08:56 PM CDT on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 By DAVE LEVINTHAL / The Dallas Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org
A popular area pastime isn't as popular as it used to be: In 2007, the number of nine-hole golf rounds played at Dallas municipal golf courses declined by 6.5 percent from the year before, Dallas City Hall statistics indicate.
"Golf has kind of been on the decline nationally," Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said.
In fact, Dallas recorded fewer nine-hole golf rounds in 2007 (479,398), than it did in 2004 (494,848), 2005 (481,566) or 2006 (512,036).
Monday, December 08, 2008 Golf In Trouble? MSNBC Contributor David Sweet says the housing market’s collapse is hampering development of new golf courses. Further, as the economy worsens, the golf industry is in trouble.
According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), the number of new courses expected to open in the United States in 2008 is the smallest in 20 years. More courses are scheduled to close this year (nearly 100) than the 80 expected to open, though the closures have fallen since almost 150 were shut down two years ago. The golf construction boom of the 1990s – when about 2,500 new courses (mostly daily fee ones) were added to the 13,000 or so already extant in the U.S. – is not only over; it’s stuck in reverse.
The problems of the broad economy are bedeviling golf course construction. The housing market’s collapse has hampered development, since a number of golf projects these days are tied into on-site housing. Getting financing to build a new course is tougher than it has been in decades. Projects that were started this year have seen the bulldozers turned off until better times appear.
Consider Rick Jacobson, a golf course architect in Libertyville, Ill. For nearly two decades, the founder of Jacobson Golf Course Design designed and renovated courses in Chicago suburbs, such as Bloomingdale and Winnetka, as well as nationally. But in the last few years, Jacobson – who has worked with Jack Nicklaus on a number of projects – has focused on a new market: China.
Last month, Jacobson agreed to design a 27-hole course in Hong Kong. It’s his third venture in China, following the 36-hole Lion’s Lake Resort course near Guangzhou and Chaozhou, an 18-hole resort course.
”In the foreseeable future we won't see growth like the 1990s in the U.S. again,” said Jacobson, who also agreed to design a course in the Italian province of Calabria this year. “Some of the projects were ill-conceived. Some courses were just a temporary fad until they could flip it to a developer."
When it comes to those sports whose purpose is to attract public participation, it’s hard to match golf for the scope and expanse of what needs to be created. Bowling? Buy a couple of acres of land and construct 10 lanes with a bar nearby. Tennis? Two hard courts take up as much space as a suburban backyard; upkeep is minimal.
But building a golf course in the United States is a process that takes years. Finding 200 acres of suitable land near a reasonable population center is just the start. Attracting money and securing permits is another time-consuming venture.
Jacobson shakes his head at some of the public hearings he’s endured in the U.S.
"One landowner said he didn't want a golf course because golfers are known to smoke cigars. He didn't want cigar smoke in his house,” Jacobson recalled. “One said with drivers, the decibel of hitting the ball exceeded the sound range allowable.”
But in 2008, golf is in decline by many measures. Rounds are down, as is the sale of equipment. On the pro tour, television ratings fell once Tiger Woods left the scene with a damaged knee after the U.S. Open at San Diego’s Torrey Pines.
Though municipal courses are taking the brunt of the downturn (except perhaps Torrey Pines, which enjoyed $8 million in renovations before the Open), private courses are not immune to the pain. Take the case of Ravisloe Country Club in Homewood, Ill. After 107 years as a well-respected course, the 6,300-yard Donald Ross original was reported to have been put up for sale this fall with a price tag of $4.95 million. It is said only a few dozen members are left.
All in all, the golf course business was once as breathtaking as the ocean holes at Pebble Beach. These days, unfortunately, it’s looking more like Rodney Dangerfield’s wardrobe in “Caddyshack.”
Things are going to get much worse for GOLFSMITH! ----- More Americans Are Giving Up Golf
By PAUL VITELLO Published: February 21, 2008 HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. — The men gathered in a new golf clubhouse here a couple of weeks ago circled the problem from every angle, like caddies lining up a shot out of the rough.
“We have to change our mentality,” said Richard Rocchio, a public relations consultant.
“The problem is time,” offered Walter Hurney, a real estate developer. “There just isn’t enough time. Men won’t spend a whole day away from their family anymore.”
The total number of people who play has declined or remained flat each year since 2000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million, according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.
More troubling to golf boosters, the number of people who play 25 times a year or more fell to 4.6 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000, a loss of about a third.
The industry now counts its core players as those who golf eight or more times a year. That number, too, has fallen, but more slowly: to 15 million in 2006 from 17.7 million in 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation.
The disappearance of golfers over the past several years is part of a broader decline in outdoor activities — including tennis, swimming, hiking, biking and downhill skiing — according to a number of academic and recreation industry studies.
A 2006 study by the United States Tennis Association, which has battled the trend somewhat successfully with a forceful campaign to recruit young players, found that punishing hurricane seasons factored into the decline of play in the South, while the soaring popularity of electronic games and newer sports like skateboarding was diminishing the number of new tennis players everywhere.
Rodney B. Warnick, a professor of recreation studies and tourism at the University of Massachusetts, said that the aging population of the United States was probably a part of the problem, too, and that “there is a younger generation that is just not as active.”
But golf, a sport of long-term investors — both those who buy the expensive equipment and those who build the princely estates on which it is played — has always seemed to exist in a world above the fray of shifting demographics. Not anymore.
Jim Kass, the research director of the National Golf Foundation, an industry group, said the gradual but prolonged slump in golf has defied the adage, “Once a golfer, always a golfer.” About three million golfers quit playing each year, and slightly fewer than that have been picking it up. A two-year campaign by the foundation to bring new players into the game, he said, “hasn’t shown much in the way of results.”
“The man in the street will tell you that golf is booming because he sees Tiger Woods on TV,” Mr. Kass said. “But we track the reality. The reality is, while we haven’t exactly tanked, the numbers have been disappointing for some time.”