Scenes from a defunct golf course

It’s surprising how fast a golf course deteriorates when it gets minimal maintenance.

That my home has a golf view is happenstance; my house came first by 20 years. But the course was built as a community with large homes much more expensive than mine. Imagine those homeowners’ shock early this year when they learned that the golf course had gone into receivership. (I wasn’t exactly thrilled to learn of it either.) A bank owns it now, but the course is not operating.

On the abandoned golf course

It’s fascinating to watch the course deteriorate. The bank regularly sends someone to cut the grass, but a golf course needs a lot more work than that to continue to look and perform like a golf course. As spring arrived, at first you could still make out the distinctive features of the fairways and greens. But nature was starting to have its way.

On the abandoned golf course

I haven’t golfed in 25 years, but many of my friends do. They tell me that they find other area courses to be more interesting, but they liked this course’s low green fees. They often mention that maintenance here is so-so at best. Last season, even that so-so maintenance fell off. In the view from my back yard, the rough became very rough and even bare in spots. Fallen tree branches were not being picked up. The cable barrier that kept carts on the path was not being repaired when it broke. I wondered what was up. Now we all know.

On the abandoned golf course

These three trees just behind my property are a frequent subject when I test new-to-me old cameras. You can see that there was still some contrast between the fairway and the rough earlier this spring. Black-and-white film really brings it out.

Golf course trees

Today it’s very hard to tell fairway from rough. Greens are even hard to distinguish now. Whoever buys this course, if anyone ever does, will have a lot of work to do to make the course fit for golf again. I shot this from the 14th tee; this is the fairway I see from my back yard.


Before this season, I’d stepped over my fence onto the course only a few times, and always to maintain my property. I’ve been curious to walk the course as the families who live in this golf community often do, but I’ve felt sure that wasn’t allowed. This season, curiosity has sent me over the fence a handful of times to explore. I’ve walked only the back nine, the part on which I live. The 14th hole is in the worst shape, with fallen trees blocking the cart path in a few places.

Tree down

The ponds have all scummed over.

Pond scum

A distinctive feature of this course is that the back and front nine are separated by a heavily traveled road. You’d never know it while driving through, but golfers play through by using a tunnel under the road. This photo doesn’t show it well, but this tunnel is tall enough for me to stand up in, and should be easily tall enough for a cart to drive under.


Despite the decay, it’s easy to see how attractive this course is. It provides lovely views for homeowners along it.

On the abandoned golf course

Of course I hope someone buys and operates this course. But I worry that this area has more golf courses than it can support, and this one failing is a natural consequence.

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21 responses to “Scenes from a defunct golf course”

  1. Sam Avatar

    Great post Jim! I’ve seen abandoned buildings, houses, and cars, but never thought about an abandoned golf course! Great shots, the defunct golf course did get ugly fast!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Who ever thinks a golf course could go bankrupt? It’s only because I live behind this one that I ever got the chance to see.

  2. hmunro Avatar

    I take an almost perverse glee sometimes in noting how quickly nature reclaims her territory (because we humans need to be reminded now and then that we’re not the only living beings on this planet, and that there are forces at work greater than ourselves). But when it’s happening in your back yard? Well, that’s a huge pity. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Donald Trump will see your post, admire your lovely photos, and decide to pick up this excellent investment opportunity.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, nature always wins! We have to work mighty hard to hold her back. And if it comes down to Trump and continued disuse, I’ll pick the disuse.

  3. George Denzinger Avatar
    George Denzinger

    I don’t golf, but have spent some time at charity golf outings and therefore have seen a few courses. I ran a 5K last Fall on a golf course which was just beautiful. I have wanted to take my mountain bike on those courses so badly, If I were in your position, I’d be on the trails whenever I could.

    I also used to live adjacent to a golf course. It was a small, public 9-holer; I was separated from the actual playing surface by a pretty decent sized ravine. Even so, occasionally I would find a golf ball or two in my yard. Clearly those golfers needed GPS or something to figure out where the green was…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Some years ago I replaced the (broken) fence gate that let me onto the course, with a section of fence. Now I wish I hadn’t.

      This is the first year I’ve lived here when I haven’t gotten a dozen balls a week in my yard and it’s weird.

  4. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    Nice story Jim and photo’s, it would be nice as a nature reserve if its no longer viable as a golf course but I guess there’s no money in that for the bank.I was going to suggest Trump as he seems to have penchant for golf courses (thinking of Scotland) or maybe he has designs on making Scotland the 51’st State as they don’t seem to want to belong to the UK. Anyways I totally agree with you on disuse or Trump deffo disuse.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Problem is, this is interwoven with a neighborhood. The people who bought homes here bought them believing they lived in a golf community. They very strongly want this to be a golf course again. Hard telling how this will turn out.

  5. pesoto74 Avatar

    I am pretty sure that Golf isn’t as popular as it once was. Around here I don’t think that any courses have closed, however some seem to be almost begging people to come out and play. I suppose that considering all the chemicals that it takes to keep a golf course going that it wouldn’t be a great loss to the environment if this one stays the way it is. Maybe it could eventually be turned into a park.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      In the neighborhood meeting we had about this, a few people said that golf’s popularity is waning and that this part of Indy now siimply has too many courses. People I know who golf say that this one was the least interesting of the ones near here. I have zero control over or influence into what happens, but for the sake of my property value I hope something concrete happens soon.

  6. DougD Avatar

    Yup, I think golf is waning too. My Dad was an avid golfer, and I played a couple of times a year just for the experience of hanging around with Dad for a couple of hours.

    My investment idea for disused golf courses are cemeteries, since the golfing generation is headed that way (as we all are). Spend eternity on the green!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I gave up golf 25 years ago and don’t miss it. I wish this course weren’t intertwined with this neighborhood. It will make it very hard to reuse.

  7. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I wish I knew the economics of a golf course. Do they exist just based on greens fees? I know that private courses are maintained by HOAs and country clubs through memberships and dues. Perhaps your neighborhood will set up an HOA to run the course? I cannot imagine they’ll just let it return to the earth.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      In this case the course was owned privately and open to the public, but was built in conjunction with the neighborhood. But the neighborhood, I think, has never been required to “join” the club. I hope the neighborhood has discussions about taking it over and operating it through HOA fees. That might be their best bet.

  8. Bill Bussell Avatar
    Bill Bussell

    My son’s former neighbor was the head groundskeeper for a country club. They let him go, and “outsourced” the course work. He found another golf job outside of Indiana. Years ago, I ran the country clubs with cameras on Friday and Saturday for the society page. This was known as the bourbon beat. There really is no newspaper these days, and certainly no society and women’s pages. I think the day of country clubs and courses is likely a thing of the past.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I do wonder how the country clubs keep going. But what do I know of them; I’m from working-class roots. Where I grew up, we had a wonderful municipal golf course system, and I lived within walking distance of two courses. I borrowed my dad’s clubs, put them on my Bag Boy, and wheeled them the six or eight blocks down to this nice little Par 3 and had a lot of nice afternoons. I never became any good, and gave up the game in my mid-20s.

    2. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

      I live near a country club, and all 3 of my kids have worked there. Country clubs are indeed struggling. Dues are no longer tax deductible for business people, and fewer young people are as willing to spend an entire day or two every week “chasing whitey”. Also, the older clubs are located in areas far from where younger families live. It has been a long time since the days of waiting lists and four figure initiation fees.

  9. Sheldon Bass Avatar

    Our house in Florida was situated one property away from a very busy golf course, which made for great people watching when I was a young sprout. The deterioration you captured here confirms in my mind that nature devolves, moving from order to disorder, instead evolving. Hope I didn’t just cause a pain in someone’s eye. Good post.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s entropy at work! Anything man puts together, sooner or later falls apart.

  10. Jerry Avatar

    I lived in Saddlebrook for a little while. Before that it was a vast forest/field that we kids from Morningside or Northern Estates would explore. There you might stumble upon suspicious people doing suspicious things in those days.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My next door neighbors remember the field. They say that the golf course was a giant blessing, as it included drainage. The water table is very high here, and when it rained a lot yards backing up to that field would flood. No more.

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