Golf clubs and country clubs having tough time in recession

As you probably expected, the recession is having an adverse impact on golf course memberships and country club memberships.

Recession-battered golf courses aren’t just coping with lighter crowds. Some are edging perilously close to bankruptcy. Courses from Florida to Arizona, where golfing was once a daily exercise, face major cutbacks or foreclosure.

Myrtle Beach, S.C., a once-booming 70-mile strip of beachfront property nicknamed “Golftown, USA,” has been hit especially hard: Where there were about 125 golf courses in 2006, there are now around 100.

“It’s just a shakeout of golf,” says Donald Wizeman, CEO of Myrtle Beach Golf Association, which produces a website for golfers traveling to Myrtle Beach. “The real estate market is so depressed here.”

Things are just as bleak in Arizona. Eight golf courses in the Phoenix area have gone through foreclosure or bankruptcy since commercial properties started facing serious financial problems in 2008, according to IonDataExpress.com, a real estate analysis firm. Many more are reducing their hours this summer, says Tom Stine, co-founder of market researcher Golf Datatech.

You should also expect to find incredible deals for golf travel and green fees on courses all around the country.

  

The British Open celebrates golf history at St. Andrews

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - JULY 15: General View of an Open Championship flag during the first round of the 139th Open Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews on July 15, 2010 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

The professional golf scene today is mostly centered on stateside competition, but the game’s historic roots are overseas, and this week marks one of the game’s oldest and most prestigious competitions – the British Open.

The Canadian Press had a great interview with Arnold Palmer, one of the first American players to play on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

“I felt that if you were going to be a champion, you couldn’t be a champion without playing in the Open and hopefully winning the Open,” [Palmer] said. “So that was part of the whole program for what I was doing.”

Palmer won the Masters and U.S. Open in 1960. On his way to St. Andrews for his first British Open, a conversation with sports writer Bob Drum led Palmer to effectively create the modern version of the Grand Slam.

He finished one shot behind Kel Nagle. Palmer won his claret jugs at Royal Birkdale in 1961 and Royal Troon in 1962.

Even so, St. Andrews remains a big part of his life. Palmer was given an honorary degree at the St. Andrews University on Tuesday. The only disappointment was not getting to play in the “Champions Challenge” because of bad weather Wednesday.

The Bleacher Report also put together a nice preview of the field this year. As the article states, with 49 of the top 50 players on the field this week, it’s sure to be an exciting tournament. Will Tiger be able to regain the mental determination that led him to so many victories? Will Justin Rose and his perfect rhythm net another win this year?

If you’re interested in getting to the Open, or just getting to the Old Course some time soon, Wikitravel has a comprehensive guide to getting the most out of your St. Andrews experience.

  

The Players Championship is this weekend

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 5th hole during his practice round on the TPC Sawgrass course for THE PLAYERS Championship golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Woods, who failed to make the cut last week at the Quail Hollow Championship, is playing in his third tournament of the year following his return to golf and the PGA Tour.

TPC Sawgrass is a very impressive club and resort. Here are some highlights from a recent review:

The Tournament Players Club (TPC) in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida is, arguably, the Mecca of Golf in the U.S. Located in the development of Sawgrass, the TPC is just down the drive from Tour headquarters. As the Tour’s “home” club, the TPC boasts two terrific Pete Dye courses, the Valley Course and the Stadium Course, which hosts The Players Championship in late March. The Championship has become known as “The Fifth Major.”

The Stadium Course

Opened in 1982, the Stadium Course became a sensation and a topic of considerable controversy for its departure from traditional design. It was the first course of its kind, featuring mounds, high banks and earthen amphitheatres specifically designed to accommodate larger golf-ravenous crowds.

Former Tour Commissioner Deane Beman pioneered the concept of stadium golf, recognizing the crescendo of ringing cash registers in football-game size crowds. Though it continues to be controversial as a style of golf course architecture, stadium golf has grown enormously since 1982 and now the Tour owns, operates or is building no less than 32 other stadium courses around the U.S.

While other tournaments might dispute the whole “fifth major” reference, it’s a great club and a great tournament.

  

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