Thanks to reader Larry for Jim Harper's Biscayne Times story on "The Trouble With Golf" that details the woes of south Florida courses. It's a long read but it's worth noting because Harper looks at all sides and talks to people on the ground. Much of the talk about golf in Florida these days stems from the recent bill introduced to convert at least five state parks into Nicklaus-designed courses.
In reality, no one is laughing about the golfing industry. Hundreds of courses around the nation have closed in the past three years (including 375 public courses, according to the National Golf Foundation), and considering that Florida has more golf courses than any state (more than 1100), it also has the most to lose. In order to survive, courses must change. The entire industry must change.
“We’ve changed and adapted better than most. We’re confident that we’ll do well,” says Pozzi of Miami Shores, who reports seeing a 17-percent increase in rounds played this season over last year. He credits this success to better weather and to the country club’s transition from a private, members-only operation to a semi-private one that offers both memberships and visitor passes. The golf course has been open to the public since the early 1990s. In 2009 the public was welcome to use all the club’s facilities.
And as a side note there was this on the Audubon programs battling over one of the state parks slated for a Nicklaus design.
The battle to preserve Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Florida’s other parks, none of which now has a golf course, becomes very confusing because it pits one “Audubon” against another. The organization Audubon International supports the golf course trail in state parks. It turns out that this “Audubon,” which operates separately from the conservation organizations using the same name, receives funding from the U.S. Golf Association.
“Their purpose is to work with golf course developers, and our purpose is to preserve habitat,” says Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. It did just that in Tennessee. Audubon International designated several courses of the Tennessee Golf Trail as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.”
In a different Miami, Bucky Albers wrote about similar issues in Ohio and noted this about club memberships there.
Last year, for instance, Walnut Grove Country Club attracted 100 new members by permitting them to join for one year by putting up $1,000 ($1,500 for a family membership) while contributing $60 monthly for food and beverage and paying an additional $100 for a locker and $100 for bag storage.
The infusion of cash enabled WG to give its clubhouse a remarkable facelift, but there was a downside in that some of the longtime members were not happy others were enjoying the facilities without paying the usual initiation fee. Some dropped out.
The WG board knew that not all of the 100 would return in 2011 and pay the normal fees, but it was hoped that many would enjoy the club and remain. It turned out that only 22 opted to sign up again this year.
Among the other 78, there were 10 who last fall accepted an offer from Dayton Country Club to join as a group in 2011 without having to contribute the posted $14,000 initiation fee. They agreed to remain for two years and pay monthly dues.
This spring, DCC also offered individual memberships for a $3,500 initiation fee plus a guarantee that the newcomers would pay dues for two years. That fee has been bumped up to $5,000 for anyone joining before June 1.