Utah sees golf upsurge thanks to balmy spring
Golf in Utah, shall we say, is on the upswing, and that's paying dividends on and off the course.
The number of golf rounds played in the state in June was up 12.3 percent, compared with the same month last year, according to a new report from the PGA of America, the second-highest gain in the country (Wyoming was highest). Utah also had the second-highest number of days in which courses were open (second to Nebraska).
That jump in golfing activity is especially true for the nine public courses in Salt Lake City and the six courses run by Salt Lake County, thanks to good spring weather.
"Our total rounds played is as good as it's been in a decade, and that's primarily due to March, April and May," said David Terry, who manages the golf courses for Salt Lake City.
In March, that number was up 82 percent, compared with the same month last year, he said. April was up 68 percent, May was up 25 percent, and June was up 2.3 percent. Revenue from golf and cart fees, and concession stand sales, was up $1 million during the city's fiscal year ending in July.
On Salt Lake County's courses, the number of rounds played increased 23.4 percent from January to July, compared with the same period last year, according to county records. The additional play has generated $729,000 more in revenue from green and cart fees.
"We've had an awesome year so far," said Brent Baldwin, the head golf professional for Riverbend Golf Course in Riverton, a county course.
"The past three or four years, we haven't had an April or May basically because of weather," he added. "It's been wet and cold."
And what's been good for Utah's golf courses has also been stellar for the many Utah businesses that use the picturesque fairways as their boardrooms to build client relationships.
"It's been huge," said Ted Devin, a partner with Business Golf Connection, a Salt Lake City company that encourages business people to use golf as a networking tool. "Our numbers have grown this year. We've seen a lot of success and a lot of people coming out and playing this year. It's a good niche and a good way to network."
Brian Schramm, the head pro at the Old Mill Golf Course in Cottonwood Heights, estimates that the number of businesses that use the course for wooing clients with corporate events has gone up, although the sour economy still has meant that fewer groups are playing where one player picks up the whole tab on behalf of a company.
Business-related golfing isn't specifically calculated, but Riverbend's Baldwin also thinks that corporate golf events and meetings have increased perhaps 18 percent to 20 percent at his course.
"We're seeing everything from Realtors to insurance people. We have a lot of things like car dealerships, as well as eBay," he said. "We have leagues such as Kennecott that are playing this year that haven't in the past."
Devin, who is a middle-market commercial banker for Key Bank, said he likes to use the golf course to build relationships with clients he might not otherwise get to meet.
"It's been really effective, and I've met a lot of great people," he said. "It generally takes three or four lunches to do what you can do with one round of golf in terms of getting to know people."
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More rounds played
Thirty-two states experienced an increase in the number of rounds played in June, compared with the same month last year, the eighth consecutive month of increases, according to the PGA of America. Here are the 10 states that experienced the most gains:
Wyoming • up 22.8 percent
Utah • up 12.3 percent
Arkansas • up 12.2 percent
Alabama • up 10.5 percent
Louisiana • up 10.1 percent
Tennessee • up 9.8 percent
Iowa • up 9.3 percent
Vermont • up 8.9 percent
Illinois • up 8.4 percent
Indiana • up 7.9 percent