By John Strege
The National Golf Foundation reported Thursday that through August rounds played are up 7.7 percent over the same period a year ago, an otherwise promising number that is tempered by the unseasonably warm temperatures early in the year.
"The real question is separating the weather from any sort of real growth or comeback in rounds," said Mike Hughes, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association. "That's the real question to delve into. I'm sure you saw the headlines in the spring, that we had the warmest weather on record.
"They were playing golf in places like New York and athe upper midwest in January and February, which is is unheard of. It had a significant effect on the numbers. As far as the industry is concerned, we'll take it any way we can get it. But I wouldn't jump to conclusions that we've clawed back. We've been slow for the [previous] two or three years, slowly leaking rounds in the negative direction."
Rounds were up 14.4 percent for the year in the East North Central region, which includes Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. It was up 11.3 percent in West North Central (from Kansas and Missouri up to North Dakota and Minnesota), 12.2 percent in the Mid Atlantic and 5.1 percent in New England.
Rounds played on public access courses were up 8.7 percent over a year ago, while rounds on private courses were up 4.1 percent.