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.
Borrego Springs Resort, Borrego Springs, California
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."
Do you have a favorite course that has closed recently? Let us know in the comments below.Closed courses
North-South-East nines at Grand Cypress Resort, Orlando, Florida
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."
ASU Karsten Course, Tempe, Arizona
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
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
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
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
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
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."
Mare Island Golf Club, Vallejo, California
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."
Shawnee Lookout Golf Course, North Bend, Ohio
A Golf Digest story symbolizes why course closings are so troubling. If Shawnee Lookout - a 6,000-yard par 70 - can produce a future PGA Tour pro, then anywhere can. Tour pro Jim Herman learned the game at Shawnee Lookout, operated by the Great Parks of Hamilton County west of Cincinnati. When these affordable munis are gone, where will future pros learn to play? User 'rebound32' offered a nice four-star tribute in September, writing: "Getting out for one last time before the course closes forever. Beautiful scenery and challenging greens."