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Apr 18, 2014 | 06:27 AM

A Healthy Jump In Green Fees

If you’re looking for a positive sign in the golf industry—and who isn’t?—here’s one: The price of buying a golf course is going up. That might not mean a whole lot given that in the U.S. last year 10 times as many courses closed as opened. But among those that changed ownership, value is increasing. According to the National Golf and Resort Properties Group, part of investment firm Marcus and Millichap, the average price for a course rose 57 percent in 2013, from $2.7 million for 18 holes to $4.25 million. (The market high, $7.33 million, was reached in 2006.) On msn.com, Steve Evokich of Marcus and Millichap was quoted as saying, “After bottoming out in 2012, the golf-course sales market looks to be recovering and stabilizing. Bank financing is slowly returning, the average sales price is rebounding, there are fewer foreclosures and bank repossessions, and more courses are back to producing positive cash flow.” That last fact might be the most positive, indicating that golfers are coming back and paying to play. Couple that with reports that private clubs are seeing growth in membership numbers and the industry has cause for cautious optimism. For the time being, let’s stress “cautious."

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Apr 17, 2014 | 12:35 PM

Riding the Course

Fifteen-inch cups. Footgolf. Golf bikes. Wait, what? The first two concepts designed to grow the game have been getting attention as of late, but an option to speed things up has just been introduced at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. Guests playing the 27 Scott Miller-designed holes there can hop on a bike with small-diameter wheels and wide rubber tires, throw their clubs in two custom-designed bags mounted to the rear of the bike and off they go. Raise the heart rate a bit, shave more than a few minutes off the round and really earn that post-round refreshment (or two). And you’ll never have to worry about cart path only days.

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Apr 16, 2014 | 11:38 AM

Nick of Time

Tom Watson, 63, isn’t the only oldie but goodie in this year’s RBC Heritage in Hilton Head (this year’s Ryder Cup Captain won there in 1979 and ’82 but last played the event in ’01.) Nick Faldo, 56, is also making his first appearance in a regular tour event since the last time he competed in the Heritage in ‘06 (all champions through ’99 and since ’09 are invited). The reason? To celebrate the 30th anniversary of his win at Harbour Town in ’84—the first of his nine PGA Tour victories—as well for the “sunshine, the walk, and out of curiosity,” he says. The six-time major champion also plans on playing in The Greenbrier Classic, Scottish Open, and Open Championship this year while juggling his TV duties with CBS and Golf Channel.

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Apr 14, 2014 | 07:54 AM

Do We Like Ike?

Next to the absence of Tiger Woods, the biggest story going into this year's Masters was the absence of the Eisenhower Tree on the 440-yard 17th, which was lost during a February ice storm. (The storm also thinned out the other trees considerably, allowing winner Bubba Watson to play a big cut on 11 over the sheared tops of the realatively new pines on the right.) But while the former president and many tour pros cursed the loblolly pine on the left side of the hole, it turns out that 17 actually played harder this year with the tree gone. The stroke average was 4.24, the sixth most difficult on the course and the highest since 2006. The club still hasn't announed whether they plan to replace the tree but will no doubt take the stroke average into consideration. What do you think: Should they replace the tree or not?

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