Essay, Photography

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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Stories Told

Landing in the water hazard

Sunset over the 14th Fairway

My house isn’t much, just a little brick ranch, but I like it. The neighborhood is in slow decline, but it’s quiet. And all five times I’ve accidentally left my garage door up all day while I was at work, nobody robbed me blind.

My house backs up to a golf course. Lest you think I live in a hoity-toity golf community, know that the neighborhood came first by 25 years. And I don’t golf.

That’s not a water hazard in the photo, or at least not one the golf course planned. It’s what happens every time it rains. Water pools everywhere. My next-door neighbors, who’ve lived there for going on 30 years, tell me it was a lot worse before the golf course was built. It was a farm field then, and when it rained water ran into all of our back yards. I’m sure it filled my crawl space with water. But my neighbors’ house is on a concrete slab, and so the water just ran under their back door and into their kitchen. They love the golf course, not so much for the constant barrage of golf balls that land in their back yard, but for the way it leveled out the land. It really drains so much more effectively now.

That is, except when it really rains – and the 14th fairway becomes a river.

This happens a couple times every spring. Every time it does, my sump pump runs all night, making me wish it weren’t under my bedroom. Ah, homeownership.

I get a dozen golf balls a week in season. Read more about it.

Stories Told

Hook shots

I never found the golf ball that broke my kitchen window. It must have bounced into the back yard, its anonymity assured among all the other balls already on the ground.

I live on a golf course. My backyard overlooks the 14th fairway. Please don’t think I’m living the high life in some swank golf community; my neighborhood predates the course by at least thirty years. I bought this house despite its golf view, not because of it.

I used to golf. I grew up within walking distance of a nice little nine-hole course and when I was in high school I liked to borrow dad’s old clubs and play a round down there. I was never any good, though, and after four summers of trying couldn’t hit better than a 65 on that par-29 course. I left many golf balls in the back yards that lined that course’s first fairway; could karma be at work? Eventually I gave up on the game and gave Dad his clubs back for good.

I think my poor skills would be evenly matched with many of the golfers on the course behind my house. So many of them hook their shots into my yard that each of my sons has collected a giant box full of golf balls. They dream of financing major video game purchases by selling the balls back to the golfers. I keep telling them I’ll want a cut to fund future window repairs! My sons have learned to check the front yard, too, because every week or two a ball clears my roof and lands out there. Once I found a ball in a neighbor’s front yard across the street! The aerial image below shows where the ball landed. If that shot had only flown straight, it would almost have made the green!

In the year I’ve lived here, somehow only the one window has broken. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before I have to buy some more glass and break out the glazing compound again. But it’s not like having a golf course as a neighbor is all bad. My neighbor says that the building of the course moved enough earth around to take our houses out of a flood plain. He says that before the course was built, rain collected in the field that was there and routinely created a pond that placed half our back yards under water. I’m glad I never had to deal with that! Still, I wish more golfers would sign up for the lessons the club offers!