The golf course industry continues to go through a period of natural correction, as expected, following a 20-year period of the most dramatic growth in the game’s history, reports the National Golf Foundation.
At the end of 2016, there were a total of 15,014 golf facilities in the United States, comprising 14,117.5 open and operating 18-hole equivalent (18-HEQ) courses. The final 2016 count showed a net reduction of 171 courses, which amounts to a 1.2% contraction from 2015.
Golf course “stocks and flows” in 2016 included the permanent closure of 211.5 courses and the opening of 15.5 brand new courses. There were 95 courses that reopened after comprehensive renovations, while another 11.5 courses deemed “permanently closed” welcomed golfers back following a prolonged shutdown. Also noted above in the chart summarising supply movement are courses that temporarily ceased operation to implement a course renovation.
It is noteworthy that since 2006, when the trend of more golf course closures than openings began, the cumulative reduction of the total supply is just 5.9%. That pales dramatically in comparison to the unprecedented 44% growth in course construction during the two decades prior. The U.S. remains the best-supplied golf market in the world, boasting almost 45% of global facilities.
The approximate 1% net reduction in courses in the 2016 count demonstrates a further contraction of the market.
“NGF views the slow and steady reduction of U.S. courses as the natural economic response to the opening of more than 4,000 new golf facilities between 1986 and 2005,” said NGF’s Chief Business Officer Greg Nathan. “This gradual reduction is indicative of the market’s healthy self-balancing of supply and demand, and a trend we expect to continue for several more years. American golfers have more than 15,000 green-grass facilities where they can tee it up, one reason the contraction in supply has shown no direct impact on frequency of play, with rounds-played in the U.S. increasing each of the past two years.”