The Housing Bubble Effect On Golf Courses

The housing market was on a huge upswing through about May 2006. It’s stagnated there for a while and now there is talk of the bubble bursting. The sub-prime market – mortgages made to those who don’t qualify for legitimate mortgages – is a mess, and part of the problem. Overvaluation is also a problem.

Here’s a nice graph of what’s happening with housing prices in 20 major cities (link):

So, what’s the effect on golf courses? Myrtle Beach last year:

Sixteen area courses closed in 2005 and 2006, all with redevelopment plans that included housing developments.

And now…

The rash of course closures has remedied a struggling golf market that had been saturated with layouts, and contributed to the flooding of a housing market that has been burdened with increased listings but slower sales over the past two years.

If courses aren’t now jumping to convert to the housing developments, at least they’re not closing. I suppose that’s an improvement.

Looking at the cities listed in the graphic above, we can get a sense for what “golfing cities” housing markets are hit the hardest. I don’t have any data on the state of golf course closings or developments in these cities, but my best guess would be that course development projects will slow with the housing market.

Halloween Special: Scary Course Names

Sports Illustrated lists the top nine scariest golf course names:

1. Purgatory Golf Club
2. The Devil’s Claw at Whirlwind
3. The Blue Monster at Doral
4. Hell’s Point Golf Club
5. Deep Cliff Golf Course
6. Shark River Golf Course
7. Devil’s Lake Golf Course
8. The Monster Course at Concord
9. Bigfoot Golf & Country Club

My thoughts on the list: Golf course names are, predictably, not that scary. How about these:

  • Scariest shot: Long bunker shot with water behind the green.
  • Scariest closing hole: Long par four with water right, perhaps.
  • Scariest looking golf clubs: Cleveland VAS irons – the ones Corey Pavin used to play. I used them for several years.

Congrats Red Sox

It was nice to see the Red Sox win on Sunday night, although I would have preferred the Rockies to win a couple games. I hate to see anyone get swept in four games as solidly as the Sox took care of the Rockies. There were a couple moments when the games were enticing, but overall the series lacks the drama on which you want a world championship event to end. The resulting chaos of Boston winning in Boston would have been priceless, too. Bitter-sweet. Maybe next year.

Curt Schilling, the Boston Red Sox veteran strike throwing pitching machine, has a blog titled, “38 Pitches,” which I just found today. His comments on the World Series and baseball are worth a look.

Roundup: Beaver Meadows GC – Part 2

Yesterday, I sped to the golf course as soon as my Evidence class ended at 2:30pm. I grabbed my phone and wallet off the car dashboard, slipped on my golf shoes without even a thought of tying them, and hurried into the clubhouse to pay my twilight fee – twenty-two bucks for all the golf I want and ten bucks for a cart. I don’t usually take a cart, but rain was imminent and I didn’t want to get stranded on the outer-reaches of the course without my umbrella, which was thoughtfully left in the closet at home.

Expecting the rain to shorten my round to nine holes or less and wanting to play the back nine for the fist time ever, I started on the tenth hole. The tenth hole was a par-5 with a slight dogleg right. I striped a driver down the center of the fairway with a slight fade. For not warming up on the range, it was a fluke shot. I laughed, and ran back to the gas cart and sped off.

Beaver Meadows is at best a mediocre golf course. It’s draw, for me, is its availability. On fall weekday afternoons there may be ten other people on the entire course besides me. It allows me to play one, two or as many as eight balls on each hole.

The front nine is boring, relatively unimaginative and open. Open is OK, if there is some definition to the holes. The only hole that catches my eye is the eighth hole, which is a par four with a right-to-left sloping fairway. The green is relatively large and has a closely mowed collection area to the front right. It’s bunkered on the left and back.

Playing the back nine was refreshing after having made several semi-loops around the front nine. The back nine was more wooded, which doesn’t make a golf course unless, like me, you grew up in Northern Lower Michigan and you’re used to courses cut through forests. The trees provided some definition, and gave me an idea of what type of shot to hit. More importantly, they challenged me to not hit certain types of shots, lest I wish my speeding golf ball meet a heavily wooded peril accentuated with that distinctive Titleist on bark click.

I birdied the fourteenth hole, an uphill dogleg right par-4 that measured 430 yards, by hitting a fade driver and an eight iron to ten feet. The putt, a slippery left-to-right breaker, made more difficult by the recently punched greens, poured in the front left of the cup. That was the best execution of three consecutive shots I’ve hit all year.

After fighting the wind, avoiding the rain, and trudging through thousands of fallen leaves, I completed sixteen holes. I skipped six and seven on the front to get around a slow walking couple. I flushed two two-irons of the tee on the ninth hole (my 18th). It was a strong finish to a fun round on a late fall day.

Fined for Lack of Effort?!?!

Can you imagine being fined for “lack of effort”?

Fourth ranked men’s professional tennis player Nikolay Davydenko was fined $2000 for just that after losing a match in his home country of Russia to a player ranked outside the top 100.

How’s that for the ol’ heave ho… sigh… sputter… can I go home yet?

Allegations of match-fixing have been flying around for a while in professional tennis, and it’s just now coming to fruition. The organizations are considering an “integrity unit,” whatever that is.

How easy would it be to tell if a top ranked golfer was “mailing it in”? And does it even matter?

I can’t get beyond the “does it matter” question. Golf is such a fickle game that a player in the zone one day can play horribly the next. There is a margin these guys play within, and it’s fairly tight, but even the best players in the world will post a round in the high 70s a few times a year. A round which could be accused of lacking effort.

If the player knows he’s well outside the cut or not in contention on Sunday, some “lack of effort” can be presumed. It’s like a nod to the golf gods that he’ll save his best for the next tournament.

So, does it matter if a player tries his hardest? It might matter to the individual player and his image, but it likely doesn’t matter to the tournament.

Golf has long been known for it’s emphasis on self-regulation. It’s often said that if you want to teach your kids integrity, have them take up golf. Every round of golf offers the opportunity to cheat and to cheat yourself by giving in by becoming apathetic. What builds character is persevering when your fades are hooking and you’re hitting out of divots.

However, there’s no direct opponent in stroke play, so throwing a match isn’t possible. Even if a player does “check out early,” his impact on the tournament is far less noticeable than when a top ranked tennis player throws a match. And no one at home can tell when a golfer is displaying a “lack of effort.”

One of the many great things about televised golf is that it ignores most golfers (excepting Tiger Woods) when they’re not playing well. It’s tough to pull away from a featured tennis match.

(Or maybe professional golf needs an integrity committee along with it’s new drug testing policy.)

Golf Course Architecture

It has been years since I was really into golf. My desire to play faded through college, and went away altogether while I was working in Washington D.C. Law school consumed me for another year and sent me to China during the prime golfing months this past summer. There was always an excuse. And I was lazy and busy, if that makes any sense.

But now, for some reason, I’m returning to the game that I grew up loving. The only problem is that with winter nearing (although, you wouldn’t know it if you looked outside today – 70* and sunny), the PGA Tour winding down and the Silly Season offering only mild entertainment, I’m looking for new sources of golf entertainment to satisfy my recently rejuvenated jones for all things golf.

The topic of golf course architecture has caught my eye. I’ve subscribed to several blogs that write about it frequently – Geoff Shackelford, Ian Andrew’s “Caddy Shack”, On Golf Architecture, and The Golf Course as Art. I have no desire to design a golf course. My interest is form a player’s perspective. If I can understand the courses I’m playing better and the design elements behind them, then perhaps I can better position my shots during a round. The history of it is intriguing, too.

My two home courses while growing up were very different in design. One was the Traverse City Golf and Country Club, a course “designed and built by Tom Bendelow, a Scotsman from Aberdeen who was one of America’s pioneer golf course architects.” The course is a traditional tree lined country club type course and the management has recently made an effort to open up some of the holes with the addition of heather.

The other course was The Bear at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, Michigan. The Bear is a Jack Nicklaus designed course, and is very typical of an early Nicklaus design – many holes demand high fade shots.

In fact, the playing experience at The Bear is summarized perfectly by this quote from a recent article in The Weekly Standard titled, “Putting Golf Back on Course.”

On many of [Jack’s] courses, the average player will lose half a dozen balls a round, many of them having found a watery grave in one of the man-made water-hazards of which Nicklaus is so fond. As a player, Nicklaus probably wouldn’t even notice many of the water hazards that litter his courses. But the typical golfer does.

My novice observation is that there is a clash between minimalist architects who favor using what the land provides and fitting a design to the land and new-age architects who strive to define exactly how each hole should be played.

I’ll be reading more about golf course architecture and seeking books and articles as winter settles in.

Roundup: Beaver Meadows GC

I played the front nine of Beaver Meadows Golf Club for the second time this past Wednesday. Like last time, I played about five balls on each hole – usually into the green. The weather was nice – 60* – and I was striking the ball better than a week ago. My biggest complaint is that I seem to be pushing a lot of my tee shots, especially with my driver.

“Getting stuck,” they call it.