October 24, 2008
When things are tight, one of the first places folks look to save money is in where they spend their dollars devoted to recreation, in addition to how much.
Those kinds of decisions are showing up in the latest statistics about golf course openings and closings.
As reported by the National Golf Foundation this week, only 65 golf courses have opened up nationwide for 2008. The NGF expects the final number to top out at no more than 75 to 85 layouts. If that happens, it will be the lowest number of course openings in 20 years.
That number will be matched, if not exceeded, by the number of golf courses that will close in 2008. Thus far, the NGF has confirmed that 74 courses have shuttered their gates, and the organization estimates the final number will be around 100 for this calendar year.
The NGF points out that most of the closures are “public, stand-alone 9-hole facilities or short courses (executive or par-3 length) with a value price point.”
Not too long ago, that’s what happened here in the Cape Region, when the executive-length Golf Park at Rehoboth course closed after only a few years in operation. Most of that property is now a housing development.
At this point, it does not appear that other Cape Region golf courses are at serious risk of closing down any time soon. For the public layouts, that may be because the playing fees have been kept reasonable. Cape Region golfers and other Sussex County golfers can also take advantage of special local rates offered at several of these locations, especially during the upcoming off-season.
As these NGF statistics show, however, golfers in other parts of the country may not be quite so well situated.
Oakley checks in
The Rookery’s peripatetic Director of Golf called me October 22, with a gentle pricking of what there is of my conscience.
“Jim Hutchins told me you wrote a story last week about John Eustis’s hole-in-one, but you neglected to mention that Hutchins was one of the eyewitnesses,” Oakley laughed.
Oakley was right, of course. I believe I’ve just taken care of that glaring omission.
We then chatted a bit about Oakley’s season on the European Senior Tour, which ends next month with the Senior Tour Championship in Spain.
“I’ve had a good year,” Oakley said. “I’ve played decent, but not exemplary golf. If you make it into the top 40 at the end of the year, you are pretty much guaranteed to play in everything next season.”
“On the other hand, I’m now 59 years old, and so next year I’m going to start picking and choosing where I’ll play. I played every event this year, and it took its toll. When you’re my age, and you fly 9 hours straight at 40,000 feet, it takes more than a day to recover,” Oakley explained. “Although I plan to cut back a bit, my overall plan is to keep playing until I can’t play no more, to use a Sussex County phrase.”
Earlier this year, Oakley enjoyed the opportunity to play a round with Masters champion Ian Woosnam, and not just because the wee Welshman is actually shorter than the diminutive 2004 British Senior Open champion. “He’s really, really good, and a very nice guy. He routinely out-drove me by 80 yards in the Czech tournament. We talked a lot about the then-upcoming Ryder Cup tournament, and he had a few things to say about [European Ryder Cup captain] Nick Faldo.”
Oakley also told me about his son J.J.’s high scholastic standing at the University of Maryland Dental School. The former Cape Henlopen golf co-captain is on a path to become his class valedictorian, just as his grandfather did many years ago in dental school at Emory University. J.J. has also joined the Navy, which will front the cost of dental school in return for a service commitment.
It’s always nice to hear from fathers who have such good reasons for their pride in their offspring.