Who Wants to Own a Dying Golf Course?

dying golf course

We are on the verge of inheriting a problem that afflicts Homeowners Associations across the U.S. – what to do about dead and dying gold courses. As we prepare to move into Trilogy at Vistancia, we just received notice that the builder is offering to sell their golf course to the Home Owners Association (first right of refusal). When we signed off on the original Disclosure statement back in May we were delighted that it contains the following language: “Neither the purchasers nor the Association will have any ownership or membership rights in the Golf Course, and neither the purchasers nor the Association will <not> have any responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the Golf Course.”

Now the builder wants us to sign off on an amendment to the Disclosure which includes the builder’s intention to sell the golf course. We have a problem with this because it is not material at this time, i.e. our decision to buy was made based on the Disclosure we signed in May. We contacted the builder to see if we have an option to cancel but were told that it would require legal action ($$$). In protest, we’re not signing the revised disclosure though that won’t change anything.

The Problem

Many builders in the 1990s and 2000s built communities featuring a golf course. However over time the business of golf has declined. Revenue from golf club memberships and number of rounds played has decreased while operating expenses are increasing year over year. Not exactly a business that I want to buy into.

No Elegant Solutions

While researching options, we’ve become aware of the extent of this problem. Hundreds HOAs are trying to figure out what to do with dead or dying golf courses. Here are a few potential solutions and their less than ideal consequences.

  1. HOA buys the golf course. This usually results in an assessment and an increase in HOA dues. The continuing financial struggles of the golf course make future increases likely.
  2. The builder sells to a third party that agrees to keep it as a golf course. Over time the new golf course owner cuts expenses in an effort to stem the flow of red ink. Maintenance of the course declines with visible results. Home values, especially those adjacent to the course, decrease. In some cases, the HOA decides to buy the golf course to protect property values. The HOA can end up paying more for the course than when first offered. And of course assessments and increased dues follow.
  3. Convince the City to rezone the land to allow new home construction. Home owners who live adjacent to the course would be very displeased at the prospect of losing their views, quiet “backyards” and home value.

What to Do

We’ve spoken with our real estate agent and a representative from the builder’s sales team. Both have assured us that the HOA will not vote in favor of purchasing the golf course. The most likely scenario is that it will be sold to a third party that will continue to operate it as a golf course. So in the short term, nothing should change for us. But our concern is what happens if and when the golf course fails and goes into a state of disrepair? That’s when things could really get interesting. For now, we’ve decided to stay the (golf) course!

For more information on this subject check out these articles:

From the Wall Street Journal: Golf Home Owners Find Themselves in a Hole

From Forbes: Home Owners Will Pay the Price for a Backyard Golf Course, One Way or Another


6 thoughts on “Who Wants to Own a Dying Golf Course?

  1. Crazy idea, don’t buy the golf until it falls apart. Then buy the golf course for the lowest price possible, turn into a park with lot’s of newly planted trees to have a little CO2 compensation project and a nice place for everyone to hang out 😉

  2. This is exactly why we didn’t buy into a 55+ community with a golf course! We had looked at houses in one with a golf course until we learned the golf course was having financial difficulty. There is another 55+ community in a nearby town who let their golf course go fallow – residents complain of high, unkept weeds, rodents, and loss of home values. No thank you! I’m very sorry you are facing this! The idea of turning the golf course into a nicely maintained park sounds good to me.

    1. Latest news is that there are no outside suitors for the golf course so the only potential buyer is the HOA. From what I know, word is that HOA members
      are adamantly opposed. We continuing with our purchase despite the uncertainty. Our realtor said that everyone he’s worked with, even knowing more than we did,
      has not hesitated to move forward. We still think highly of Trilogy and are excited about our upcoming move. Let me know what you decide.

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