It's becoming a morbid annual holiday tradition of mine every December.
I've been compiling an end-of-the-year story of the best courses to close each year since 2015. It tends to be one of my most-read stories of the year. Golfers are a sad and sadistic bunch, aren't we?
The story isn't meant to fuel the debate if golf is failing or merely stagnant as most statistics imply. This is just a new normal until the game reaches a better balance of supply and demand - courses vs. players. Golf is paying for the sins of our fathers - the building boom of the 1990s and 2000s - when they built courses in real estate developments that nobody really needed. The National Golf Foundation estimates roughly 200 courses closed in 2018, similar numbers to the year before.
I also don't write this Deegan's Dozen piece to criticize the owners and operators for running their facilities into the ground. It's simply to celebrate the lives of these places - when they were green, lush and full of happy golfers - and reminisce about how much we'll miss them now that they're gone. Most of them are solid courses that average four star ratings or higher on Golf Advisor. For one reason or another, they were no longer viable in their communities. These obituaries are the perfect way to say goodbye.
It's not out of the question that a few may actually rise from the dead. Three of the shuttered facilities I profiled in 2017 are returning to life - the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas and the Ocean Links at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort are scheduled to be revived and the San Geronimo Golf Club in Northern California reopened in April after a three-month hiatus. Now that's a more uplifting story I look forward to writing: Miraculous golf course comebacks. Until then, let's salute the fallen.
Have a favorite recently closed course not listed in this story? Let us know in the comments below.
Oakhurst was once a proud private club with a history dating to 1959. A group of members bought the Jack Kidwell design in 2009, but just couldn't sustain it. It's unclear what's next for the 159-acre property, according to Club & Resort Business. Central Ohio has purged a number of solid courses in recent years. Appropriately, user RIP1959 wrote the course's last review in 2017: "Fairways a little burnt out but great course for the price. Very challenging."
Central Florida is another region where only the strong survive. Although the course closed last spring, there is a chance that it could be saved by locals to salvage their home values, according to this report. The website and phone are still active, although no one answered our call. The final Golf Advisor reviews are a mix of anger at the downward spiral of course conditions and somber memories. User gailpat wrote: "Very disappointed this course is closing as this was one of our favorite courses."
It has been a tumultuous year for golf in Houston. While the Golf Club of Houston losing the Shell Houston Open was a low point, the news that Tom Doak hopes to redesign Memorial Park for a return of the PGA Tour event is a big shot in the arm to the local muni scene, which took a hit with the April 1 closure of Glenbrook. That muni, dating to 1935, is being transformed into a botanical garden, according to the Houston Chronicle. User SmokeWagon wrote: "The COH (City of Houston) needs to reconsider closing this course. There have already been too many greater Houston area courses closed recently.This is a nice golf course, with a challenging layout. We don’t need another garden, we need more GOLF."
Golf Advisor users ranked Cahoon Plantation among the top 20 courses in the state the past two seasons, but those ringing endorsements weren't enough to save a course under constant pressure since opening in 1999. The facility started with 27 holes but eventually shrank to 18 holes. The Nov. 5 closure leaves Chesapeake with just two public courses, according to Resort Club & Business. User jeffnelson82 gave his October round four stars, writing: "Both my wife I loved the layout and look forward to another round at Cahoon Plantation. Recent rains made the course soggy, but it still played well. Nice greens, somewhat tight fairways, and challenging wedge shots make for a fun 18 holes."
San Diego's inland courses have been particularly hard hit by the California drought and rising water costs. Carmel Mountain Ranch, which closed July 8, is the seventh San Diego County course to close since 2013, according to the San Diego Tribune. Not even a $4.4 million rebate for turf reduction in 2014 could turn the tide for the Ron Fream design from 1986. California Golf Advisor nickesquire wrote the course's final review on June 22: "Sorry to hear that this course is scheduled for closure. You can see the bones are there for an above average, hilly, challenging course."
Here's where the March 18 closure of Salt Creek hurts most: Five high school golf teams - three boys and two girls - had to find a new home to play and practice. It stifles potential growth of the game for the next generation. Salt Creek, another San Diego area gem lost, was designed by Cary Bickler and John Cook in 2001. User splincman sang its praises in a review on March 9: "this is a tough but fair course...i am so sorry to see this place close."
This one hit me personally. I had a fun round at Kayak Point in 2013, cherishing the beautiful hills and towering old growth cedar and fir trees on a course located halfway between my father's house in Mount Vernon and downtown Seattle. I'm not sure if Snohomish County followed up with the $500,000 in improvements I wrote about in this story, but it was evident the heydays of the 6,719-yard course, designed by Ronald Fream in 1977, were gone. The terrain, however, was heavenly, as it is for most backwoods courses in the Pacific Northwest. Although Kayak Point closed in October, there remains some hope for the future, according to this article. User joefiloseta begged for a mulligan in his course review Sept. 29: "I really hope the County comes up with a partner that has a vision for this great layout to bring it back to some shape of its former glory. Within an hour's drive of Seattle, the course would be played if it were in decent shape."
Hurricane Michael dealt the death blow October 10 to the Hombre, which opened as 18 holes in 1989, added another nine and then returned to 18 holes in recent years. The nines were creatively named the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. This local report estimates it would have taken a million dollars to revive the Hombre, a stalwart on the Florida Panhandle that had glowing four- and five-star Golf Advisor reviews in its final days. It ranked No. 7 among the most improved courses on Golf Advisor in 2017. User RobbyBarbre wrote a final review on Sept. 25: "First time here and it was great. Course was beautiful with the exception of a couple rough patches. Got to see great scenery and wildlife."
This once-proud private club closed abruptly in November and is for sale, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Southern Oaks, designed by pro Mark Brooks in 1999, is the third local course in greater Fort Worth to close this year. User Robert5611627 lamented the loss December 1 on Golf Advisor: "Closed suddenly without warning. Too bad, it was very nice. Hope someone buys it soon."
My story earlier this year listing warning signs that your favorite course might be closing unfortunately played out at Stonehenge, which shuttered for good Nov. 17 according to local reports. The one-time private club went public a few years ago in a last-ditch effort to save the Ron Garl design. With more access, Golf Advisor users responded with a flurry of good reviews, ranking it among the top 15 courses in the state the past two years. User DrOldSchool gave its final review in October: "The layout was fun and interesting, with some moderately-sloped greens and a neat island green hole on the front. ... Sadly just found out the course has closed and will not reopen."
Our Tim Gavrich chronicled earlier this year why losing a somewhat obscure nine-hole course near Napa Valley tugs at our heartstrings. The course was thought to be one of the oldest west of the Mississippi (dating to 1891), but a 2008 renovation by Tom Doak's Renaissance Golf Design team should have secured its future for the next generation. It is the sixth course associated with Doak to close in the past decade, a staggering stat considering he's one of golf's most popular modern architects. After the course closed Jan. 15, the land is likely to be redeveloped into housing, according to the Napa Valley Register, forever altering a once peaceful haven. User dojousa captured the scene best with his review in 2015: "Just a wonderful no frills very scenic course. Some challenging holes and some easier ones mixed in. Fun to play the same holes twice and get better on the second nine. If you are looking for lush country club setting this isn't it. But if you're in the mood for relaxed setting with great golf you can't go wrong here."
It's rare - and big news - when a five-star golf course bites the dust. But I guess it's okay when that said course is one that 99.9 percent of golfers will never get to play. Adena, an ultra-private club, closed abruptly in July, according to the Ocala Star Banner. It was the $50-million playground of billionaire Frank Stronach, who built it in 2015 and had hopes of an exclusive golf community of 120 homes along its fairways. The layout cut from a rock quarry was thought to be among the best courses in Florida. Both Golf Advisor reviews brag about a Shangri-La for those who got inside the gates. User PasqualiV played it in December of 2017, writing in his review: "When I say phenomenal, I mean there wasn't one blade of grass out of line."