Converting Golf Courses to Housing Never as Easy as the Market Would Like

Thousands of golf courses have closed in recent years, but the obvious redevelopment opportunity represented by many defunct courses isn’t always easy to realize.

2 minute read

September 19, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A derelict sign on a barbed wire fence reads “Golf Course, Private, No Admittance.”

Howie Marsh / Adobe Stock

Nearly 1,500 golf courses or country clubs have closed in the United States since 2014, according to research firm IBISWorld, but transforming those properties into development projects hasn’t always proven as easy as developers would like.

A recent article by Andy Medici, paywalled at the Business Journals, provides a rundown of numerous massive projects rising on the former grounds of golf courses—after overcoming stiff odds.

As noted by the article, golf course redevelopment means the potential of thousands of homes, billions of dollars in investment, and the ability to start from the ground up on relatively untouched land.

“But these projects often take years of cutting through red tape […] and for every project that is successful, 10 more never cross the finish line, victims of what he sees primarily as a mixture of zoning hurdles and NIMBYism (not-in-my-backyard-ism) by small but motivated resident groups,” writes Medici.

According to the article, land use regulations are the most common obstacle for golf course redevelopments. “Those obstacles can include contractual obligations put in place when a golf course was first developed to ensure the property cannot be used for anything else or conservation easements,” writes Medici, while citing Jordan Block, a global urban design discipline lead and principal at Stantec and a member of the Denver Planning Board, as a source.

For every example of golf courses with developers ready and willing to transform the land, Medici is able to cite unique opposition to redevelopment plans. Some states and the federal government have begun exploring tools for easing the transition from golf to homes, but the most famous example, a law proposed in the California Legislature in 2022, didn’t win full approval. The law, AB 1910, would have provided funding to local agencies to convert golf courses into affordable housing.

Thursday, September 14, 2023 in The Business Journals

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