Golf has hit a brick wall, a veritable trifecta of bad luck.
Rest assured, golf won’t be going away anytime soon, but the current industry slump is only the beginning of a much larger trend.
When you combine the fact that there are too many golf courses, declining revenue streams, record number of golf course bankruptcies, the implosion of the game’s only superstar, Tiger Woods, and an emerging youth population who would rather play Wii Golf than real golf, it becomes easy to see red flags getting raised instead of American flags at many of the nation’s country clubs.
The number of U.S. golfers peaked in 2005 at 30 million. Experts are estimating that most golf courses have lost 30% to 50% of their worth in the last two years. So far only 114 of the nation’s 16,000 or so golf courses have closed in the first 9 months of 2009, according to the National Golf Foundation. But that number masks the thousands currently operating in Chapter 11.
Most importantly, the financing has dried up. A bankrupt golf course doesn’t lend itself to any other development, and this is particularly true if the course is in the middle of a residential development. The neighbors won’t allow it. In short, golf courses are simply bad collateral.
PREDICTION: Within the next 10 years over 25% of all golf courses will fail.
OPPORTUNITY: There will be two significant opportunities arising from golf’s misfortune. The first, a bargain hunter’s dream of being able to purchase a first-class course out of bankruptcy for pennies on the dollar. With substantially lower debt and a more efficient business model, many golf courses will once again survive and thrive.
The second opportunity will come to those who devise a logical new development concept for golf courses. Courses come with vast primo landscaped acreage, and a set of neighbors who will torpedo anything that somehow diminishes the natural beauty of the community. It is a challenging environment, but one with huge upside for the right business model.