US golf clubs in the rough as members drop away

Myrtle Beach, SC - MYRTLE BEACH (AP) - The economy and changes in lifestyle have U.S. golf clubs in the rough, which could affect the future of the Grand Strand.

Greg Nathan of the National Golf Foundation says that in 2009, about 140 of the country's 16,000 golf facilities in closed - and only 50 new courses opened.

It was the fourth straight year of decline.

Jay Mottola of the Metropolitan Golf Association in New York says the downturn is "definitely connected to the economic conditions."

And Nathan says there's been "a slow leak" in the number of U.S. golfers since 30 million were counted in the peak year of 2005. The number dropped to 27.1 million in 2009.

Some clubs are trimming $50,000 initiation and $10,000 membership fees to keep their golfers.

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