The economy is keeping area golfers close to home, and driving some out of private clubs and onto public fairways. Rain kept golfers off the greens at the Wilmington Municipal Golf Course Tuesday. Course general manager David Donovan said it's been a trend over the past few months with six of eight weekends rained out. But Donovan said when the sun has shined, the tee boxes at the Muni have been full. Many golfers teeing off are going there, because they're skipping on the private club memberships. Donovan said, “I have had a few people come to us who are members at other clubs in the area where they've decided to curtail that membership during this economic situation and they've come to us. It's an affordability factor.” But semi-private golf clubs like Beau Rivage said advanced reservations helped them during the down swing. Audra Walker explained, “If they book ahead of time we'll honor the 2009 rate for them, so that's another incentive.” They're also making Beau Rivage a vacation destination for the entire family with rental villas, restaurants, and a new banquet room that's already booked for weddings in 2010. Ms. Walker noted, “People can stay here and make a fun weekend out of it because we have the pool, we have golf, we have tennis, the pub.” Jerry McGraw owns Coastal Golfaway, a company that books golf vacations for our area and Myrtle Beach. He said the die hard golfers are still golfing, but in fewer numbers. “Well I have a group that has come for the last 10 years with me, a group of 16 to 18. He called me this year, he has 8.” McGraw said the golfers who are heading out to the links aren't spending money in the restaurants and pro shops. “They're playing the game of golf, but they're not spending that extra money to buy a new shirt or something like that.” The World Golf Foundation has launched an initiative to draw new golfers to the course called Get Golf Ready. While the courses we spoke with said they aren't taking part in the program, they are putting more focus on first time golfers.
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