According to the National Golf Foundation, there was negative net growth in US golf facilities in 2006 for the first time in 60 years, as the number of courses that closed (146 18-hole equivalents) was greater than the number of openings (119.5).
In releasing the data, NGF said it was not an alarming occurrence but a confluence of events – openings returning to more normal levels and weaker facilities being culled.
In the late 1980s, the number of openings was about 100 per year. There followed a wave of increased construction in the 1990s that peaked in 2000 with nearly 400 openings. Since then the wave has subsided to near historic levels.
The culling of courses is not viewed as a negative by NGF. The organization expects overall course supply to stop expanding in the absence of increases in demand. It is primarily the weaker courses that are closing and, in many cases, owners who sell are profiting from long-term real estate appreciation. Finally, a better quality overall golf supply means a better quality experience for players.
NGF recorded a 56 percent jump in the number of closures between 2005 and 2006, from 93.5 to 146. These 146 closures represent about 1 percent of the total supply of golf courses in the U.S. Closures were primarily public (97 percent). They were disproportionately short courses (executive and par-3) – 20 percent were short courses vs. 8 percent of total facilities. And they were disproportionately stand-alone 9-holers, 46 percent vs. 28 percent of total facilities. Closures were predominately values courses; with nearly half having peak green fees under $25. Closures occurred in 39 of 50 states.
National Golf Foundation www.ngf.org