With the rough economic times, businesses are struggling like the consumers who use them. Golf clubs are having a particularly rough time because their memberships have been steadily dropping even before the current recession, only compounding the problem.

However, this season the Goose River Golf Club in Rockport is taking a proactive approach to boost interested in golf. The club has decided to implement a program that gives a discount to new members and returning members who bring new members with them.

“It’s always in an effort to gain new members, see new faces but it’s also in an effort to try and stimulate golf,” said seven-year Goose River golf professional Jim Blanchette.

At the club, new members and members who refer new members will receive a $50 discount on their membership, regardless of what kind of membership they have or how many members they refer.

For example, the cost of a normal single membership will be $600 while a new member and his or her referring member will pay $550. New members who join without referral will also get the discount.

The program is an amended version of previous incentives that the club has offered and Blanchette hopes it will pull more interest.

Blanchette said the course has had about 140 members annually in the last four or five years but he would like to have more.

“If we had 200 people it would make things run much smoother,” he said.

Blanchette said he does not expect the program to draw the extra 60 people but he hopes it will at least retain last year’s numbers or add to them by 5 to 10 percent.

The club will also continue to work with the Midcoast Junior Golf Association to foster young golfers and keep them playing golf.

“We have got a lot of young junior golfers coming up but you just need to try and work with them and hopefully they will just stick with the program,” he said.

However, Blanchette said it is hard to interest people in golf. A few years ago he said he offered a dollar a hole “to see whether it was a situation where it was the cost that was affecting people [or] whether it was the time that was affecting people and we didn’t get a lot of people to come out and respond to that test program.”

“It’s tough for all of us golf professionals out there trying to really figure out where the people are at and why they are not here,” he said. “To me the biggest thing I think right now is the justification process. Anything you are doing today, whether you are joining a gym, whether you are joining a golf course, it doesn’t matter what you are joining you have to justify the cost.”

That, in itself, is hard to do in today’s economy.

Blanchette said his club is trying to justify the cost of membership by improving the course.

“This year we are going to be working on trying to improve the golf course and improve conditions. That way we can get people to play,” he said.

Improvements include new drainage systems so the course can dry quicker if it floods.

Blanchette said overall, with the improvements and the incentive program, the Goose River Golf Club is “trying to dress the place up this year and trying to make some new changes, make it more enjoyable.”

VillageSoup Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.