Golf is not as swinging as old days
Updated: May 31, 2012 3:40PM
It wasn’t that long ago when golf courses geared up at this time of year for a full season of duffers, scratch golfers and wannabes. Many a business pitch was made on the greens of a well-manicured course, or in the clubhouse afterwards. Foursomes competed for the best tee times and standing reservations were de rigeur for anyone who wanted to be sure to put their clubs to regular use.
These days, things are quite a bit different. A majority of golf courses have decreased attendance and revenue, and those that are staying in the black have made some dramatic changes in order to keep the ink on the books from turning red. Take, for example, the Fort Sheridan situation.
When that majestic land was turned over by the Army, allowing private development of a prime lakefront property, one of the caveats was that there would always be a golf course on the site. As development progressed, and the decision made that the original Army course was antiquated and needed replacing, no one gave a thought to the possibility that the plan would hit a brick wall. After all, didn’t the Chicagoland area have one of the highest concentrations of golf courses in the nation, in spite of the extreme nature of our weather?
And yet, when the time came for a new course to get underway, bids came in extremely high, much higher than originally planned. That turned out to be the canary in the coal mine, as later invitations to hundreds of developers for the golf course project garnered absolutely no interest at all. And thus, the decision was made, rightly so, to petition the Army to remove that clause from the agreement and allow the Lake County Forest Preserve district to use that land instead for open space, walking paths, beaches and natural habitats.
Recent news reports agree that was the right decision by the Forest Preserve. Of the approximately 180 public courses in the metropolitan area, almost half are owned by local governments. Considering the state of the economy the past few years, and the cost-cutting measures most municipalities have undertaken to make ends meet in a challenging financial time, golf courses are not the cash cows they may once have been. Lower revenues, increased maintenance costs, fickle weather, belt-tightening by golfers in a sport that historically has often been a pricey hobby, all are factors that put a wrinkle in the joy of the game.
Here’s my non-golfer observation to help remedy the downswing. Select one day a week for non-golfers only, to pay a fee and either ride around the course in those fun carts and enjoy the beauty of a well-manicured natural setting, or to attempt golfing, albeit bad golfing, without the pressure and sneers of scratch golfers and rangers who hustle the bad ones to make way for the good ones. If you do that, trust me, they (I) will come. And perhaps the golf crisis will be solved by, of all people, the non-golfer.
Send email to Pat Lenhoff at: email@example.com