BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Back in early February, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was speaking at the annual CBS gathering at Pebble Beach, Calif. He explained that golf, despite reports to the contrary, was not in bad shape and that many initiatives promoted by the Tour and other golf organizations, notably Topgolf, was boosting participation and interest in the game.
Try telling that to Kenny Perry.
Perry, 55, has won more than $39 million in a 29-year career as a touring pro that includes 22 victories on the PGA and senior tours. As someone who also owns and operates a golf course in his hometown of Franklin, Ky., Perry questions Finchem’s premise that golf is doing well.
“We’re struggling,” Perry said of his Country Creek Golf Course. “It’s pretty rough. We didn’t break 33,000 rounds and we’re down to 22,000 rounds and the golf course is fine; it’s in good shape, it’s just the state of the game.”
Green fee and cart at Perry’s course is $32 during the week and $37 on weekends, but even that relatively low price is not luring golfers to his course. Perry is not alone.
Courses in southern Kentucky, as in most of the rest of the U.S., face pressure on the business model, Perry said.
“The kids aren’t playing, I guess,” Perry said after he shot 6-under 65 in the first round of the Senior PGA Championship at Golf Club at Harbor Shores. “Thirty-two dollars for a cart and a greens fee is really not a lot of money. So I am at a very low-end golf course, but it’s just people aren’t playing anymore.”
Perry, who intends to trim his schedule after this year, is willing to ride out the storm for a while but says at some point the course might be returned to its original use.
“If it keeps breaking even, I’ll probably turn it back in as a farm or something,” Perry said. “It’s sitting on 300 acres, so I’ll lease out 150 of the acres; the golf course is on 150, so it will be OK. We’ll do just fine.”