Deeds and WeedsFebruary 27, 2009

Bright Spots in Virginia

As in virtually every other state in the country, the golf economy in Virginia is feeling the effects of the sluggish economy. Two of the state's 341 golf facilities declared bankruptcy in the fourth quarter of 2008, and two more closed, and according to Virginia State GA executive director Jamie Conkling, "[2009] is going to be a very tough year."

And yet, not all the news is bad. This story on the Virginia golf market in the current issue of Virginia Business identifies three golf facilities in the commonwealth -- a private club, a public course and a resort -- that say they have actually experienced financial growth since this time last year.

How have they done it? Nothing extraordinary: by marketing golf more aggressively to families and new members; by continuing to invest in capital and course improvements; and by adopting a more flexible approach to pricing.

At Willow Oaks CC, a private club in Richmond, the membership has swelled to more than 1,000 families, a 12 percent increase over two years ago -- exactly the opposite of what you might expect. "We haven't been as hard hit yet as other businesses, including golf courses," Chris Welles, the club's general manager, told Virginia Business. "We're cautiously optimistic."

--G.R.