Monday, July 23, 2012

A Sunny Season for Golf

Interest in golf is still declining across the United States, and golf courses continue to close, but not nearly at the pace of the last four years. The main reason, apparently, is that the weather has been good for business at golf courses this year.

It is not that it has been ideal golfing weather. Far from it — the weather in most of the center of the country has been unusually dry, so the grass is not in the best condition. At the same time, heat waves have surely kept many golfers indoors.

Yet dry weather also means there have been not been many rainy days to keep customers away. Courses in much of the country also got the benefit of unusually warm weather in March. That effectively added a month to the summer season.

An extra month of revenue can make up for a lot of problems in a seasonal business, but no one expects that good luck to continue. There are hundreds of golf courses whose owners are eager to sell, but there are few buyers. Many owners are doing something previously unthinkable: shrinking their underused courses to 9 holes. The result is no longer a full regulation golf course, but the smaller course costs only half as much to maintain and might not feel quite so empty.