How Many U.S. Golf Courses Are Closing Yearly?

Several times during the last few months while listening to sports talk radio I would hear the claim that “400 golf courses are closing yearly in America”. This went along with the theme that golf participation is declining and younger Americans are not joining clubs while current members are getting too old for the game. This peaked my interest because the claim of 400 a year is a lot of golf courses. So I decided to research it and find out what was happening. Bloomberg News had a nice write up back in January of this year and here is what they found:

More golf courses closed than opened in the U.S. in 2013 for the eighth straight year, according to the National Golf Foundation.

A total of 14 18-hole courses opened last year, up from 13.5 in 2012, while 157.5 courses were closed during the year, three more than a year earlier, the Jupiter, Florida-based organization said in a statement on its website. The organization counts every nine holes as 0.5 of a course.

Since 2006, course closings have outnumbered openings after more than 4,500 courses had opened over the previous 15 years. Those courses, many of which were built as part of real estate projects, shut down as the U.S. recession led to a reduction in home sales needed to support the courses. Golf club memberships and rounds played also declined during the recession.

Of the closings, 66 percent charged less than $40 for greens fees during peak times. The closings decreased the total number of U.S. golf courses to 14,564.5, the Foundation said. Public courses made up 97 percent (151.5) of the closures, with private courses accounting for 4 percent (6). A total of 8.5 public courses opened last year, compared with 5.5 new private courses.

Since 2006, 643 18-hole courses have closed, the organization said. The decline has followed a 40 percent growth from 1986 through 2005, a period with more than 4,500 courses opening, according the foundation data.

So while golf courses are closing, not at the exent the ESPN radio host is making it out to be.