Requiem for a Golf Course

by Fred Altvater | B9R Lessons

The Golf economy today is a mixed bag, while some areas of the golf business are very strong, other parts are suffering.

Part of the reason is that young people do not seem to be taking to the game as the older generation did. With the variety of activities available to the X and Y Generations, other sports seem to be more attractive
A slow walk around a golf course can’t compete with mountain biking or zip-lines.

Check any public golf course green fee sheet from 15 years ago and the odds are that the cost for a 9-hole or 18-hole round was higher than it is today. Cost incurred by a golf course for fuel, seed, fertilizer and labor have increased, not decreased.

On the other hand, the PGA of America is flush with cash from its Ryder Cup and other income producing activities. The PGA Tour is flooded with Fortune 500 Companies lining up to pay in excess of $6 million to sponsor a tour event. The total purses on the PGA Tour this season will top $285 million for the regular season, plus another $65 million will be divided up for the FedEx Cup bonus pool and the four playoff tournaments. The USGA will begin its new contract with Fox that doles out over $1 billion over the next 12 years.

Meanwhile, Calloway Golf has not made a profit in five years and lost $19 million last year. Local golf retailers and golf clubs are realizing a decline in league play as well as fewer walk up green fees.

Every industry experiences business cycles and local golf owners have not fully recovered from the economic recession of 2007-2009. Too many golf courses were built with a declining population interested in playing golf.

One of the golf courses I enjoyed playing as a young man has announced it will not open its doors in 2015, after 51 years serving golfers in their small community. A difficult decision for sure, but one based on the economics of the times.

I was playing that course on a warm July, Sunday morning in 1977, when the Assistant Pro came out to the 13th hole to convey the message that my wife had summoned me home to take her to the hospital for the birth of our first child.

Although I will never be able to enjoy a round of golf at that course in the future, I will have the wonderful memories of searching for pars and playing with Tanker, Donny, Hawk, Patch and the rest of the hacks at Hickory Grove.

Support your local golf course and pro shop. They need it.

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