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2016 headed for late-year rally

Last year appears, at least to a degree, to be going out on a high note in the golf business. But don't get your hopes up: Last year's late-season rally is not a sign that everything in the golf world is hunky-dory.
Golf courses throughout the country enjoyed a late-season boost to the bottom line in November.In fact, far from it.
Rounds played in November - yes, November - were up 11 percent compared to the same month in 2015, according to Golf Datatech's monthly rounds report. Unlike some past rallies that were saw ridiculous, three-digit bumps in participation in a handful of states, November's comeback is more grounded, with solid double-digit increases across the country. In fact, rounds played were up in 38 states and Washington, D.C., while a drop in participation was recorded in just 11 states (the report, which samples self-reported data from 3,250 private and daily fee facilities, does not include Alaska).
Although figures for December 2016 are not due for a few more weeks, November's gains are enough to signal what should be about a 2 percent increase in rounds played last year.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that it appears the golf industry is shedding yet more golfers and more golf facilities. While that means those who are playing golf are playing more often, it also means that fewer and fewer people are carrying the water for the entire industry. 
According to National Golf Foundation data, it appears that 150-200 facilities (net) closed in 2015. If those numbers hold true, the (net) loss of 18-hole-equivalents since 2006 will be around 1,1000, give or take, meaning the industry is headed for another three to five years of contraction as it seeks supply-demand equilibrium.
Golfers also continue to leave the game at a rate of 3-4 percent per year. Another year like that, and there will be fewer than 20 million people playing golf in the United States. That will be the lowest number of players since the 1980s.
Koppenhaver and Stuart Lindsey of Edgehill Consulting will have all the latest data available later this month when they present their State of the Industry Report from the PGA Merchandise Show. And, at least for now, there is some good news to report unless you are an equipment manufacturer or retailer. Sales of new equipment in 2016 likely will be at its lowest since the economy tanked three presidential election cycles ago.
Of the 38 states reporting a year-over-year increase in rounds played in November, 32 saw a double-digit jump. Only three of 11 states reporting negative numbers in rounds played in November experienced double-digit losses.
TurfNet will report the full rundown for 2015 - including the good as well as the bad - when Koppenhaver and Lindsey deliver their full report later this month.

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