What Happens To Abandoned Golf Courses | WSJ


(upbeat music) – As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get much better than this. If you wanna play golf in a lovely setting with weather, probably 325 days a year, then you’ve come to the right
place because you can’t beat, you can’t beat those vistas. – [Host] You wouldn’t
know it from those vistas, but golf is in a crisis. The sport’s popularity has
declined in recent years as younger generations
haven’t taken to the game with the same level of
enthusiasm as their predecessors. There’s also an issue of
too many golf courses. In the last decade, about 800
golf courses have closed down across the country, with
200 of those taking place just in the last year. These closures have freed
up large swaths of land, leaving towns with the
problem of what to do with that land that is left behind. One town that is
struggling with this issue is Oro Valley, Arizona. Located outside Tucson,
Oro Valley is known as one of the best destinations
for golf in the Southwest. That’s because until last
year, the suburb of 44,000 had seven golf courses,
which along with warm winters in the Catalina Mountains, attract golfers from around the country. But lately, golf in Oro
Valley hasn’t been doing well. Last June, Rancho Vistoso, a private club, declared bankruptcy,
shutting down its 18 holes. And this year, the town has
been struggling to decide what to do with its
unprofitable municipal course, the El Conquistador. Mike Schoeppach lives down the street from the El Conquistador, where
he plays three days a week. Like many Oro Valley
residents, he’s concerned about the prospect of redevelopment. – Why would you abandon this? I mean, this is a treasure. Not continuing to make
a reasonable investment in this property is insanity. – [Host] Ironically,
it wasn’t that long ago the developers viewed
building along a fairway as a surefire way to gin up home prices. – These courses have been
here since the mid 1980s. They were built initially for the purpose of selling real estate. There’s no question about that. – [Host] In the 1980s
and 90s golf was booming. Spurred on by the success of
the sport’s biggest ever star, Tiger Woods, the National
Golf Foundation encouraged the industry to build a
course a day for 10 years, and that’s what happened. Over a 20 year period more
than 4,000 new golf courses were built in the US, in large
part thanks to home builders who made new golf courses
the central amenity in the communities they
built around the country. – Well a hot topic to discussed
tonight in Oro Valley. The fate of the town’s golf courses. – The justification over
a town owned golf course has divided the community
for several years now. The controversy continues
with the council set to vote on the issues
in the upcoming weeks. – [Host] The question of what to do next with the El Conquistador has split the town of Oro Valley into two camps, those against redevelopment
and those for it. – If you’re asking me whether
seven courses are too many for the town of Oro
Valley, I would say yes, and that’s because some of the courses have gone out of business. That tells you that there’s
more supply than demand. – [Host] Richard Furash’s Hyperlocal blog LOVE Let Oro Valley Excel has
been scrupulously covering the El Conquistador issue. – The people that wanna keep the courses wanna keep the courses
cause they’re their courses. They don’t wanna change. It’s simple. – [Host] Leading the
opposition to redevelopment is Jennifer Lefevre, an Oro Valley resident who lives on the El Conquistador course. – So we’re behind the street
that I live on right now, and unfortunately we have had
some neighbors put their homes on the market due to the
uncertainty of what’s gonna happen with the golf course. They moved here for their retirement. They made the home exactly
the way that they wanted it, and they’re walking away
cause they can’t deal with the stress of what may
happen behind their home. – [Host] In 2014 Oro Valley
purchased the El Conquistador Golf Club for $1.2 million. Since then it has been
unable to turn a profit, and has been subsidized by local taxes. Recently the council outlined two options for the town to consider moving forward. Keep all 36 holes and try to
make the course profitable, or reduce the number of holes to 18 and transform the other 18 into a park. – Mayor Joe Winfield who
was elected last November in part on a platform to bring
changes to El Conquistador says the town council will vote on the fate of golf in Oro Valley. – [Councilman] Mayor Winfield? – Yea. (crowd applauds) – [Reporter] Well some
people were celebrating in Oro Valley last night. The town council there
finally made a decision about its three golf courses. – [Host] After months of
contentious debate the town of Oro Valley voted to
buck the national trend and preserve its 36 holes of golf, but this was a compromise that reflects the new
realities of the sport. As part of the deal to save the courses club members agreed to pay
higher membership fees, and two homeowner associations agreed to increase their fees
to keep the courses open.

52 thoughts on “What Happens To Abandoned Golf Courses | WSJ

  1. 2 Peter 3:9-13 (KJV) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
    But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
    Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
    Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
    Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

  2. Golf is down because:
    1. People having kids later, young kids during prime playing years.
    2. Expense
    3. Rounds take too long. Courses should add more tee boxes.

  3. At least the people who want to keep the courses seem to be willing to put their money where their collective mouth is.

  4. Seems like golf is turning into a coal and some people with vested interest and help of not very bright people are trying to label it into a clean coal.

  5. yeah you can play golf there and ignore all the starving children that's outside of the golf course or homeless veterans that have fought for you and lost limbs got the Wall Street journal won't dare write an article about

  6. Wall Street journal should talk about how our tax policies continue to subsidize golf courses, and other unproductive suburban sprawl land uses. Or, specifically, how a land value tax would shift those perverse incentives.

  7. As someone who spent 6 years working in the turf industry… I can say the reason I left was because there wasn't enough prospects given the difficulty of the work. The only people who make a decent wage are the superintendents. Given the wage competition between the nationals vs the migrant workers… it leaves little for those wanting to be in the industry yet live in the US year round.

    Then there is the environmental impacts of golf courses… the fungicide toxicity and health impacts are serious. The runoff and over-spray can impact those living near the area (and whole river systems if incorrectly applied)… grass just ain't worth it.

    Then you have these folks trying to grow it in the desert… water is a limited commodity in those parts… the fungus and mold issue due to irrigation are a growing issue in what use to be a basically mold free zone.

  8. What Happens To Abandoned Golf Courses?
    We dig them up looking for the bodies of Trump's former business partners and employees.

  9. We had a small course walking distance from our home. It is now redeveloped into high density ugly condos. The course owners made a good profit, I hope.

  10. Buy sheeps use the Grass for animals. U Lazy PEOPLE. GO make more on farm. Dont waste water on Grass. Rabits… Make Meat and profit

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