Fore-Sale: As Demand Slows, More Golf Courses Hit the Market

By Susnjara, Bob | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 21, 2004 | Go to article overview

Fore-Sale: As Demand Slows, More Golf Courses Hit the Market


Susnjara, Bob, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Bob Susnjara Daily Herald Staff Writer

A growing number of suburban golf course owners are putting up for-sale signs or paring back their business and selling the greens to home builders.

Golf industry experts say the changes are due to a stagnant number of players and an increase in courses in the Chicago area.

About 1,055 courses have opened in the United States since 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation. More than 170 new courses debuted last year alone.

Nationwide, the number of courses has increased from 10,188 in 1970 to 15,899 last year. The Chicago area had about 345 courses last year, according to the National Golf Foundation.

Meanwhile, rounds of golf played in the United States totaled 495 million last year, compared with 502 million in 2002, a 1.5 percent drop. The number of rounds has slipped 4.5 percent since 2001, the golf foundation says.

The Villa Olivia Golf Club in Bartlett is among the courses on the endangered list. After 38 years, its owners say they plan to close up.

The move to sell all 18 holes to Ryland Homes is due to a decline in business since the late 1990s, said Dan Corrado, managing partner of Villa Olivia.

He said there are too many courses, and it's tough to compete with government-owned courses in DuPage County that don't pay local taxes and only look to break even.

"The sad part about it is they are not even sensitive to market competition," Corrado said of government-owned courses. "They could build a golf course in the middle of four other golf courses that are empty."

The owners of Rolling Knolls Country Club in Elgin last week said they plan downsize from 18 to nine holes, citing decreased play. The course, family owned since 1963, doubled its holes to 18 in 1990.

Tom Schneider, a Rolling Knolls partner, said he hopes to sell nine holes on the 60-acre course to a housing developer. The back nine will stay, as will a clubhouse and banquet facility.

Schneider pins the industry's woes on continued construction of golf courses as part of new-home projects, which developers often use as open space to win approval from municipalities.

"Really, the whole reason (for selling) is the golf economy," he said. "In a nutshell, they continue to build golf courses for non- economic reasons."

Despite their plans, it might not be easy for the golf course owners to unload their land. Approval typically is needed from local governments for the proper zoning to allow building construction.

Last month, several Bartlett residents attended a public meeting to criticize the proposal to replace Villa Olivia's links with houses. Similarly, in Bloomingdale in April residents objected to a proposal to put houses on one of Indian Lakes Resort's golf courses.

A predicted golf boom since Tiger Woods' emergence in the late 1990s never materialized, but it helped lead to the overabundance of courses, experts say. A down economy and lack of time for potential players are contributing factors.

Midlane Golf Resort in Waukegan couldn't wait for the supposed boom any longer. Last year, Midlane received permission to remove nine of its 27 holes for a Concord Homes development. …

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