Rounds played finished in positive territory in 2004 for the first time in three years, as reported by the National Golf Foundation and the National Golf Course Owners Association. While the gains were slight (0.7% nationally), they represent a welcome relief to the declines of the prior two years.

“As usual, results vary remarkably by region,” says Joe Beditz, president and CEO of NGF,” with some areas experiencing a five percent decline and others increasing by as much as nine percent. Variations across regions, due in large part to weather patterns, show a continuing tendency to balance themselves out.”

“The numbers reflect what we’ve heard from many of our members,” adds Mike Hughes, executive director of NGCOA. “Overall golf spending is rising a bit as the overall economy continues to improve.”

Private club rounds were flat for the year while public courses had slight increases. Premium public courses had the best showing with nearly a two percent gain, followed by value public with about a one percent increase.

The Florida hurricanes left the Gulf Coast region in the lurch (down nearly five percent) but an otherwise strong season enabled the Central/South Florida region to finish the year up about one percent. The Mid Atlantic region posted the highest gain for the year (nine percent) primarily because the region’s rounds were down 13 percent in 2003 due to record levels of precipitation.

The report is based on information reported by a panel of nearly 2,600 golf facilities across the U.S. Response rates to monthly surveys vary from 60 to 70 percent. The report is one of a series of quarterly reports, supported and endorsed by a coalition of the industry’s leading associations. For the full fourth quarter report, visit or