FARMINGTON — Encouraged by a warm and dry year, golfers filled local fairways in 2012, boosting numbers at courses around the area.
Rounds played were up 5.9 percent at Pinon Hills Golf Course in Farmington, 14.8 percent at Riverview Golf Course in Kirtland and about 11.5 percent at Hidden Valley Golf Club in Aztec. The courses saw similar increases in revenue.
"That's a big number in golf," said Steve Schoch, general manager and head golf professional at Riverview. "You don't grow your rounds that quickly."
Riverview, owned by San Juan County, hosted 24,950 rounds in 2012.
Warm and dry weather, seasonal discounts and a rebounding economy helped keep courses busy, managers said.
"We had a really warm winter last year," said Chris Jones, general manager at Pinon Hills. "We almost tripled the number of rounds in January of 2012 over January of 2011 that makes a difference."
It was the second straight year of increases for Pinon Hills, Farmington's city-owned course, after five consecutive years of modest declines. The course hosted 37,937 rounds in 2012.
"I think it definitely has rebounded a little bit in line with the economy," Jones said.
Pinon Hills also used discounts to lure customers during off-peak seasons.
Across the nation, rounds played grew 6.8 percent for the year through November, according to the PGA. Days open also increased 6.8 percent.
"Record warm weather contributed to the supply of available golf which in turn provided golfers
At Riverview, Schoch said the course's playability attracts customers. Some golf courses in the U.S. have turned off customers by making courses too difficult, expensive and slow to play, he said.
"You want to make your course as good as you can make it, but you can't Augusta-size everything," he said, referring to Augusta National Golf Club, a challenging course that hosts the Masters Tournament each spring.
Schoch said 2012's warm weather made for strong increases in off-peak times but actually hurt business in the dog days of summer.
"The heat we had this summer was almost too hot," he said. "Believe it or not, we lost some rounds."
He held out hope the Kirtland course, much of which is exposed to the wind, could reopen soon. Courses in San Juan County stay open nearly year-round, typically closing only for snow coverage or stubborn frosts.
"We want to be known as the banana belt of the Four Corners," Schoch said.
Golf courses are promoting youth and beginners programs to keep new golfers coming into the game as the Baby Boom generation ages. Each spring, area courses offer First Tee and Get Golf Ready programs for novices.
Tom McClurg, head golf pro at Hidden Valley, made a point of keeping prices steady. The Aztec course hosted about 14,500 rounds in 2012.
"We're on the right track," he said.