Two New Articles Document Continued Decline of Bay Area Golf Market

Two new media articles indicate that the Bay Area’s golf market continues to collapse, adding more pressure on San Mateo and San Francisco Counties to close the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course and replace it with a park everyone can enjoy.

“The Bay Area golf market is violating a fundamental law: the law of supply and demand,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “There are too many golf courses and not enough golfers, and that’s why it’s time to restore Sharp Park: we can build a better, more sustainable park that everyone can enjoy while stabilizing the golf market before better golf courses are forced to close.”

A Restoration Vision for Sharp Park

An article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat explains that the recession, an oversupply of golf courses, and the ongoing decline in golf’s popularity has forced several courses into bankruptcy, and highlights one course where a $3.1 million dollar investment failed to attract additional players, resulting in ongoing deficits.

A second article in the San Mateo County Times reports that the City of San Mateo is raising prices to overcome deficits in the city’s golf fund, which has been in the red since 2004. A similar fee hike in 2006 failed to eliminate the deficit, in part because rounds played at the golf course have been declining by 9% per year.

Golf analysts who have studied the Bay Area market have concluded that the market is overbuilt, and therefore golf revenues cannot be increased simply by raising prices: golfers will take their game to a competing course, and the marginal gains in revenue will be offset by a reduction in rounds played. The failure of San Mateo’s 2006 fee hike to erase the golf fund deficit seems to support this conclusion.

Yet Congresswoman Jacki Speier has requested a $5,000,000 federal taxpayer bailout for Sharp Park Golf Course’s environmental problems, and the Congresswoman has also been leading discussions that would cause San Mateo County taxpayers to subsidize the San Francisco-owned Sharp Park, even as San Mateo’s own golf fund continues to post deficits.

“This is the wrong thing to do for outdoor recreation in the Bay Area,” said Plater. “Throwing good money after bad at Sharp Park will not make golf more attractive to those leaving the sport, but it will jeopardize our ability to provide basic recreational services like trail maintenance and outdoor education for our kids. Both our conscience and the market are telling us that we need to do a better job managing outdoor recreation and not just reflexively bailout the status quo.”

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