Rounds of golf played on Grand Strand is down

The weak economy continues to take its toll on the golf industry. A new report from the National Golf Foundation says more than 60 golf courses closed across the country last year, continuing a five-year trend.

Golf courses continue to close and the number of rounds played continues to go down. But local golf leaders say, that's a sign of the times, and when the economy turns around, golf will come back.

There was a time when 8 to 10 new golf courses would open on the Grand Strand each year. Those days are long gone. The Myrtle Beach Golf Association reports more than 20 Grand Strand courses have closed over the past decade.

Bill Golden of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday says the industry grew too fast in the 90's and the decline in the industry now, is no reason to panic. "I don't know that it's the sky is falling. I think it's growth has slowed down and certainly the current economic times has played a big part of that."

The National Golf Foundation reports, 107 courses closed across the U.S. last year, compared with 46 new courses opening, for a net loss of 61. It's the fifth consecutive year that closures outpaced openings.

But the manager of the Barefoot Resort golf courses, Dave Genevro, says the trend is stabilizing and Myrtle Beach will do better than other golf destinations. "I think we're fortunate that with Golf Holiday marketing Myrtle Beach as a destination for golf that we won't be as down as other areas of the United States, because we do a good job of marketing ourselves."

Golden says there is pent up demand for golf vacations and he sees modest growth for local golf this year, after growth of about five-tenths of a percent in 2010. But first, the economy has to continue to improve. "You and I and everybody else need to feel better about our own personal situations before we go out and buy a new driver or before we go out and play golf every weekend or go on a golf vacation."

Golden says golf is the most discretionary form of spending for most people, so when times are bad, golf is the first thing they let go, and that's a big reason why the industry has suffered since the recession started.

Nationwide, the number of golf rounds played last year was down about two percent from 2009. ]

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