The number of golf courses in the U.S. declined again, dropping by 190 to end 2016 with 15,014 facilities, according the the National Golf Foundation. Overall, the number of facilities is down 5.6 percent since 2006.
”NGF views the slow and steady reduction of U.S. courses as the natural economic response to the opening of more than 4,000 new golf facilities between 1986 and 2005,” said Greg Nathan, NGF’s Chief Business Officer. "This gradual reduction is indicative of the market’s healthy self-balancing of supply and demand, and a trend we expect to continue for several more years. American golfers have more than 15,000 green-grass facilities where they can tee it up, one reason the contraction in supply has shown no direct impact on frequency of play, with rounds played in the U.S. increasing each of the past two years."
The industry saw 230 facilities close permanently. Most have been redeveloped into housing or parkland, a trend that continues into 2017.
“The dirt is worth more than the grass,” said NGF President and CEO Joe Beditz, referring to the value of the land courses are built on.
NGF projects closings will be in the 150 to 175 range per year as natural contraction continues.
There were only ten new golf facilities in 2016, the lowest number on record. This included The Loop at Forest Dunes in Michigan, and Mossy Oak in Mississippi, both Golf Inc. Development of the Year honroees.
NGF reported there is still new course activity in the pipeline. It is tracking 55 18-hole equivalent golf courses under construction and another 37 in the planning stages. Of those, 28 are daily fee courses, with 12 new facilities and 16 additions to existing properties. Courses such as Steamsong Black in Florida, the reversible Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon, Bayou Oaks in Louisiana, and Stoatin Brae in Michigan are among those scheduled to open in 2017.
Investment in renovations remains high. NGF tracked 986 major course renovations completed since 2006, representing a total investment of at least $3 billion. This does not include minor rehabilitation projects, which are done without a significant impact on the course’s operation.