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Recession chips away at golf industry

Signature Golf, which manages five Grand Strand courses, had a major score for this upcoming spring golf season.

Company partner Steve Taylor said 80 people from Canada booked a golf package that encompassed six days and 480 rounds in March. But that was before a factory in the golfers' area shut down, leaving many of those booked on the trip out of work.

A group is still coming, but at last count, it was down to 16 people and 96 rounds.

That's another hit in a golf market that has taken a few financial blows lately in the midst of a recession.

"That's just one indication of the [economy's] impact," Taylor said. "The fact we've lost rounds of golf is small compared to the impact on the people involved."

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 golf-related business operators are bracing for another palpable drop this year.

"Golf has to survive in Myrtle Beach, and we'll do whatever we need to do to make that happen," Taylor said. "I think there will be some casualties. Certainly people, though I haven't heard anything about golf courses [closing]. '09 is not going to be as good as '08, and I think it will be 2010 until we say we're recovering."

The recession also has forced Golf Holiday to retool its marketing approach to account for an expected budget reduction.

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