New Senses of Purpose

By | June 30th, 2017

Seeing some golf course properties move on to a new life is by no means a bad thing, either for the club industry or the affected communities.

There’s not a city or town anywhere in the U.S. these days, it seems, that’s not having a spirited debate on what should—or should not—be done with a golf course that is no longer being used for the purpose of playing golf.

The daily news items that we post on our website and in our e-newsletter now routinely include reports of 1) municipalities that want to sell public courses they have closed or feel must be closed; 2) municipalities that went to buy private courses that have closed in their area and revive them, either for golf or other purposes; and 3) municipalities that seek to turn former golf courses into a wide variety of repurposed ventures, ranging from dog parks to drug-rehab facilities to industrial sites for new factories.

Most prevalent of all, we now continually come across reports of overflow town-council meetings where outraged citizens have turned out in force to demand action that will either 1) force a developer to clean up a golf course that’s been abandoned and become an overgrown eyesore, or 2) stop a developer from acquiring and building on an abandoned course.

Many of these citizens’ groups have gone beyond just making noise and have put serious money where their mouths are, through efforts to raise funds for helping to acquire or repurpose a course so it can be preserved as green space and so further development of the property can be stopped.

As has been discussed in previous commentary in C&RB, seeing some golf course properties move on to a new life is by no means a bad thing, either for the club/golf industry, or the affected communities. For clubs, it represents a needed thinning of oversupply and an opportunity for the viable properties that remain, be they public or private, to capture more market share.

For communities, it often leads to badly needed new opportunities and a better balance between commercial and consumer needs. It’s hard to argue, for example, that the town of DeWitt, N.Y., is worse off because Brooklawn Golf Course, which closed two years ago, will now become the site of a new $12.7 million factory where Feldmeier Equipment, Inc., will make stainless-steel tanks for the pharmaceutical industry and retain 128 jobs in the process.

At the same time, while residential-development projects also provide job and tax infusions, I’m glad to see they’re not being rubber-stamped, and that public officials are being more careful about assessing the pros and cons of approving more construction while also weighing other options that could better preserve a green space, even if it’s no longer for golf.

Yes, a lot of the citizens’ outcry about more development, or failed developments, stems from selfish, it’s-in-my-backyard concerns. But it has been interesting to see how many developers are now recognizing that they must do more than just promise a great golf course and other amenities for those who buy real estate from them—and how their proposals are being broadened, from the start, to reflect a greater purpose through additional contributions and features that they promise to provide for the community as a whole.

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