendance were Walt Galanty, executive director, National Association of Golf Tournament Directors, Alexandria, Va.; Jo Ann Hoffman, president, MILO/The Golfe, Bethesda, Md.; Gary Pearson, director of meetings and conventions, AON Service Corp., Chicago; Robert Hatheway, president, RJH Associates, Windsor Locks, Conn; Frank Sablone, executive director, Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute, Naperville, Ill.; Nancy Berkley, president, Berkley Consulting, Livingston, N.J.; John Lehmann, president, Network Sports Marketing, Wellington, Fla.; Steven Jones, vice president, special events, Cendant Corp., Parsippany, N.J., and Kevin Harry, sales director, Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts, Orlando.

The purpose of the forum was to identify trends in golf, which has always been a popular meeting activity. Many of the ideas generated from the discussion are featured in Corporate Meetings & Incentives’ annual golf issue, coming in April.

This year’s big topic of discussion—explored in depth in the April issue—revolved around the fact that golf as a recreation option at meetings has been decreasing in popularity. While the golf boom of the 1990s introduced a lot of people to the sport, many of those who picked up the game are putting it back down. Panelists offered their views on why this has occurred and provided solutions for reintroducing people to the game. The April feature, entitled "Has Golf Lost Its Grip?", looks at the trend and suggests some alternatives to the traditional 18-hole event.

Following the two-hour Golden Links breakfast meeting, the group took in a demonstration by wheelchair-bound golf trick shot artist Dennis Walters. Walters, whose show was held at Disney’s Palm and Magnolia Driving Range, wowed fans with his uncanny ability to hit perfect drives with bizarre and inventive clubs, like one he made using a cell phone for a head. Oh yeah, and as a paraplegic, Walters does this while leaning against a golf cart. For more on the Dennis Walters Golf Show, go to www.denniswalter.com, or see the April issue of CMI.

Finally, the board members were treated to a round of golf at Disney’s Palm Golf Course, which plays host every year to the Funai Classic, a PGA Tour event won byVijay Singh in 2003.