Thursday, March 27, 2008

Golf, An Unlikely Victim Of The Economy

For the most part, when you think about how the present state of the economy affects you you focus mostly on gas prices, insurance costs and taxes. You've probably cut back some of your spending, especially with regard to entertainment. However, if you never played golf with any sort of regularity, then you probably wouldn't think that it's a sport really feeling the effects of the current economy.

Greens fees at many courses have increased throughout the years, but at the time the economy was thriving so an extra $5 or $10 wasn't that big of a deal. Now, the economy is in a downslide, and golfers are cutting back on the rounds they play and the equipment they buy.

Golfing buddies Bob Ballard and Ray Koppmann were getting in some morning practice on the putting green at Daytona Beach Golf Club.

Both Port Orange men, who are in their early 80s, leisurely tapped balls across the rolling manicured grass. But neither had plans to play a round of golf on this day.

"I've cut back a bit," said Ballard, blaming the worsening economy. "I used to play three or four times a week. Now, it's once, maybe twice at the most."

And forget about buying new clubs to replace his 20-year-old set.

"That's not happening," he said with a grin.

For many golfers these days, the old political catch phrase holds: "It's the economy, stupid."

And it's not just the older generation that could be living on a fixed income. The National Golf Foundation has reported that "the estimated number of people playing golf nationwide has fallen from 30 million in 2000 to 26 million, with the annual rounds of play plummeting by a third".

That's a huge number of people not hitting the links with the frequency that they used to. The NGF also reports that gated communities are suffering the most because of the real estate crunch. Less people buying homes in those communities means that less golf memberships are being purchased.

For the immediate future, it doesn't appear that there's an answer to golf's problem. It will probably be one of those "ride it out" situations that takes an upturn in the economy to get things back on track. Not even Tiger can help with this unless he unveils an incredible economic stimulus program on the 18th hole of Augusta National.

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