About 35 golf courses in Butler and Warren counties are seeing fewer rounds and reporting losses. Crooked Tree GC in Mason closed last month and reported losing $150,000 to $200,000 a year, while Middletown had to subsidize its municipal golf course, Weatherwax Golf Club, about $400,000 for 2014, which includes a $225,000 debt payment for improvements made in the 1990s.
About 35 golf courses in Butler and Warren counties in Ohio are seeing fewer rounds being played, with Crooked Tree Golf Course in Mason and Weatherwax Golf Club in Middletown reporting losses, the Middletown (Ohio) Journal-News reported.
Crooked Tree General Manager Jack Eifert said before the mortgage payment, the 18-hole course was losing $150,000 to $200,000 a year. The 24-year-old golf course closed last month, as C&RB reported (“Crooked Tree GC to Close Permanently”).
The housing community that surrounds the golf course is named for it—Crooked Tree Community of Mason—and has about 500 homes. Realtors promote the fact that this housing community is next to a golf course, the Journal-News reported.
Middletown had to subsidize Weatherwax, its 36-hole course, about $400,000 for 2014, which includes a $225,000 debt payment for improvements made in the 1990s. The city announced last week it will take serious offers to buy its municipal golf course, citing serious budget concerns—22 police and fire positions are at risk to be cut by 2015, the Journal-News reported.
“In talking with national golf experts, we know there is an overpopulation of golf courses around the nation and an underpopulation of golf players,” said City Manager Judy Gilleland. “I would imagine we would continue to see a narrowing of golf courses over the next few years until we reach a balance (between courses and players).”
A request for proposals was sent out Friday by the city. “We’ve had a number of parties expressed interest in the golf course property over the past couple of years. Hopefully their interest will translate into a proposal,” Gilleland said.
David Metz, NAI Bergman’s senior vice president of Development and Investment Service, said there are too many variables, and no one formula, to say what a golf course will sell for on the open market, the Journal-News reported.
“It’s all over the board,” said Metz, whose company is marketing the former Hartwell par 3 in Cincinnati and Beckett Ridge in West Chester Twp. “It’s not about per acre. If you’re driving for a piece of real estate, it’s based on rounds.”
Weatherwax has a market value of around $1.2 million, a quarter of its worth a decade ago. Crooked Tree, according to the Warren County Auditor’s office, is valued at $2.1 million, the Journal-News reported.
“The bottom line is they’re not making money, and in most cases they’re losing money,” Metz said.
About five years ago, the city of Fairfield faced a watershed golf moment when it built its new clubhouse. It was losing money, needing to have subsidies to keep the operation afloat. After renegotiating its golf cart contract, deciding to operate the food service in-house, and reducing staff through attrition, Fairfield Greens is self-sustaining, said Jim Bell, Fairfield Parks and Recreation director.
“We basically break even,” Bell said. “That was with council giving the mandate, that before we could build the new clubhouse, that we could come up with the action plan. And that plan has come to fruition.”
Rounds are at the projected levels, down from 2012 which was an abnormally good year with people playing into December, the Journal-News reported.
“We’re all hurting, but some of us are hurting less than others,” Bell said.
But the financial pain felt by Crooked Tree, Eifert said, has “been on a steady decline” for the past four years. “That’s why all the golf courses are struggling right now. I guess it depends on how deep your pockets are,” Eifert said. “We’re not making any money.”
Peter Ryan, General Manager at The Golf Center at Kings Island, said the surplus of golf courses was created “many, many years ago” when the golf industry issued a report that it could sustain a course built every day for a year. “And developers apparently took that to heart.”
He said “it’s a shame” to hear about Crooked Tree’s woes, and The Golf Center “is holding our own” through aggressive attraction of leagues and outings, the Journal-News reported. And like many other courses that are successful, they’re holding flat in year-to-year numbers, “which is quite an accomplishment considering the year we had (with snow in the spring of 2013).”
“Some people who were avid golfers, playing 15, 20 times a year, are maybe now only playing five times, 10 times because they got hurt by the recession and they want to prepare for the future,” Ryan said. “But this cleansing is necessary if you’re going to move forward in this industry.”