Deeds and WeedsJanuary 21, 2009

Snapshot: The Orlando Golf Market

Josh Robbins in today's Orlando Sentinel offers a "good news/bad news" assessment of the Orlando golf market, surely one of the nation's busiest (one local study said golf visitors alone to Orlando bring in $753 million to the city's economy annually).

The good news? According to the article, Orlando golf facilities had an average operating profit of 19 percent.

The bad news? That was in 2007, the most recent year for which figures are available. Nearly every source quoted in the article said 2008 was a much tougher year. In one sobering passage, public-access facilities who usually do a booming business with Orlando's massive convention and trade show business told Robbins their business was down more than 50 percent.

The good news? Orlando, like most cities these days, is full of opportunities for golfers looking for a good deal. ChampionsGate, a high-end 36-hole public facility that usually charges a $105-$130 green fee, has an all-you-can-play-all day special of $60 (with cart), provided you book at least three days in advance. And a number of local private clubs have dropped (or drastically slashed) initiation fees, in an attempt to shore up memberships. In Orlando -- as in cities all across the U.S. -- there has never been a better time to join a golf club.

In the story, a PGA of America official is quoted as saying unemployment rates within the association are 4.7 percent. At first, that sounds like bad news -- until you remember that the national average is approaching 8 percent.

So perhaps it's good news.

-- G.R.