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Hernando, Pasco golf courses see only a dip in business since last year

From left, Dave Orrico and Bob Breithoff, both of New Jersey, and Keith Galloway of New Hope, Pa., line up their putts at World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

From left, Dave Orrico and Bob Breithoff, both of New Jersey, and Keith Galloway of New Hope, Pa., line up their putts at World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville.

BROOKSVILLE — During a recession, people typically cut back and pay more attention to how they spend their money. They make all financial decisions carefully.

But apparently, those rules do not apply to golfers.

For those who love the game and can afford to play, nothing's going to keep them from teeing off.

A check with golf courses and clubs around the North Suncoast found that while business has taken a small dip this year, from posh clubhouses to the more modest courses, golf continues to rule.

"I would say our traffic is up 25 percent over last year," Reggie Ridlon of the Sherman Hills Golf Club in Brooksville said last week.

Sherman Hills, along with several other courses in the region, opted to keep their rates the same this year. Course operators focused on customer service and modified tee times, which generated additional business, Ridlon said.

And the condition of the grounds matter. "Our golf course is in impeccable condition," Ridlon said.

At Forest Hills Golf Course in Holiday, which has been family owned for more than 30 years, John Koulias said business had been good so far this year.

"We're the working man's course," he said. "A lot of our people are retired and on a fixed income."

Despite their financial limitations, the regulars have kept on coming.

"We aren't feeling the down of the economy like others might," he said.

At Seven Hills Golf Course in Spring Hill, pro shop assistant Art Wagner said they opted to lower their rates from previous years and this strategy helped generate business for them.

A world ranking also helps. Scott Wyckoff, head golf professional and clubhouse manager at World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville, said he has seen a lot more international visitors this year, particularly from Europe.

World Woods ranks in the top 100 golf courses in the world, and will soon be recognized in Golf Magazine as one of America's top four practice facilities, he said.

Wyckoff sees the current economic situation as a challenge, but also an opportunity. "You have to provide more, a greater service or greater value to individuals to play golf at your facility," he said.

At Silverthorn Country Club in Spring Hill, head golf pro Kris Mahoney said he has seen more people from Canada and the United Kingdom this year.

"During February and March, our tee sheet was full day in and day out," he said.

Golfers might be cutting back in other ways. Snowbirds that might normally stay for six months are shortening their trips.

And with Easter falling in April this year, Mahoney said, there was an additional two weeks of spring break business.

"It's a recession so naturally we couldn't do great, but it's been a good year," said Mark Haluska at Seven Springs Country Club in New Port Richey.

While it might not be completely recession-proof, when folks begin cutting back to save money, golf seems to make the cut.

Hernando, Pasco golf courses see only a dip in business since last year 04/19/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 19, 2009 7:48pm]
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