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Recession Over? Bullish Call On Golf Retail

Thursday, 30 Jul 2009 | 4:56 PM ET

As I sit here at CNBC, I hear more and more people say that the recession is over and there are definitely signs. The Dow, for example, is on track to have its best July –- on a percentage basis -– since 1939.

But I haven’t really seen any talk of recovery in the sports business world, until today that was.

The golf club business has pretty much been a disaster over the last year.

Since shafts don’t fall apart, it’s a totally discretionary purchase. Callaway , which were among the most aggressive in partnering with retailers on economical deals, reported that its profits dropped 82 percent in the last quarter. Yet many were ready to focus on the upside. Stifel Nicolaus, whose own internal research revealed that 70 to 75 percent of golfers had deferred equipment purchases for the last two years, upgraded Callaway to a buy, partly due to an uptick in sales in July and emerging market potential in China and India.

The market responded. Callaway, which was down 37 percent from the start of the year, was up 13 percent today alone.

Like every sector, there are still many signs that we’re not out of the woods. Churchill Downs, for example, reported an increase in second quarter earnings, though gains were from its slot machine business more than its racetrack operations. Maybe that has more to do with the sport itself than the recession.

Given the position the golf retail business was in (free club with this purchase! free club if this guy wins!) this is really the first great piece of news for the industry. Then again, maybe we should say then when we actually see sales going up instead of people projecting sales will be up.

Slideshow: America's Top 15 Golf Communities

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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