The five-year study will evaluate the golf industry, covering costs to players, playing time, turf maintenance, and golf course water consumption, in hopes of making the game less expensive and time-consuming, while addressing environmental concerns.
The University of Minnesota and the United States Golf Association (USGA) will conduct a five-year, $2.5 million study to evaluate the golf industry in hopes of making the game less expensive and time-consuming. They’ll look at everything from the costs players incur to turf maintenance to playing time, the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune reported.
According to the USGA, the state has the most golfers per capita. Golf contributes about $2.4 billion to Minnesota’s annual economy. The university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Carlson School of Management; College of Science and Engineering, and Humphrey School of Public Affairs will contribute to the project. The Les Bolstad Golf Course will serve as the study’s laboratory, the Star Tribune reported.
The collaboration will provide new data to help create a game that is more economically and environmentally sustainable, said Rand Jerris, senior managing director of public services for the USGA.
One topic the group will address is how courses can optimize water consumption. Water usage is proving to be one of the industry’s greatest challenges as Western states in particular face more dry weather and droughts, Jerris said. “We came to a realization given some of the challenges faced in the game, we really needed to increase our bandwidth in order to move faster,” he said.
From 1990 to 2009, a boom period for golf, Minnesota saw 147 new courses pop up across the state. But for the past few years, the industry has struggled. Since 2006, the state has had more than 14 courses close. Edina, for example, lost its storied Fred Richards Golf Course in 2014, the Star Tribune reported.
Now golf organizations are working to attract younger players. The partnership will look at ways to change the traditional game to help do just that, said Brian Horgan, a professor in the U’s department of Horticultural Science and Extension. “Millennials and the younger generation of golfers might not have the same time commitment to play the game,” he said.
Those who love golf are convinced it has a bright future. “We are very optimistic about the future of the game,” Jerris said. The overall number of golfers now is holding steady and the number of committed golfers has risen, he said.
About 90 percent of Minnesota’s 492 courses are public. One of them, Braemar, in Edina, is seeing positive trends. After seven years of losses, it has experienced a financial profit so far this year. Braemar is now improving its amenities and plans on consolidating about 27 of its holes to 18 by 2017, the Star Tribune reported.
“We’ve had a good year,” said General Manager Joe Abood.