Paid golf rounds almost steady on Grand Strand in 2012



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Golf courses on South Carolina’s Grand Strand continue to hover around par when it comes to attracting patrons.

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports paid rounds were down 0.73 percent in 2012, based on Golf Holiday’s collection of a $1.50 per-round transaction fee on package and walk-on rounds. Those rounds do not include member, replay, charity tournament, complimentary or promotional rounds. Promotions include specials granting a free round for every four or five paid rounds, for example.

Last year marks the third consecutive year rounds dropped less than 2 percent, and second consecutive year they dropped less than 1 percent.

“It’s been flat for the past couple years, which is flat against the years in which we were in the heart of the recession,” Golf Holiday president Bill Golden said. “So naturally those numbers need to begin to increase.

“The economic slump hasn’t changed, so we continue to be in an economic time where discretionary expenses are at a minimum, and a golf trip is about as discretionary an expense as you can have on a personal budget. So that consumer confidence issue still haunts us. But we need to begin to get back to years pre-recession to begin to feel better about the demand.”

However, while there’s been little change in participation, revenues are a different matter.

National Golf Management president Bob Mauragas, whose company operates 22 courses, and Tommy Smothers, general manager of the five-course Classic Golf Group, both say their rounds were up at least slightly but revenues were not.

“I think it’s no secret we continue to be an affordable destination, and maybe too affordable. We’re all competing for the same space. There aren’t enough new golfers coming into the marketplace.”

Smothers, who said his properties’ revenue was flat in 2012 despite an 8 percent increase in play will take the additional rounds with the hope the economy soon improves.

“It’s progress by getting the consumer back on the golf course,” Smothers said. “We need them to keep playing golf. If we can keep that going when the economy turns around we can increase rates and not have to offer all the specials to get them out.”

The market took a hit with the abrupt closing and bankruptcy filing by Myrtle Beach-based Direct Air in mid-March. The airline flew passengers from several golf markets, and booked passengers had to make alternate arrangements to honor golf vacations.

The addition of several nonstop flights by Spirit Airlines to Myrtle Beach originating from many of the same markets lost by the demise of Direct Air has Golden and others in the golf market optimistic about an increase in rounds in 2013. The airline is also starting seasonal service earlier in key golf markets.