Bob Gillespie



Golf boom: Play continues dramatic climb nationally, holds steady in S.C.

Posted 3/12/2013 11:57:00 AM

Read some golf magazines or listen to the U.S. Golf Association, and you might think the game – because of price, slow play and the economy – is on a runaway slide to oblivion. The National Golf Foundation says otherwise.

According to a recent report by the NGF, Golf Datatech and Weather Trends International, rounds of golf played nationally through November 2012 climbed 2.6 percent when compared to the previous year. And not just in such sunny spots as South Carolina – in fact, 2012, with the warmest average temperatures on record, moved the golf needle in some unexpected places.

Such as, for instance, the nation’s West North Central region (the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota), where rounds played surged by 26.7 percent – the largest increases in the nation. In the Mountain region (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico), the uptick was 20.5 percent, and the South Central region (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky) enjoyed a 14.6 percent increase.

While play dropped in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, and South Carolina saw a slight decline in 2012 (regardless, its 1,401 rounds played in December ranked seventh nationally), the overall upswing was the nation’s largest single-year percentage increase since 2000. PGA Performance Trak, another gauge of rounds played, reported a 6.4 percent growth in rounds played in 2012, based on reports from more than 3,000 facilities nationwide.

PGA Performance Trak also reported that 48 state showed increases in golf fee revenue in 2012, with 17 states reporting revenue increases of 10 percent or better and 24 states seeing increases of between 5 and 9.9 percent. The report noted that 2012 had the same number of weekend days (105) as in 2011, but a 6.5 percent increase in days open, providing more playing opportunities.

What does that mean for South Carolina? With golfers’ appetites for play returning and even increasing, the prospect of another mild winter and spring – while some of the states with strong growth last year are now buried under snow – should help drive golf-hungry tourists to the Palmetto State’s mild weather and 360-plus courses in 2013.

Regardless of better weather, “consumers made the choice to play golf rather than participate in other recreational activities,” said PGA of America president Ted Bishop. Good news for everyone who loves the game.