The National Golf Foundation reported that eight new public golf courses opened in 2013 while 157 closed. Although they haven’t released the closing numbers for 2014, it’s anticipated to be relatively the same on the closed side, yet there’s only been five all-new public access golf courses which have opened in 2014. Golf’s in a funk for a host of reasons, shifting demographics, the economy, and the general lack of interest from generations other than the baby boomers. The major factor is simply the over-supply of golf courses which were built over the years to sell homes, and not financially viable on a stand alone basis. The NGF is culpable, as it’s the same organization that in 1989 called for a new golf course opening every day until the year 2000 to meet the demand of the aging Boomers. So much for projections!
Of the five new golf courses for 2014 with public access, three are associated with residential developments, one a casino, and the fifth, just pure golf in the State of Washington at a envisioned Bandon Dunes style resort.
1. Gamble Sands is located just outside Brewster, WA on the banks of the Columbia River. It was designed by David McLay Kidd, who’s known for designing Bandon Dunes, The Castle Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, and Tetherow, among others. It was developed by the Greggers Family, one of the largest apple orchard owners in the world.
It’s a natural setting with stunning views out across the Columbia River and is without homes, roads, and cart paths to interrupt the landscape. It’s designed to be playable for all levels, there’s five sets of tees overall, the tips play to 7,129 yards, 74.2/128, course/slope ratings, with the middle tees at 6,207 yards, 69.7/118.
2. Potomac Shores Golf Club is 40 minutes south of downtown D.C. just off I-95. It’s a Jack Nicklaus Signature design, routed through a master planned community, parkland style which weaves through the hilly forested terrain along the Potomac. There’s over 200 feet of elevation change throughout, stunning shot values as the course moves through the tree lined fairways with wetlands and heavy bunkering bordering both the land zones and greens.
3. Sewailo Golf Club is located on the southwest side of Tucson, 10 miles dues west of the Tucson Airport on Valenica. The course is owned by the Pascua Yaqui Nation and was designed by Notah Begay III and Ty Butler, and is a well landscaped desert style, parkland layout with plenty of sand, lakes, and streams throughout with the front side a good warm-up for a much more challenging backside.
4. Esplanade Golf Club, Naples on Immokalee Road three miles east of I-75, developed in concert with a Taylor Morrison residential development of 1,798 acres, 1,000 of which are natural preserves, wetlands as well as over 170 acres of lakes with a total of 1,121 homes when built out. The golf course was designed by Chris Wilczynski, an Art Hills/Steve Forest protege. The layout is routed through environmental preservation areas with wetlands and lakes in play frequently, along with a few forced carries.
5. Esplanade Golf Club, Lakewood Ranch, located 2 miles east of I-75 on Rt 70, routed through a Taylor Morrison residential development of 600 acres with a planned 1,250 villas and single family homes. The golf course was also designed by Chris Wilczynski, who created a very playable layout through the development with yardages ranging from 4,600 yards to 6,800 yards. While the the course is layered in through the homesites, it’s bordered by protected wetlands, frequent water and sand in play, with slightly undulating fairways and large greensites.