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Private Golf Courses Closing in Chicago's Suburbs

Failing golf courses pose a choice for cities that can use tax dollars to turn them public or put the land to use in other ways.
June 12, 2019, 6am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Henryk Sadura

A downward trend in business has lead many private golf courses to close in Illinois. The Chicago suburbs have seen a number of golf course closures, like "West of Geneva, Mill Creek Golf Club, centerpiece of a 2,100-acre subdivision, failed to open this spring. The struggling Big Run Golf Club in Lockport is applying for city water and sewer service and zoning for more than 500 homes. The Klein Creek Club in Winfield was taken over by lender Fifth Third Bank two years ago and is looking for a buyer," H. Lee Murphy writes for Crain’s Chicago.

The decline in golf isn't limited to Illinois. According to a 2019 report by the National Golf Foundation (an organization tasked with promoting and analyzing the sport) the number of rounds of golf played fell almost 5% between 2017 and 2018, though the report credits some of the decline to weather. The report does, however, admit that the country is oversupplied with golf courses, describing many of the closures as a market correction after a 20-year "building boom" in golf course construction. 

As golf courses close in oversupplied parts of the country, other cities are evaluating the incentives to maintain their courses, as some argue the land used by golf courses could be put to better use. Murphy writes that subsidizing the conversion of private golf courses to public courses with taxpayer money could be a "toxic political issue."

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Published on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 in Crain's Chicago Business
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