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Golf Courses

The Future of Golf

For a leisure activity/sport that underwent such a massive rise in popularity across Western countries over the past 20 years, the current financial situation has slammed the brakes on new projects, and seen a slump in memberships and appetite for golf course properties.

New residential golf developments in the U.S. are few and far between, leading to a net standstill in golf-course openings generally. More courses closed than opened in both 2006 and 2007, according to the National Golf Foundation, a sharp contrast to the course-building boom that started in the 1990s

[ad#125-right]Even top-drawer designers are feeling the pinch. “I’ve got quite a few projects in the U.S.,” Mr. Nicklaus told me recently, “but they have all kind of slowed down or are on hold or are kind of waiting until the economy turns a little bit.” Tom Doak, the celebrated designer of Pacific Dunes in Oregon and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, doesn’t lack for work but in recent months has seen two of the courses he designed struggle: St. Andrews Beach in Australia is closed and for sale, and Beechtree in Maryland will shut down in December.

Golf Journal – WSJ.com.

The recreational property market needs some reinventing. Golf courses are expensive, high maintenance playgrounds for adults, and they will continue to have vast appeal for people with disposable income. But even the successful golf developments will need to re-examine their marketing strategies in light of the recent global financial mess and the shock waves that will follow. The demographic that has fueled the industry to date is starting to age and golf is becoming less of a priority. Some say that this has happened already in clientele for the Ski Resort industry – well, surely golf would be next. The wave of baby boomers has moved through suburban housing, active recreation, and will now move through the leisure recreation activities as well. Perhaps this is why communities such as Castlegar see future in a Gaming Center – as this may be the high valued recreational activity of the Baby Boomers.

On top of the market and demographic issues, there are the environmental ones to contend withas well. Traditionally golf courses are known for high consumption of water and excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers to ensure that the greens remain green. This is a business model that is becoming less acceptible and golf courses are responding with recycled water projects and turf management schemes to reduce their impact on the environment.

Considering these challenges, is there hope for golf courses in the future?

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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

6 thoughts on “The Future of Golf

  1. Golf courses are a waste of precious land that could in most cases be used far more productively for agriculture or other uses, rather than as an expansive playground for the elite.
    Just what is Rossland thinking anyway? Just another small town city hall more than willing to sell out….

  2. Not sure why Dave mentions Rossland in his comment – nothing in this article about the City.

    But he does raise an interesting point – that the land could be productively used for other purposes. I disagree – there is much land in the rest of the province that is not being used productively yet, why would we think that the land used for golf courses would be any different. If push came to shove, at least these areas have irrigation and have been cleared, enabling them to be used for agriculture in the future.

    Who knows when and if this would ever become a reality, but rather than assuming that the land would be better used today, (which history and society tells us is unlikely), , allow municipalities and communities to benefit from all sources of recreation and revenue while there is still some disposable income in these rural areas.

    Disclaimer: I played golf three times this summer – and I work for the City of Rossland..

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