U.S. golf courses in steady decline

ST. ANDREW'S, Scotland -- The United States is experiencing a gradual decline in the number of golf courses in the country to correct an oversupply between the 1960s and the early 2000s, according to a global report published Wednesday by the sport's governing body.

The study -- titled "Golf Around The World" -- said there are 34,011 golf courses in the world, 45 percent of which are in the United States.

The current total of 15,372 courses in the U.S. is down from a peak of 16,052 following a "gradual, but steady, market correction," the report said. Although there are 153 projects in various stages of development, the number of new courses being opened is at an all-time low.

The U.S.-based organization National Golf Foundation spent four years looking at the global development of the game, with funding by the R&A -- the governing body based at St. Andrew's in Scotland.

The report found that 79 percent of the world's golf courses -- ranging from pitch-and-putts to 18-hole courses -- are located in the United States, Japan, Canada, England, Australia, Germany, France, Scotland, South Africa and Sweden.

Almost 700 golf courses are under construction or in advance planning, the report said, and the sport is going to new areas, with Belarus, Azerbaijan and Georgia opening their first courses in the last two years.

"It will provide a benchmark for future monitoring and enable us to identify areas of potential growth," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said of the study.

The trend in new golf developments in Europe appears to be toward short, compact courses -- comprising six, nine or 12 holes -- that are public and family-friendly.

The report said that golf remains "largely accessible," with 71 percent of the 34,011 facilities being open to the public.