The Masters is over, which is the annual rite of spring for papers up north to write their first local golf pieces of spring.
JC Reindl of Michigan's Detroit Free Press wrote a column Monday on the state of their boom-bust golf economy.
The paper reports that about 200 Michigan golf courses have closed in the past 15 years, and many believe this is just the beginning:
Michigan golf course architect Raymond Hearn said he thinks the state could lose another 30 or so courses each year for the next two to three years before golf club supply finally matches up with the reduced demand. Many of the courses now closing are small mom-and-pop businesses whose owners barely survived the recession and know they face increasingly uncertain financial prospects as fewer young people take up the game. "I'm not trying to be a grim reaper, but some of these courses have been hanging on by the skin of their teeth for the last eight years," said Hearn, president of Holland-based Raymond Hearn Golf Course Designs. "I don't think they can do it any longer."
But it's worth pointing out that Michigan, despite on all accounts being saturated with courses, is opening more new and revitalized projects than many other states this year, headlined by Forest Dunes' Loop Course, but there is also a six-hole course being added on Michigan's west side, the Falls at Barber Creek is completing its 18-hole course. Gull Lake View Resort, in southwest Michigan, is opening a sixth course, Stoatin Brae. And next year in the Upper Peninsula, the Island Resort & Casino is scheduled to open a second course. So there still appears to be an appetite for the right kind of new golf facilities.
One other local development reported by Joe Guillen of the Free Press is that the operator of Detroit's four munis, Vargo Golf Detroit, appears to be struggling and even has delinquent water bills to the city, (water being a touchy subject in the state to say the least). Ratings from golfers for these four courses on Golf Advisor have really struggled over the past year.
Also, at the bottom of the Freep article, is a stat from the National Golf Foundation that Michigan, despite losing population and a middling economy, still has more public courses than any other state. So, maybe the golf business isn't doing too bad in Michigan, it's just a healthy correction. The best we can hope for is that it's the hastily built, unremarkable courses that don't make it, and the more enjoyable courses located near strong population bases hang on. We'll see if the new courses opening this year, all unique in their own ways, stick around long-term.
As to the riddle posed in the article of millennial participation, I encourage any golf facilities who think attracting them to the game is hopeless, to pin this tweet up in the clubhouse: