Golf handicapped by economy

PINEHURST While Golla's game is on, hard economic times has others keeping their clubs in the garage.

"We can tell the economy is a little bit tough. There's not as many players out here as there used to be. And it is very important - especially for the resort that they do have corporate outings as well as individuals and group outings coming down here," he explained.

Tourism is the driving force in Moore County which has more than 40 golf courses. There are more than 3000 hotel rooms in the area. In the final quarter of last year, room occupancy was down 11 percent from a year ago.

"What we're finding is that people, a group of 12 that would come is now possibly down to eight. A four night stay might be a three night or a two night stay. So, people are still traveling, they're still escaping. But they're just changing the way that they take their trips," offered Tom Pashley, Pinehurst Resorts Vice President.

Hyland Hills golf course was the first victim of hard economic times. It closed in December and will be auctioned off next month.

While some might say the loss of golfers is no big deal, insiders will tell you a lot more goes on at the golf course than just the game.

"Golf has always been a secondary portion of a program. It's the portion that everyone seems to be focused on often times, but it's really about business. And we're seeing more and more people coming here and focusing strictly on business," said Pashley.

The busiest part of golf season is just underway. It'll be a couple of months before the tourism experts in Pinehurst see what the slumping economy is going to

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