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Golf in Myrtle Beach faces hard times until 2010, officials predict

Operators of golf-related businesses on the Grand Strand are braced to weather what could be an economic storm in 2009.

Paid rounds on Strand courses were down 8.5 percent in 2008 compared with 2007, according to statistics compiled for marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, and another palpable drop is expected this year.

"Golf has to survive in Myrtle Beach, and we'll do whatever we need to do to make that happen," said Signature Golf partner Steve Taylor, whose company operates five Strand courses. "... '09 is not going to be as good as '08, and I think it will be 2010 until we say we're recovering."

The decrease in rounds played on the Strand in 2008 is reflected in transaction fees collected by Golf Holiday through package rounds booked on the Tee Time Network and walk-on rounds reported by golf courses. The $1.50 per-round fee was enacted in January 2007.

Only the month of February showed an increase in '08, and the biggest drops were 17 percent in September and 23 percent in November, according to Golf Holiday.

The fall golf season was particularly hard hit following news of several national financial failings and scandals.

Revenues fell with rounds, though not as much because many courses raised their rates last year. Those increases aren't likely this year.

According to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, golf admissions tax collections, which are 5 percent of every paid greens fee, were down 3.9 percent in Georgetown County in 2008 compared with 2007, and down 4 percent in Horry County. They had been up the two previous years.