Golf Courses of New England Hopeful for This Season

It’s that time of year again. It’s time to dust off the driver, buff out the irons, and lace up the spikes, because it’s golf season again. It won’t be long before the air is filled with the smell of freshly trimmed greens and cart beer and the sound of shanked drives and arguments about putts. Those little pieces of paradise that we call golf courses will once again be filled with the bustle of golfers.

At least that’s what local golf course owners are hoping for. But as of right now, the future of golf here in New England is unclear and possibly grim. This winter, an additional two private golf courses closed their doors, adding to the mass grave of nearly 40 course closings in the past five years in New England.

“But that’s the golf industry,” Joe Klein, general manger of The Back Nine golf course in Lakeville said. “Golf is based on disposable income. Without this, less golf will be played, plain and simple.”

After the recession, the golf market—which includes public and private courses, manufacturers, and equipment shops—suffered greatly. According to the National Golf Foundation, the amount of “regular” golfers has decreased at a rate of 3.5%-5.5% every year. Golf courses were being shut down at nearly twice the rate as new ones were being made. And it didn’t just start at the recession.

“Things have been fairly challenging since 2008,” Bob Sanderson, general manager of Widow’s Walk Golf Course, which has been in Scituate for twenty-five years, said, “but it was even challenging before that, and I think this is due to a number of reasons, one of these certainly being economic uncertainty. It is really due to a lack of confidence, brought upon by the economy. It is still fresh in people’s minds.”

Golf course owners and managers in the area agree that the struggling economy was the main factor in the golf bust. However, some believe other factors to be in play.

“The ideal demographic that golf courses strive to reach is the 30-45 year old age range. This age range, however, has found that they need to be very dedicated to their job since jobs are harder to come by and they are consumed by family duties,” Klein said. “Kids playing sports and having year-round activities have impacted the number of rounds being played.”

Many have suggested that a generational shift is occurring in the game. A new, younger generation has begun playing the game.

“Everyone keeps saying that the game of golf is on the way out, but I don’t see it like that at all,” Ryan Milian, an avid golfer and college student said. “My friends and I play any chance we get. My feeling is that golf is here to stay, at least for my generation.”

The general feeling amongst the community of course owners in the area, however, is one of hope and optimism.

“I believe this year will be the best on record since the downturn of the economy. With a mild winter and golf not escaping everyone’s minds for 4 months, rounds are significantly up,” Klein said. “Hopefully, with more jobs hitting the market, people will find a way to be able to sneak in some more golf.”

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