Membership fees for golf clubs typically range between £600 and £1000
The image may be of a well-heeled sport but the reality is golf clubs are suffering a sharp financial downturn and some are in danger of closing.
While many golfers like to get away from the cares of the world out on the course, the recession means that an increasing number of people are finding it difficult to stump up the annual memberships fees which can typically range from £600 to £1,000.
At a time when cash is scarce some members are clearly deciding to cut back and just pay green fees on the days they actually play.
Not only are membership lists dwindling but the recession also means less sponsorship is available for competitions.
Golf outings too are being cut back and that has left many finance committees with deficits to deal with.
And yet while income has been falling the cost of running a golf club is higher than ever.
Clubs can spend up to £300,000 a year keeping tees, greens and fairways trimmed.
Members expect courses to be kept in immaculate condition but the impact of the recession means club finances are now looking decidedly scruffy.
Faced with falling membership as well as reduced green fee and bar receipts, many clubs are finding it difficult to balance their books.
The prospect of a deserted course may seem a bleak one but that now is a very real prospect at a number of clubs across Northern Ireland.
Ringdufferin beside Strangford Lough provides an image of what can happen when a course runs down and the membership moves on.
While there has been no comment from the land owner the course now sports a lush crop of grass on the fairways.
What was a busy course in a spectacular location has fallen quiet.
Some clubs have had to axe hospitality for visiting teams
Weeds are now growing in the bunkers while the greens are taking on a shaggy unkempt appearance.
One former member of staff said he had been told the recession was to blame.
It's sad for the former members of Ringdufferin, although one consolation is that because of the economic downturn they should will have little difficulty finding a new club.
Waiting lists and hefty joining fees used to be the order of the day, but not any more as cash-strapped clubs are now actively seeking new members.
Donaghadee with its attractive coastal location is relatively fortunate but even with no debts to service the club is looking for new members to boost its flagging income.
"We haven't seen a recession like this in the 110-year history of the club," says captain John Devine.
As at most other clubs the waiting list has evaporated and membership has fallen away because of the recession.
Worried about the deterioration in its finances the club called a special council meeting last month.
The result was the launch of an advertising campaign and reduced entrance fees to help attract new members.
Donaghadee may be managing to cut its cloth in these recessionary times but other clubs which are saddled with debt are not as fortunate.
For them cost cutting is proving painful and even embarrassing.
With banks breathing down necks, some clubs have had to axe hospitality for visiting teams.
For a sport where keeping up appearances is important, some members have been shocked at the level of cost cutting.
Jim Cullen, who is a member of the Golf Secretaries and Managers Association, says that at some clubs the economic situation is "dire".
"There is a strong possibility that some of those clubs may struggle this year and some of those may close," he said.
For many clubs the green shoots of economic recovery can not come fast enough.
In the meantime, it's a case of keeping a tight rein on costs and fighting to win new members.