Friday, December 14, 2012

The Critical List, december 14, 2012

The owners of Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club say they’re in for the long haul, but it’s easy to see why skeptics might have doubts. “A busy day for us is 10 foursomes on the course,” the club’s general manager recently told the Vancouver Sun, “and we consider ourselves 100 percent full with 60 people.” Such an accounting may not offer much comfort to people who wear green eye shades, but Sagebrush is adding overnight accommodations and moving ahead with a planned clubhouse. What’s more, the highly acclaimed, four-year-old minimalist track in British Columbia, Canada believes it can survive with just 125 members. The trouble is, that’s double the number it has now.

The partially completed Three Sisters Creek Golf Course, in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada, remains in receivership and isn’t expected to open anytime soon, if at all. The Canmore Leader, describing the course’s future as “a question mark,” reports that the track wasn’t mowed this summer and is “starting to grow over.” Gary Browning, one of the course’s co-designers, told the newspaper, “If it goes into next year in this kind of condition, I would say we’re running out of hope.”

The Sunset Empire Park & Recreation District Board is thinking about buying Seaside Golf Course, a nine-hole track in historic Seaside, Oregon. Wayne Fulmer, who’s operated the course for decades, believes his layout is worth $2 million. If the sale goes through, the park district will likely add a driving range and a few recreational amenities -- hiking and biking trails, an archery range, maybe even a disc golf course -- to the 102-acre property. These attractions will likely require alterations to the golf course, which was designed by Chandler Egan and opened in 1920.

More than 80 years after it opened, a private golf club in Kentucky will be sold at an auction scheduled for tomorrow, December 15. Russellville Country Club, which features a nine-hole course that opened in 1928, saw its membership slip into the 60s this year, after a dues increase sent 27 members packing. “This is awful bad,” the club’s president told the Russellville News Democrat Leader.

Nine-hole layouts aren’t just under financial pressure in the United States. In suburban Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Northumberland County Council has determined that it can no longer cover financial losses at Tynedale Golf Club. “Our budget is too constrained,” a county official told the Journal. Tynedale’s members have agreed to pick up the tab for some maintenance, and they’ve expressed confidence about the club’s future. “Hell will freeze over before this golf club closes,” the club’s secretary insisted.

When it comes to identifying the U.S. munis on the critical list, I can only scratch the surface. So here’s a brief rundown of what’s happening out there right now: The city of Sumner, Washington may sell its 18-hole golf course, which is burdened by nearly $6 million worth of debt. The long-time operators of Lawton, Oklahoma’s municipal golf course have backed out of their lease, and the local airport authority thinks this may be a good time to close the facility. The city of Memphis, Tennessee is planning to close at least one of its courses and to cut out winter play at four others. Elected officials in Tucson, Arizona have voted to close one of the city’s five golf properties and may shrink another. The city of Springfield, Ohio may lose one of its three municipal courses, unless it can figure out how to generate more than $200,000 in additional revenue. The interim city manager in Glendale, Arizona wants to sell the city’s nine-hole, executive-length course unless the track’s operator resumes making lease payments. And finally, the mayor of Elkhart, Indiana has threatened to close the city’s 18-hole course if a buyer isn’t soon found.

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