Orion Management targets munis

For a small Midwestern management company, golf operations are akin to solving a riddle.

“Golf courses are like puzzles,” said Shane Gardner, a principal of Orion Management Solutions. “What works at one doesn’t always work at another. Every course has a different location, a different clientele and different wants and needs. Just because an approach has been good at 10 courses doesn’t mean it’s going to work at the 11th.”

Gardner has been solving golf-related puzzles since 2000, when he and Matt Roberts founded Leawood, Kan.-based Orion. Today the firm manages mainly municipal properties – three owned by the city of Kansas City, Mo., and others in Blue Springs, Mo., and Carrollton, Texas – along with one daily-fee track, Sycamore Ridge Golf Club in suburban Kansas City, Kan. It also has a pair of consulting agreements.

Orion didn’t set out to fill its portfolio with municipal properties, but Gardner now figures that his company’s best chance for growth lies in capitalizing on the area of golf operations that it knows best.

“We have a lot of municipal experience,” he noted. “We know how municipalities work.”

Gardner and Roberts are former collegiate golfers who went on to become PGA professionals. Their first jobs were with other course operators – Gardner spent seven years with Evergreen Alliance Golf Limited – and they joined forces to provide attentive, individualized services that they felt were sometimes lacking in courses run by national firms. They believe that golf management is fundamentally a relationship business, and they aim to provide their customers with high-quality experiences at affordable prices.

“We don’t use a cookie-cutter approach,” Gardner explained. “National companies have a recipe for how they like to run golf courses, and they try to fit every course into their system. We try to give personal attention to an owner.”

Orion doesn’t market itself aggressively – “We’re about the owner, not about us,” said Gardner – and it bids only on opportunities where it thinks it can truly add value. As for its immediate future, all of its existing contracts have three to six years of life in them, not counting possible extensions.


Orion Management Solutions properties

Adams Point Golf Club in Blue Springs, Mo. – 18 holes, municipal

Heart of America Golf Academy in Kansas City, Mo. – practice center, municipal

Indian Creek Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas – 36 holes, municipal

Minor Park Golf Course in Kansas City, Mo. – 18 holes, municipal

Swope Memorial Golf Course in Kansas City, Mo. – 18 holes, municipal

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