Monday, September 15, 2008

Golf courses turn to food, alcohol to make a profit

Shrinking clientele, increased expenses leave some course owners in the rough

September 14, 2008 By Wes Morgan and Kathy Jessup Kalamazoo Gazette

With gas and fertilizer prices soaring, local golf courses are hoping food and drink, not the best-manicured greens, will help them hold onto business.

Surviving is the name of the game these days, as around the country interest in golf is waning, slipping to 26 million players last year, compared to 30 million in 2000.

The reasons: no time, no money.

Steve Tyler, Kalamazoo Municipal Golf Association director, said a decline in rounds played and course memberships during the past five to eight years at the three city-owned golf courses "mirrors what is happening in the golf industry, both statewide and nationally.''

Michigan as a whole barely bucked the national downward trend in the $76 billion industry, reporting a 1.1-percent increase in rounds played from 2006 to 2007. But courses have maxed out the discounts they can offer to keep golfers coming back, say local course owners, who soon will be closing their books on this year's season.

"There are so many courses just teetering on the brink of being done,'' said Brodie Hock, general manager of Heritage Glen Golf Club in Paw Paw.

Facing the likelihood of a shrinking clientele base, here's what some golf courses are doing to boost revenues and reduce costs: Adding or expanding lounge, conference and banquet areas.

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