Middle Bay CC after Hurricane Sandy destroyed it
Closures Outweigh Openings - AGAIN
By Torleif Sorenson on 1/17/14
The National Golf Foundation does an excellent job of keeping up with golf statistics in the United States. In addition to analyzing the business end of the game and trends among U.S. golfers, they also keep track of the number of course openings and closings each year.

Unfortunately, for the eighth consecutive year, the number of golf courses that closed far outweighed the number of courses that opened. Some previous speculation (including that of oobgolf.com co-founder Andrew) centered around expensive private courses and stiff membership fees. But with the continuing economic recession (and current government policies making things even worse), it is clear that public-access golfers have been suffering more than members of private clubs.

Using 18-hole layouts as a whole course and a 9-hole layout as 0.5 courses, the NGF says that in 2013, only 14 courses opened, 8.5 of which were public-access courses. Another 5.5 private layouts debuted, most notably Tom Doak's second layout at Dismal River in Nebraska and Gary Player's new course at The Cliffs at Mountain Park. The general public is most decidedly not welcome at either of those two courses.

Conversely, 96% the 157.5 courses that closed in 2013 were public-access courses. 144.5 were listed as "daily fee" facilities, while the other seven were municipal courses. Only six private courses closed their doors in 2013.

And even then, Middle Bay Country Club, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy (see image above), has returned under new ownership as South Bay Country Club.

In their article, the NGF says that the reduction is "a gradual, natural market correction of the existing imbalance of supply and demand." Since 2006, this "market correction" has resulted in the net loss of 643 courses — a 4% drop from the "peak supply year" of 2005. They also note that between 1986 and 2005, the golf market in the United States soared by over 40%, with at least 4,500 new courses constructed and opened.

The NGF says we should expect this trend to continue, with an annual net reduction of between 130 and 160 courses over the next few years.

At least the new courses that are opening lately tend to be better-quality designs that are likely to be attractive not just to us serious enthusiasts (Mike Keiser's Sand Valley in Wisconsin being a prime example), but also the kind of courses that will be welcoming to beginners and kids — Tom Watson's Mozingo Lake Junior Course in Maryville, Missouri being a fine example.

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Images via WCBS-TV, Wikipedia

[ comments ]
GBogey says:
This trend is going to continue for several more years: 1: demographics - there are fewer people in the 40-70/75 age bracket who play the most golf - fewer people means fewer golfer and fewer rounds; 2: in a time pressed society, the amount of time it takes to play will continue to drive away less dedicated golfers; the core will continue to play, but the casual golfers will decline.
joe jones says:
During the boom years of golf course construction the business was driven by land development companies. Owners paid huge fees to designers to build monster facilities with instructions to build them the most difficult course possible. When the bloom turned into a recession people no longer had the discretionary funds that allowed them to pay high green fees at these facilities.During that same time span operation costs sky rocketed. Many operators found that the land had more value as low cost housing sites. Easy loans for home owners compounded the problem. Golf became a business that didn't offer a good return on investment. Thus a reduction of new course development.
CeeBee says:
What you both say makes sense. Tiger Woods came along in '96 and by '97 golf blew up. Who ever heard of Butch, Pelz or Ledbetter before this. In the D.C. area alone there must be 80-100 courses built in the late 90's thru today. When I took up the game in my mid 40's it seemed like I was the only one that hadn't played this confounded game. Those that got me into it have dropped off and no longer play. My group of half dozen hard core guys has dwindled down to 2 that play regularly. The guys in our league only play 9 per week for several months and hang it up. Won't play between October and April. They never get better. You and I both know if you don't seem to improve it becomes NO fun.

I know of a few courses around me that have gone belly up for whatever reason. One thing I have noticed is even on Golfnow many courses are still too expensive. I myself am not interested in the '19th' hole, banquet rooms, fancy clubhouses. The things that buck up the overall price. Only interested in the golf.
SpaceMaNy0 says:
I agree that time is a big issue with golf anymore. Sadly the slow play epidemic that came with super television saturation isn't waning. With a cart taking you 200 yds in 10 seconds as opposed to the minute and a half to walk that far, golf should be going faster, right? Not when Joe Duffer has to GPS laser every shot to the pin, switch clubs 3 times, then hit his approach from 154 (gotta be exact with that GPS) 72 yds forward and 20 to the right.

I think courses should try outlawing GPS or rangefinders. I can stand in the fairway (or usually rough), see the 150 stick and judge it close enough. 152 to 154 doesn't matter to anyone who hits less than 1,000 golf balls a day.
H Head says:
GR8 post CeeBee ... The end especially. Years back some friends of mine asked me to play a course I never heard of in Central Florida....when I pulled into the parking lot, I looked at the "clubhouse" and wanted to leave, ( it was as big as a 1500 sq ft ranch home) because I thought the course would be pretty bad. Well...I couldn't have been more WRONG...the course was beautiful....rolling, wooded landscapes through natural wilderness, and phenomenal greens. A great layout also. I asked the guy behind the counter when the round was over if they planned to build a real clubhouse...he said "Hell no"...we put all of the money into the course where the golfers want it !!! We just keep it simple here. Oh yea...it was a whopping 20 bucks to play !!! If more courses looked at it this way, they would have survived.
GBogey says:
There's a course near me that's not near as cheap, but when you pull up for the first time and see the time parking lot and double wide clubhouse, you wonder, but the course is kept in quite good condition. I don't like the layout, but I've never avoided it (or any course) for the clubhouse.
Beekeeper45 says:
Its all about cost.
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