Although some health club operators might complain that the recession has wreaked havoc on their revenues, any decline pales in comparison to the decline that the golf industry experienced in golf participation during that time.

In 2005, golf was at the height of its popularity in terms of participation, with 30 million golfers in the United States over the age of 6, according to the National Golf Association. However, that number dropped to 25.3 million in 2012. The number of golf courses also dropped from 16,052 in 2005 to 15,619 in 2012.

So when Linda Farrant, who owns Great Life Golf and Fitness, Topeka, KS, with her husband, Rick, found out that the owner of the large fitness facility she belonged to paid about $12,000 per month in rent, the accounting major and her finance major husband started running the numbers to see how the fitness business could make enough revenue to afford that type of rent.

“It was fascinating that they could generate that kind of money out of that kind of space,” Rick Farrant says. (View the video of Rick sharing how the company has grown.)

The couple determined that adding fitness to the empty rooms at the large golf and country clubs they had been purchasing since 1991 could help stabilize attendance throughout the year, eliminating the need to lay off staff during the winter. Now, they say, it was one of the best moves they could have made.

The Farrants, along with Rick’s brother, Gary, now own, license and franchise 24 golf courses in Kansas and Missouri. Six of them were failing or closed golf courses when they purchased them. The Farrants have added a fitness center to 21 of the courses.

“We won’t look at a golf course anymore unless we can put in a fitness center,” Rick says. “It’s just too hard. The market is shrinking. There are a lot of struggles there. That’s a battle we don’t even want to fight.”

Their 18 premiere clubs run $30 per month for singles, couples and families. Their four select clubs run $40 per month, and their two elite clubs run $100 and $400 per month. The prices for all include golf and fitness.