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Let’s have a moment of silence for Courses that are no longer with us...

California Courses

  • The Retreat
  • Sierra LaVerne
  • Velano
  • Carmel Mt. Ranch
  • Salt Creek
  • Chula Vista
  • Roddy Ranch
  • Lost Canyons – Shadow 
  • Lost Canyons – Sky
  • Deer Ridge Golf Club
  • Escondido CC
  • Fallbrook
  • Diablo Grande
  • Empire Lakes
  • Mountain View 

Additional Closures

  • Borrego Springs
  • Mare Island Golf Club
  • ASU Karsten Course
  • Diablo Grande Golf and Country Club
  • Shawnee State Park Golf Course
  • Sanctuary Golf Club
  • Elkins Ranch Golf Course

The trend of course closures will continue for the foreseeable future.

Jason Scott Deegan

Jason Scott Deegan

December 17, 2019

A view of a green with water coming into play at Borrego Springs Resort Golf Club & Spa

Borrego Springs Resort GC & Spa

A state park course. A muni. A pair of high-end resort courses. A university course.

No type of course is immune to the challenges of today’s golf industry. Those listed above are just a few of the more than one hundred golf courses that closed in 2019. It always saddens me to research this article. I’ve been profiling the top courses to close each year since 2015 at Golf Advisor. It’s getting old. At some point, golf should reach a point where demand overtakes supply. We aren’t there yet. Probably not even close.

I always find at least a couple closed courses that I’ve played, and enjoyed, in the past. None of them deserved their fate. Not one was a dog track or cow pasture. Once upon a time, they were green and glorious, the fairways packed with golfers. Times have changed.

Whatever you believe is causing all these closures – that golf is too expensive, too hard or takes too much time – is somewhat irrelevant. Courses will continue to close, especially ones that are mismanaged, overpriced, too far removed from a population center or too valuable to developers. It’s the circle of life (in golf). Just pray it doesn’t happen to your favorite local playground.

Golf courses that closed in 2019

Borrego Springs Resort, Borrego Springs, California

A view of a hole with water coming into play at Borrego Springs Resort

Like Grand Cypress, Borrego Springs would have likely finished among the Golf Advisor Golfers’ Choice top 50 courses in the country, determined by 2019 user reviews. Unfortunately, a sudden closure in September shocked the tight-knit desert community 90 miles northeast of San Diego. Both the main course, a 6,570-yard design by Cary Bickler, and a par 3, the Circle Club, will eventually return to desert now that the water has been shut off, leaving Rams Hill as the only local option. User ‘vacuum1969‘ called the resort course at Borrego Springs “Paradise” in his five-star review in May, writing: “10 stars if I could. The practice facility is top notch. A great mix of easy, kind of tough, and flat out hard holes. Incredible Bermuda grass greens. 80 degrees, uncrowded conditions, and, essentially, an immaculate golf course. Super appreciative of this great place.” 

Mare Island Golf Club, Vallejo, California

A view of the 13th hole at Mare Island Golf Club

The closure of Mare Island is part of a larger trend of historic turn-of-the-century courses that are in peril around the country. The 6,150-yard par-70 layout closed earlier this year before its 170 acres were purchased by a developer in June, according to the Vallejo Times-Herald. The club’s original nine dates back to 1892 (a second nine was added in 2000-01), making it possibly the oldest course west of the Mississippi. User ‘Robert7228906‘ gave Mare Island its last four-star review in January, writing: “I really enjoy how the staff has cleaned up the course. The ongoing maintenance is a real positive.”

Indian Wells Golf Club, Garden City, South Carolina

No. 3 at Indian Wells Golf Club is a straightaway par 4 that plays 355 yards from the back tees

Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor

Indian Wells, a Gene Hamm design from 1984, was never one of the stars of Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand. Instead, it served as part of its backbone: A solid secondary option that was affordable and playable. The 6,624-yard public course will close this month, making way for housing, according to MyrtleBeachOnline. One final five-star review from user ‘Pembroke540‘ in August sends it off in style: “Fun and very competitive course. Greens are not good for play after being aerated but that is the way it is. I’ll be back for sure.”

ASU Karsten Course, Tempe, Arizona

Bunkered green at ASU Karsten Golf Course

For three decades, Pete and Perry Dye’s ASU Karsten course served a dual role as an affordable place for locals to play in the Valley of the Sun and the home of the Arizona State’s men’s and women’s golf teams. After years of rumored closings, it succumbed to redevelopment in May as the university expands its athletic complex, building athletic fields, new practice facilities for the school’s football team and relocating the ASU track stadium. Late last year, Arizona State’s golf teams moved to the nearby municipal Papago Golf Course, home to a new state-of-the-art practice and meeting facility called The Thunderbirds Golf Complex. User ‘SJHbuttercut‘ gave ASU Karsten its final five-star review in April, writing: “Very happy that I was able to get out and play this gem a couple more times before she’s gone! As one of only 3 Pete Dye Design courses (one private) in the valley………it’s really sad to see it go. I have always loved playing this track and I think it is a perfect mix of challenge and playability.”

Diablo Grande Golf and Country Club, Patterson, California

A view from a tee at Diablo Grande Golf & Country Club

The October 19 closure of this Denis Griffiths/Gene Sarazen design known locally as the “Ranch course” likely signals the death knell of the Central Valley as a golf destination. Diablo Grande follows the same fate as its sister course, the more heralded Legends course, which closed in 2014, and nearby Stevinson Ranch, which closed in 2016, as victims of California’s deadly drought. It just became too expensive to pay for water in a drier, hotter climate while revenues at all three courses dwindled. The last Golf Advisor review was submitted the day before it closed. User ‘Dano1111‘ wrote: “This course is very challenging and beautiful views. We played one last round yesterday to say goodbye to one of our favorites in the Central Valley.”

Shawnee State Park Golf Course, Friendly, Ohio

A view of a green with the clubhouse in background at Shawnee State Park Golf Resort

Although it works in New York (see Bethpage Black) and Georgia, golf and state parks don’t always seem to be the right fit. With the closure of the Shawnee State Park Golf Course this fall, both Ohio and Kentucky have now closed state park courses in recent years, leaving Ohio with five and Kentucky with 13. To me, state parks are for picnics, riding bikes and hikes along wooded paths and swimming at quaint beaches along rivers or lakes. State park courses tend to be more rural, away from a population base of golfers. Since state budgets are always under scrutiny, money for parks and recreation tends to get squeezed. Don’t be surprised if more state park courses close over the next decade. Shawnee’s course could be replaced by more recreation, such as zip lines, Topgolf and kayaking, according to the Portsmouth Daily Times. The final Golf Advisor review from 2018 proves that Shawnee will be missed. User ‘AustinStevenson2014‘ wrote: “In my opinion, this is the best course in Scioto County, or at least it is the most consistent. I’ve played there probably 50 times or more and it is always in great shape. The course has its fair share of attractive holes, especially hole 5.”

Sanctuary Golf Club on Cat Island, Beaufort, South Carolina

The third hole is the toughest par 4 at the Sanctuary Golf Club at Cat Island

Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor

I marveled at the scenery and seclusion of the Sanctuary during a round in 2012, playing it in the morning before a magical afternoon round at nearby Secession. While exclusive private clubs like Secession can thrive under such isolation, public clubs often cannot. The course, which closed in January, had a nice design through the Lowcountry’s tidal marshes thanks to George Cobb (in 1985) and Jeff Brauer (who tweaked it in 2008). The last Golf Advisor review from fall 2018 brought mostly praise. User ‘Robert5649777‘ wrote: “This course is very challenging and has a great layout. The greens are so beautiful without a blemish and roll perfect. The fairways and tee boxes still need work. The traps are perfect soft white sand. Overall, play the course and you will be pleased. Roll it over on the fairways and you will have the time of your life.”

Deer Ridge Golf Club, Brentwood, California

A view from tee #16 at Deer Ridge Golf Club

Once across the street from one another, both Deer Ridge and Shadow Lakes are now closed, leaving the 27-hole Brentwood Golf Club as the only public place to play in town. Deer Ridge, a 6,301-yard par 71 by Andy Raugust, opened in 2004, three years after Shadow Lakes, both owned by SunCoast Properties. A proposal to keep nine holes on each course open while building three-story senior apartments fell through last year, according to the East Bay Times. User ‘Sslpeace‘ poured out his emotions during a four-star review in September, writing “I’ve played Deer Ridge a number of times over the year and this round today was in memorial to these times, because this Sunday will be their last day for business. Due to high operating expenses and low revenues, they are forced to make this decision. Sad, very sad!”

Indian Wells Golf Club, Garden City, South Carolina

Closed courses

Articles

North-South-East nines at Grand Cypress Resort, Orlando, Florida

Aerial view of the clubhouse at Grand Cypress Resort

The bad news is a 27-hole course that once hosted the LPGA Tour closed in November at one of Orlando’s most popular golf resorts. The good news is that future plans include a new Jack Nicklaus course on the site of his original 1984 design. Golfers will certainly miss the Villas of Grand Cypress (which also closed) and the North-South-East nines that ranked among Golf Advisor’s top 50 courses three years running (2016-2018). Fortunately, they can still stay at the Hyatt Grand Cypress and play the firm and fun New course until the resort’s pending plans for rebuilding come together, hopefully in 3-5 years. The last two reviews for North-South-East were five stars, hardly signs of a struggling resort. User ‘tomik17‘ wrote: “Pace was very good. The course is in very good condition. Water is in play on several holes. Tee boxes, fairways and bunkers very well maintained. Greens are rather fast and true. Staffs were very cordial. Overall it is a very pleasant place to go.”

Grand Cypress Resort - New Course - hole 10

No one mentioned that on-line discounters are shrinking the margin for the courses.

Sign of the times, sadly.
It requires 4 hours to play, its hard to play well, it’s expensive, not as many young people are being attracted to the game.
All those are true.
In addition, the day I saw the game change was the day private club memberships were no longer allowed to be a business write off.
Up until then we were reading stories how the new courses couldn’t keep up with the demand. Clubs had pools and tennis courts built so it became the family recreation epicenter for moderately wealthy to wealthy individuals.
There were exclusive waiting lines and expensive initial costs of joining.
These days many of those clubs are grasping at straws to attract new members.
Many go public and reduce the upkeep.
The tennis courts and pools have ceased operation so the family element (and its additional income) has gone away.
It’s sad to see but the upside is that the average income player can now play nice clubs at reasonable costs, even if the amenities have shrunk.
The club manufacturers are beginning to realize that charging $500-$600 dollars for a single club is ludicrous to newer golfers and 1400 dollar sets of irons for off the rack is just stupid. Fortunately, some companies are marketing to the new market but too many still shoot for out of touch profit margins for a game trying to stay relevant.
The ball market is shifting..the $50 a dozen ball market has shrunk as companies like Snell, Vice and others have populated the market with good performing $30 balls.


This letter is a response to the Bucks County Courier Times article published Oct. 25, with the headline, “175 townhomes approved for Spring Mill CC development.”

Last Nov. 28, JUDD Builders held an informational meeting at the Fuge in Warminster to present its plans for a “by-right” R-1 zoned 138 single-family home development on the entire 185-acre Spring Mill Country Club Property in Northampton Township.

It looked like the community was again going to be steamrolled by a developer. But the 225 concerned resident attendees strongly pushed backed, voiced their concerns and noted that R-1 development of a recreational use zoned property was a “conditional right” subject to review and possible rejection by the Northampton Township supervisors.

After some behind-the-scenes contacts, JUDD Builders invited four concerned residents to a meeting for discussions on a possible alternative plan. A mutually agreed upon memorandum of understanding was signed by Mr. DePaul, owner of JUDD Builders, wherein he agreed that if the community residents would provide support that secured supervisor approval of zoning changes and development plans for 175 townhomes on 30 acres of the Spring Mill property, he would place a conservation easement on the 155-acre golf course that would keep it as a recreational green space in perpetuity.

The concerned residents group did, in fact, secure and present to the supervisors 891 resident and 470 nonresident signatures in support of the alternative plan. A township study showed that the 175 townhouses would produce less traffic than 138 single-family homes.

This past Wednesday, the Northampton Township supervisors approved zoning changes and preliminary plans for the Spring Mill property that conformed to the MOU. The approval was contingent upon placement of a conservation easement and acceptable completion of construction plans.

This is a very rare win-win-win situation: The Spring Mill members get to keep their golf course, the township residents get — at no cost to them — a 155-acre recreational green space in perpetuity, and the property owner gets its development.

Kudos to all of the residents who supported this alternative plan and special thanks to Mr. DePaul, owner of JUDD Builders for considering and agreeing to the alternative plan. Not many developers would agree to develop only 16 percent of its property and to place a no-build conservation easement on the 84 percent-balance of the property.

The township-approved Spring Mill development demonstrates that reasonable people can work out a compromise that benefits all.

Ron Zemnick is an Ivyland resident.