Investment in the U.S. golf market is focused almost entirely on course renovations, with new construction extremely limited.
That’s to be expected, as the U.S. boasts more than 16,500 courses – over five times more than any other country in the world. As these facilities continue to age, making improvements to stay competitive has accounted for the lion’s share of investment throughout the industry.
But a few new courses continue to open here and there, as all golf is local and supply is ultimately dependent on demand.
This year, two of the biggest names in professional sport opened golf courses.
The first 13 holes of the Tiger Woods-designed Payne’s Valley Course at the ever-expanding Big Cedar Lodge in southwest Missouri opened to the public for preview play, with a full opening set for summer of 2020. In South Florida, Michael Jordan opened a high-end private club called Grove XXIII on the site of a former citrus grove in Hobe Sound.
Most new courses are either of the 9-hole, par-3 or short course variety, however.
Keeping with the theme, here’s a closer look at nine of those new courses that opened across the country in 2019:
The Club at Olde Stone (Sinkhole) – Bowling Green, Kentucky
About two hours south of Louisville, the Club at Olde Stone opened a nine-hole short course on Labor Day that Director of Golf Kevin Childers says has “very much a playground atmosphere,” with multiple teeing areas and the flexibility for golfers to play from almost anywhere they want. Nicknamed “The Sinkhole,” the short course is a wonderful complement to the club’s 18-hole championship course (designed by Arthur Hills) that’s been recognized as one of the best in the region. The longest tee shot at the Sinkhole is 145 yards and holes can play as short as 35 yards. The greens are big and undulating, and the course, which is set up on 10 to 12 acres behind the facility’s learning center, can be set up to play very difficult or very easy. “What we’re starting to see is more play up there than on the big course because everyone’s time is super important in today’s world,” said Childers. “You can play in an hour or hour and 15 minutes. If you want to play three holes, you can. You see a lot of families out there as well as guys wagering.”
Wildhorse Golf Club at Robson Ranch (North 9) – Denton, Texas
The over-50 community at Robson Ranch already had 18 holes and this year added a new nine, Wildhorse North, to the club’s South and West courses. All 27 holes at the community, which is less than an hour northwest of Dallas, were designed by Texas architect Gary Stephenson and are open to the public. “The first four holes leave you with the impression that this nine might be easier than the other two,” head pro Craig Pullen said of the North 9, which is built on a hilltop and subject to windy conditions. “Once you play the fifth hole, you realize you made a mistake. Then 7, 8 and 9, you really realize this is way more difficult than the other side.” Pullen said approximately 99% of homeowners, the majority of whom are retired or work part-time, own their own golf carts and that many of the golfers who live in Robson Ranch play on almost a daily basis.
Concession Golf Club (The Gimme) — Bradenton, Florida
A new nine-hole, par-3 course opened in November on an eight-acre parcel of land within the routing of the championship course at Concession Golf Club. The club is named in honor of the putt that Jack Nicklaus conceded to Tony Jacklin at the 1969 Ryder Cup, allowing the competition to end in a tie for the first time in its history. The new short course, named “Gimme” and designed by Chris Cochran and the team at Nicklaus Design, is part of a $2 million expansion that also includes a one-acre putting course called Snake Acre. All flagsticks on the par-3 course have markings to signify the two-foot “gimme” distance and the layout takes inspiration from some of the game’s most famous layouts. The deep sod-walled bunker and green on the third hole is based on the Road Hole on the Old Course at St Andrews. The ninth hole features a bunker in the middle of the green, like the sixth at Riviera, while the signature fifth hole is an island green representative of the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.
Old Toccoa Farm (Back 9) – Mineral Bluff, Georgia
In the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia, a full 18 holes is now available for play at Old Toccoa Farm. The 6,707-yard, par-72 Bunker Hill Golf designed course (built by lead Coore-Crenshaw designers Dan Proctor and Dave Axland, and master-shaper Jack Dredla) is garnering rave reviews from golf architecture enthusiasts, as well as low and higher handicap players. Nestled in what the ancient Cherokee called “The Enchanted Land,” Old Toccoa Farm plays along almost one mile of the renowned trout waters of the Toccoa River and meanders through 125 acres of ridges, rock outcroppings and wildflower meadows, offering spectacular views of the Chattahoochee and Cherokee National Forests. While semi-private, Old Toccoa Farm is open to public play six days a week.
Desert Mountain Club (No. 7) – Scottsdale, Arizona
The Desert Mountain community opened a USGA-rated, 18-hole par-3 course that’s fittingly named No. 7 – becoming the seventh course in the exclusive residential enclave. The layout is designed for players of all skill levels, with tees ranging from 98 to 268 yards, and was designed by Bill Brownlee and Wendell Pickett, who also collaborated at Wickenburg Ranch. No. 7 is the only course at Desert Mountain not designed by the Nicklaus team. The landscape resembles a peaceful desert parkland, with a stream that comes into play on five of the holes. The putting surface of the 18th green and an adjoining Putting Course are connected, creating a 22,000-square foot lighted, interactive complex adjacent to the clubhouse, which has a family-centric, indoor-outdoor gastropub. The 18th hole doubles as an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and events.
Cross Creek Golf Club (Majorki 9) – Decatur, Indiana
In northeast Indiana, just outside of Fort Wayne, Cross Creek Golf Club opened a new nine-hole, par 33 executive course that features four par-3 holes, four par-4s and one par-5. The Majorki course joins the 18-hole championship course that was reconfigured more than a decade ago, when three extra holes were also built before that project stalled. The executive course occupies some of the familiar scenery of the former front nine and Dennis Collins, Cross Creek’s golf operations supervisor, said it’s been a nice addition, even if some golfers are hesitant about the shorter length. “The true golf aficionados, the diehards, they love it,” Collins says, noting that all six of the entirely new holes have some kind of water view.
Oxbow Country Club (New 9) – Oxbow, North Dakota
About 20 miles south of Fargo, Oxbow Country Club completed an extensive flood mitigation project with the opening of nine new holes in August. The course, originally built in 1975 by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. along the Red River, gets its name from the U-shaped oxbow bends in the river, but flooding in the area put homes at risk and necessitated a river diversion project. A levee was built through the old property, leaving half of the course and the clubhouse on the riverside. The club opted to build a new clubhouse and a new nine holes away from the river, then completely reworked the other nine. Oxbow opened nine holes two years ago before completing the second phase this year, taking any existing holes all the way down to the dirt and starting over. Almost half of the course now plays along the levee, which is barely noticeable unless you know it’s there. As for the former nine holes along the river, they’ve been turned over to the state and will slowly revert to nature.
Golf Club at Surrey Hills (New Nine) – Yukon, Oklahoma
On the northwest outskirts of Oklahoma City, the Golf Club at Surrey Hills tacked an additional nine holes onto its existing 18-hole layout. The new nine, which opened around July, features smaller greens and has more of a target golf feel, says head pro Jeff Tucker, with water coming into play on five of the nine holes. The course is part of a newer real estate project and was built by the developer, which is also building new houses. The facility offers memberships, but outside public golfers account for about 40 percent of its play.
Links at St. Anne’s Golf Club – Middletown, Delaware
Midway between Wilmington and Dover, not far from the Maryland border, the Links at St. Anne’s opened 15 holes for public play in 2019. The walking-friendly course, designed by Alan Liddicoat, had been on the drawing board for more than 12 years. It is part of a community of estate homes that border more than half of the existing holes, and more are on the way. While the remaining holes are set to open in 2020, operators offered replay options for those seeking an 18-hole experience. In addition to the golf course, a new family-friendly restaurant and pub opened next to the clubhouse, and a bagpiper on Fridays adds to the layout’s links feel.