Despite national recession, golf in Massachusetts remains popular

As anyone who has ever played at a country club or bought a 3-wood can tell you, golf is not an inexpensive sport to play. Couple that with the national recession and the population’s decision to limit their indulgence in luxuries they had taken before the economy took a turn for the worse, and one would surmise that the golf industry is in trouble.

While this is true nationally, Massachusetts and New England as a whole, have done surprisingly well.

According to a story in USA Today, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have actually seen the number of rounds played increase by 4.4 percent from 2009 to this year.

The biggest increase came from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont who saw golfers complete 24.8 percent more rounds.

These numbers are distinctly different from the national average, which saw a decrease of 3 percent in the past year.

Local courses such as Pembroke Country Club have been able to successfully withstand a tough economic time.

“I would say that play is equal with last year or may even be up a little bit,” explained Norah Berard, the director of golf operations at Pembroke.

Berard, who took over in March of 2009, said that they have decreased the number of discounts and deals this year in comparison with 2009.

“Although we had more discounting last year, it has not affected our revenue,” Berard said. “We are closer to reaching our goals (this year).”

Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth experienced similar results.

John Tuffin, Pinehills director of golf, thinks the volume of golfers has rebounded this year after a slow 2009.

The improvement can be attributed not simply to the economy but to other factors as well, most notably the weather.

“(In 2009), the economy was obviously part of the problem, but it was also unusually rainy last year,” Tuffin said. “This year with better weather our rounds are up substantially over 2009 and even ahead of 2008 through July.”

Berard also noted that the weather has a great effect on the amount of golf played.

“When it is nice out, people think beach instead of thinking golf,” Berard said.

To help combat this thinking, Pinehills runs special deals from time to time to help boost business.

By proficiently networking before the recession, Pinehills has a loyal group of golfers who are receptive to discounted golf.

“We have a large e-mail database we use to promote our specials,” Tuffin said. “We do get instant positive feedback whenever we run one of the specials.”

Bob Beach, the head pro at the Braintree Municipal Golf Course, has seen a similar increase in rounds played this year in comparison to last year.

Like Pembroke and Pinehills, Beach attributes the change more to the weather then the economy.

“Last year we did see a few less because of the weather,” Beach said. “There have been a lot of good (weather) golfing days this summer.”

Braintree has increased specials during its slower periods in an attempt to attract more golfers.

“Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. is our slowest time, so we try and run plenty of specials,” Beach said. “We have a deal for $16 after 6 p.m., which is very popular in July and August.”

Senior golfers as well as junior golfers have become a mainstay at the Braintree Municipal Golf Course.

“We are very popular with seniors because the course is so flat and easy to walk,” Beach said. “We also have senior golf cart rates.”

The combination of providing special deals and receiving a little assistance from Mother Nature, has helped the Massachusetts golf industry stay fruitful during tough economic times.

Drew Adamek may be reached at

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