Please put on your thinking cap for a few minutes and help me understand something that has me puzzled about the golf industry in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro.
Back in the heyday of golf industry growth, the grand poohbahs of the major US golf associations set a goal of opening a course a day… and during the period from 1995-2000 the ‘course a day’ pace was achieved. A combination of the early stages of Tigermania, a booming economy and rah-rah optimism from industry leaders created the perfect storm for industry growth. In the Twin Cities Metro alone, 51 new courses sprang to life between 1995-2005.
As we all know, that situation turned around with a vengeance. Starting in 2008, we have been closing a lot more US golf courses each year than are opened (the average annual tally for the last 5 yers is about 200 closures and 20 openings). Some industry pundits believe that we need to shed an additional 10% or so of the remaining courses to achieve equilibrium between supply and demand… although of course demand is a moving target that we should collectively be working every day to boost.
Since I’ve been paying attention to the comings and goings in the Twin Cities and surrounding area since 2013, we’ve seen at least 2 Metro area courses fade into the sunset each year (19 in total), while the only 2 ‘new’ courses added to supply have been re-uses of old golf course land (Royal Golf Club on top of old Tartan Park, new Braemar on top of old Braemar)… and each of those represented a net reduction from 27 holes to 18.
Let’s take a moment and pay our respects… RIP Countryside, Kate Haven, Parkview, Hudson CC, Lakeview, Red Oak, Elm Creek, Fred Richards, Begin Oaks, Minnetonka CC, Tartan Park, Country Air, Old Braemar, French Lake, Hillcrest, Mississippi Dunes, Meadow Links, Thompson Oaks and Hayden Hills.
With both our season-opening period in April and our season-ending period in October in 2018 completely wiped out by snow, rain and cold temperatures … I had expected 2019 to be a record year for course closings in the Twin Cities. I’ve been told for years by those ‘in the know’ that many courses were on precarious financial ground and that it would only take one really rough year to push them into submission.
But no… unless I’m missing something, it looks like this will be the first year in a decade in which no Twin Cities Metro courses will close.
Something’s happening here… what it is ain’t exactly clear.
Is the booming economy stimulating enough discretionary spending on golf to offset the rough weather? Are course owners reaching into their pockets to fund weather-related shortfalls under the assumption that we’re due for some better weather luck? Was the relatively good summer weather last year enough to offset the crummy spring and fall? Have we at least temporarily reached equilibrium of golf supply and demand in the Twin Cities Metro? Or is it simply that my polling has been incomplete and there are indeed some area courses that did not survive the winter?
What do you think? Most of the recipients of this email or readers of this blog post are directly involved in the ownership or operation of area courses. If you have some insights into the health of the local golf market that you’re wiling so share, please weigh in.
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Perhaps this will help you think…