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Colorado’s golf courses are off to a smashing start

Andy Vuong
The Denver Post

Colorado’s golf courses are off to a smashing start this year thanks to balmy winter.

But uncertain times loom, especially for higher-priced courses, as the peak playing season from April to October approaches.

An intensifying recession could hurt the relatively expensive recreational sport more than others as consumers trim discretionary spending and businesses cut back on corporate golf outings.

As such, courses across the metro area are taking new approaches to attracting golfers. Tony courses are offering deeper discounts. Others are testing packages of lessons, golf and dinner in an effort to draw the entire family.

“I expect to see some reduction in the number of rounds played,” said Travis McDowell, director of golf for the Ridge at Castle Pines North. “Just as many people will still want to play golf. … I just think people are going to be a little smarter with their dollar.”

The Ridge is offering a Super Pass that allows holders to play 18 holes for $25. The pass costs $950 for a single and $1,200 for two people in the same household. Without a Super Pass, a round of golf costs $145 during peak season.

The Ridge and other high-priced courses such as Arrowhead and Omni Interlocken golf clubs also offer discounted tee times through websites such as Golfhub .com and Golfnow.com .

“People are going to try to attract as many rounds of golf as they possibly can,” said Eddie Ainsworth, executive director of the Colorado PGA. “You’ll see a lot of golf courses use their off-peak times to offer different types of programs to entice golfers.”

For example, Fossil Trace in Golden plans to offer a “nine and dine” special throughout the season where golfers pay $49 for nine holes in the afternoon followed by dinner at the club’s restaurant.

Ainsworth said courses will try to market themselves as a vacation for families looking to trim expenses and cut out-of-state travel. Some will offer “Get Golf Ready in 5 Days,” a $99 program that features five lessons with equipment included.

With lower prices, municipal courses may benefit from the recession. While overall rounds played in Colorado increased 1 percent from 2007 to 2008, municipal courses saw an 8 percent increase, according to the Colorado PGA.

“I used to play more at the higher-end courses, but lately it’s been the municipal courses, and that’s just because of costs,” said Aurora resident Ryan Thompson, who played last weekend for the first time this year at Fitzsimons, a city course.

Kirk Mease, head pro at Wellshire Golf Course in Denver, said municipal courses may benefit as people cancel their country-club memberships to cut expenses.

Warm and dry weather allowed Colorado courses to open, on average, for 10 days in January, up from three days a year ago.

Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209 or avuong@denverpost.com


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