Golf courses have continued to bring in a reliable number of golfers in recent years, though not at the level reached in the heyday of Tiger Woods in the early and mid-2000s.
Nationally, about 23.8 million people played at least a round of golf in 2017, about even with previous years, while the number of frequent golfers stayed at about 20 million, according to data from the National Golf Foundation.
The number of rounds played was 456 million, down from 469 million in 2016, but nearly even with the 458 million rounds played in 2014. The organization added that a normal fluctuation of about 3 percent should be expected depending on summer weather. About 75 percent of golf courses nationwide are open to the public, according to the foundation.
Three Long Island municipalities that run golf courses said they’ve made pricing changes to bring in more players.
Huntington, which operates the Dix Hills Park Golf Course and Crab Meadow Golf Course in Northport, said the number of golf rounds played on its courses went from 46,246 in 2006 to 45,211 in 2016. The number of rounds played fell to 37,582 in 2017 because the town went part of the season without a golf cart contract, which meant players had to walk the course.
The town dropped the nonresident fee during some weekday afternoons to $29, from $46, while seniors can golf for $21. The pricing matches what residents pay, said Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said, and that’s brought in golfers from neighboring towns.
“We’ve done far more marketing of the courses, making sure people are aware of their availability,” Lupinacci said. “The courses remain popular.”
Huntington brings in about $1.3 million in revenue from the courses, Lupinacci said.
North Hempstead’s Harbor Links Golf Club in Port Washington hit 35,198 rounds played on the 18-hole championship course last year, the highest since 2013, although it’s down from 40,493 in 2008. Its 9-hole executive course had 24,967 rounds played, up marginally from the year before, and down from 28,120 in 2013.
Harbor Links has a Golf and Grub free lunch promotion on weekdays. “It’s driven a lot of people to the course,” said James Viras, the general manager at Harbor Links. “We are seeing an increase overall, although the sport itself is down a little from more than 10 years ago.”
That was when Tiger Woods — and the economy — roared.
“In 2008 the economy started to decline, and then Tiger Woods had all his issues, which was not great for the game,” Viras said.
Port Jefferson village is also offering membership packages to entice people to play at its Port Jefferson Country Club at Harbor Hills, where membership has slid over the last decade.
The village is also working with local schools to bring more kids to the course, said Renee Lemmerman, director of recreation at Port Jefferson Village.
“If a parent can pull their child into the sport, it becomes a family-oriented event,” she said. “The key is to expose kids to golf at a very young age.”