For the city in upstate New York, the imbalance of demand and supply has been exacerbated by the bankruptcy of Eastman Kodak.
Private and public courses in the Rochester, N.Y. area are focused on the shared goal of figuring out how to reel in new golfers, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported in a recent roundup of area courses.
David Hill, owner of Twin Hills Golf Course in Spencerport, N.Y., estimated that the struggles of the golf industry have cut his gross profit approximately 40 percent since the mid-1980s. And Hill confirmed that the downfall of Eastman Kodak, the long-time bedrock of Rochester’s economy that filed for bankruptcy as 2012 began, has added to the pressure on area courses.
In Kodak’s heyday, Twin Hills GC was the favorite course for dozens of leagues with Kodak ties that ran in the summer. But now, Hill says, “We only have a few left, with the retirees who kept going because they enjoy the course and getting out with their buddies.”
Sean Lalley, the new head professional at the private Mendon (N.Y.) Golf Club, characterized the situation as a new golf season opened as “a time of transition.”
“A lot of the private clubs are looking for members, and it’s more of a cultural shift,” Lalley said. “As families are looking for group activities, golf clubs are looking for ways to adjust to that.
“It’s changed the last few years,” he added. “In 2008, there were a lot of lost memberships. With everybody looking to keep an eye on their discretionary dollars and prioritize what they were doing, golf, for some, kind of fell by the wayside.”
Mike Roeder, General Manager for Ravenwood Golf Club in Victor, N.Y., noted that “core players” still make a strong showing on area courses, but the sport struggles to appeal to casual and new players.
“In Rochester, there’s a higher supply of golf courses than is needed for the demand of the golfers,” Roeder said. “We’ve seen a little bit of a downturn, especially with corporate-related play. It seemed like the economy tightened up on some companies and they couldn’t spend on those things.”
But things could be on the upswing. “We have some leagues that are new with kids in their 20s, so that keeps me encouraged,” said Hill at Twin Hills GC. “I’m not destitute yet.”