Friday, January 6, 2017

Desolation Row, january 6, 2017

     Scottsdale, Arizona. The resort made famous by Charlie Keating wants to lop nine holes off its 27-hole golf complex. Keating, who played a major role in bringing down the U.S. savings & loan industry in the 1980s, opened the Phoenician in 1988, a year before he was indicted, hoping the 315-acre spread would be “the eighth wonder of the world.” (After the federal government seized the property, it was nicknamed “Club Fed.”) The Phoenician has passed through many hands in the years since, and while its current owners may believe that their golf complex, co-designed by Ted Robinson and Homer Flint, “inspires your spirit of adventure,” they also believe it’s “the perfect time to come in and build additional [housing] units.” They’ve petitioned for a rezoning that will enable them to do so. No matter things turn out, the Phoenician will forever live in infamy.

     White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The only 11-hole golf course in the U.S. Army’s portfolio has bitten the dust. The course, designed by military personnel, opened in 1962. “It was good while it lasted,” the track’s manager told the Alamogordo Daily News. The course’s claim to fame: Rich Beem learned to play golf there.

     Petaluma, California. Citing the “declining popularity” of golf, along with the cost of labor and other expenses, Richard Coombs has drawn the curtains on Adobe Creek Golf Club. The 100-acre course, said to be “a favorite of Northern California golfers for the past 25 years,” had been designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., with assistance from Kyle Phillips. Coombs, a developer, purchased it in 2011, after it had been placed in bankruptcy protection. He appears to be intent on developing the property, although the home owners in the accompanying community believe the course is supposed to remain in place until 2039. Coombs is a member of investment groups that own two other golf properties in Sonoma County, Rooster Run Golf Club and Windsor Golf Club.

     Sharpes, Florida. A big home builder has laid a claim on Sam’s Executive Golf Course, outside Orlando, and it’s secured the zoning change that will lead to an eventual purchase. D. R. Horton plans to build 224 single-family houses on the 56-acre property, a golf course since 1966. A local elected official called the forthcoming conversion “kind of a win-win,” noting that “everybody seems to embrace” the idea. There’s a little bit of unknown history here, though, because the 18-hole layout once operated as Sam Snead Executive Golf Course.

     Kent, Ohio. Kent State University has pulled the plug on its 18-hole golf course, a track that was said to offer “some of the most affordable golf in northeast Ohio.” In a press release, the university confessed that it “could not reverse a five-year trend of declining revenues and mounting operating losses.” The course, described as “a traditional Scottish-links design that is bisected by a railroad track,” had operated since the late 1920s. The university has owned it since 1996.

     Grand Forks, North Dakota. After making what appears to be a half-hearted attempt to find a private-sector operator, the University of North Dakota has turned out the lights at Ray Richards Golf Course. The school claims that the decision hinged on a philosophical issue. “We’ve wondered, we’ve questioned over the past few years,” a spokesperson said to the Grand Forks Herald, “should we be in the golf course business?” Now we know the answer to that question. It’s possible that other factors were also involved, however, because the university also believes that the 68-acre track is “a prime piece of property that has value.” The nine-hole course, designed by Robert Bruce Harris, had operated since the late 1960s. It was named after the landowner who donated the property.

     Liberty, Missouri. At the end of last year, William Jewell College closed the golf course it acquired in the early 1990s. In a press release, it said the decision to close Cardinal Hill Golf Course had been “anticipated for some time” because “operating our golf course has not been a profitable endeavor.” The 18-hole, Chet Mendenhall-designed layout made its debut in the late 1960s. Funny thing, though: The course’s private-sector manager reportedly declined to comment on the college’s decision.

     Waterloo, South Carolina. Don Salyers has closed Rolling S Golf Club and hopes to find a buyer. “Our business dropped off,” his wife told the Greenwood Index-Journal. “People are watching their money, I would say.” Rolling S, a 160-acre property, opened in 1969. According to the club’s website, Salyers has owned it since 2000.

     Poughkeepsie, New York. Time has run out on Dutchess Golf Club, one of the nation’s oldest golf properties. (The club hadn’t posted a tweet since early 2014, a sure sign of trouble.) Dutchess had operated for 120 years and once proudly counted Franklin Delano Roosevelt among its members, but Anthony Bacchi stuck a fork in it just before Christmas. He hasn’t said why, but the cynic in me thinks it’s because he didn’t want to foot the bill for a New Year’s Eve party. A more convincing explanation comes from the Poughkeepsie Journal, which talked with a member and subsequently blamed the club’s demise on “decreasing membership and increasing prices.” Bacchi bought Dutchess from a local bank in late 2015. He hasn’t completely abandoned the golf business, as he still owns Lazy Swan Golf & Country Club in Saugerties, New York.

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