The best golf courses to close in 2021

Despite the ongoing pandemic golf boom, some top courses have nevertheless closed, often sold for redevelopment.
Garrison Golf Club is perched 800 feet above the Hudson River, yet only an hour outside of New York City.

Editor's Note: Updated Dec. 19 after the closure of Apache Stronghold.

The pandemic golf boom continued its head of steam in 2021, throwing a lifeline to hundreds of courses that were on the brink just a couple years ago.

That doesn't mean everybody made it. The National Golf Foundation reported in June that its database verification team had found that roughly 60 18-hole equivalents had closed, a 46% drop from the same time last year. It projected about 100 18HEQs to close by the end of the year, roughly 0.7% of America's total supply.

Courses closed for the same reasons they always do: An owner not fully invested in golf or who wanted to cash in on the land, competition from neighboring clubs, a poor product, etc. A couple island favorites even went into some sort of pandemic hibernation due to fewer tourists. Both Puakea on Kauai and the White Witch in Jamaica closed in 2020 and haven't reopened yet. It's unclear when they will reopen.

No destination has seen more courses fall by the wayside the past decade than Myrtle Beach, S.C. Unfortunately, the Grand Strand lost two more popular choices to lead our annual list of the most notable permanent course closures.

  1. Farmstead Golf Links, Calabash, North Carolina
    The par-6 closing hole at Farmstead lets you hit shots in both South and North Carolina.

    Farmstead Golf Links, designed by Willard Byrd and David Johnson in 2000, was most famous for its par-6 hole that crossed the North Carolina-South Carolina border, but it was more than just a one-hole wonder. Golfers truly loved the place, as it stood out in a crowded market. "Great course to be gone. At. Least I can say I played it!" wrote reviewer 'mkiwanicki' in October.

    December 16, 2020
    We're tracking where and why golf courses are closing from coast-to-coast. Visit our landing page to see if any of your favorites have shut down permanently.

  2. Witch Golf Club, Conway, South Carolina
    Difficult holes come early on The Witch, like the par-4 second that plays over water.

    The Witch, a Dan Maples design in Conway that opened in 1989, has been sold for redevelopment by owner Claude Pardue, who has cited an increase in flooding in recent years as part of the reason for the closure. Pardue still has skin in the golf industry as owner of the Wizard Golf Club and Man O'War Golf Course, two popular value courses in Myrtle Beach.

    "So sad the course is closing," wrote reviewer 'MarkSMarkF'. "Loved playing this course! It was so unique, beautiful & fun!!"

  3. Apache Stronghold, Globe, Arizona
    A view from a tee at Apache Stronghold Golf Course.

    The Apache Golf Casino Resort recently announced the demise of its beloved Tom Doak course. Its Website states: "We regret to announce the closure of Apache Stronghold. It has been our pleasure to have served you at our golf course over the years. We thank you for your patronage." Apache Stronghold, which opened in 1999, had been getting skewered in reviews this fall for lost greens. It has always had the reputation as a track that was rough around the edges, but one with so much potential. Ultimately, a remote location proved to be too much to overcome. "For such a great layout, the course is in poor shape and there is no grass on the greens, just weeds. It is a shame to call it a golf course as they could do so much better," wrote 'azearguy' in a GolfPass review in October. 

  4. Garrison Golf Club, Garrison, N.Y.

    Golfers cherished the Garrison Golf Club, a Dick Wilson design from 1961, for its views of the Hudson River and surrounding mountains in the Hudson Highlands an hour from New York City. A plan was in place to reduce the course to nine holes before the owner pulled the plug to focus on his property’s inn, restaurant and wedding and events business. "I learned how to play golf at the Garrison," wrote reviewer
    'Lukemartin2934'. "Like many other golfers in the area, I am disappointed that this course is closing. I don't think there are many (if not any) courses open to the public in the tri-state area, with as good of an atmosphere as the one here." 

  5. View of a green at Skyland Pines Golf Club

    Golf architecture buffs shed a tear when Skyland Pines closed after Labor Day weekend. It was a rare public course in America designed by Canada's legendary Stanley Thompson. Adding to insult was this Thompson gem was closed to make way for an Amazon warehouse.

    "Always enjoyed this older course with the older 1920's greens," wrote reviewer 'hornedwoodchuck'. "The course was always crowded whenever I played, so Amazon must have paid them a lot of $ for the property."

  6. Pebble Creek Golf Club, Tampa, Florida
    Classic Pebble Creek Golf Club features mossy oak trees and small finger lakes.

    Like many courses do, Pebble Creek, once a favorite value course in the competitive Tampa-St. Pete's market, closed with a flurry of poor reviews. Conditions had deteriorated and customer service had gone with it. All of these things are telltale signs that a course is flailing.

  7. Tomac Woods Golf Course, Albion, Michigan
    A rainbow shines over Tomac Woods Golf Course, which will be redeveloped into a solar farm.

    GolfPass Managing Editor Brandon Tucker has fond memories of playing high-school matches at Tomac Woods in southeast Michigan. The 6,382-yard course is the typical family-owned operation that was vital to a small community with limited area options to learn the game. For that reason, its loss will sting greater than some courses higher up on our list. It will become a solar farm, an industry that is an emerging threat to golf courses everywhere.

  8. Skyline Country Club, Lanesboro, Massachusetts
    A view of the 16th green at Skyline Golf Course

    Skyline, a 6,197-yard routing from the 1960s, had a charm all its own. Unfortunately, most golfers have little tolerance for an outlier experience when there are so many newer, more traditional rounds available elsewhere. "This course is a little crazy," reads a review from 2020. "Greens look like the surface of the moon. Carts backfire. Cart paths are an off road adventure. But the course overall is really fun and interesting, and the views are spectacular." 

  9. Rolling Green Golf Club, Sarasota, Florida
    A view of a hole guarded by some bunkers and a pond at Rolling Green Golf Club.

    Alas, Rolling Green will become yet another Sarasota housing development. The final review on GolfPass gives a good obit: "I am going to miss this long-time favored Sarasota cow pasture, their super-friendly clubhouse ladies, the comfortable layout of the course, the great value for the money, and the good scores always to be had there. What a shame, it is being replaced by approximately 475 single-family homes. Bummer."

  10. Bamberg Golf and Sports Club, Bamberg, South Carolina
    A new name and owner couldn't save the old Paw Paw Golf Course, which became the Bamberg Golf & Sports Club before closing permanently this year.

    Sometimes a name change and new owner is all a course needs for a second chance. More often, however, the course just doesn't have enough local support to make it. A new owner tried to make Bamberg work following a 2016 closure, but the 6,666-yard course closed in August. The town's mayor hopes it can be revived against all odds.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Commented on

Fine summation of what happens to what seem to be worthy courses, for the most part.
We all know that golf is a tough business, with profits having been shaved closer, progressively, prior to the pandemic. As a general observation, it seems that course managers who just don’t want to pay close enough attention to conditioning, above all, will be the ones who find their operations eventually biting the dust. Even still, many other factors can lead to the demise of good courses, including the economic ones–along with the ownership circumstances–you’ve cited.

Interesting that your numbers 1-5 were all designed by outstanding golf course architects, including some of the very best (Doak will likely end up in the Hall of Fame), but it goes to show that good design is just one facet of the bigger experience of playing a golf course. A friend of mine has played “The Witch” and raved about it; I wanted to play Garrison myself but learned about it only recently through this website (pictures of the month). Ah well.

Commented on

I played Farmstead 4 or 5 times a year, and it was always in very good shape. Some great memories playing this course, and my favorite was birdie 5 on the par 6 18th hole. Also played the Superintendents Revenge, which was probably the best SR on the strand. We played our last round this September. Farmstead will be missed!

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