Once a community staple in suburbs across America, the golf course is now a slowly dying breed.
According to new data from Foursquare, foot traffic to golf courses has gone down in the last year. While overall visits to golf courses were up 8% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2017, the number of unique visits also decreased by 11% in the same time period.
This could mean that while regular golfers are continuing to enjoy the sport, the number of occasional or new players — who are trying it out for the first time — is going down. The Foursquare data was drawn from both implicit and explicit visits to golf courses, compared to the same period in 2016.
Over 800 golf courses have shuttered across the US in the past decade, and data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association has shown that millennials between the age of 18 to 30 have a lack of interest in playing the game. From Las Vegas, Nevada, to Mahwah, New Jersey, many courses are being replaced with housing developments.
We recently explored two closed golf courses in northern New Jersey, both of which are being turned into housing developments, to see firsthand what courses across the country look like as they become abandoned.
The Apple Ridge Country Club, located in Mahwah, New Jersey, opened in 1966.
Clinton Carlough bought the property, which was originally an apple orchard, and built the country club. It was family-owned and operated by the Carloughs until it was sold in 2014.
Complete with an event space, 18-hole golf course, swimming pool, and tennis courts, Apple Ridge was a place the whole community could enjoy.
The property’s 108 acres were turned into an 18-hole golf course designed by Hal C. Purdy.
However, data collected by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association show that the game of golf is losing players, and in 2015 it was at its lowest point in years.
Source: Washington Post
Apple Ridge Country Club is just one example of the decline in active golfers in the state of New Jersey. Between 2006 and 2014, the number of New Jersey State Golf Association members dropped by 10%.
Brands that sell golf gear, such as Adidas and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have also taken note of the decline. In May, Adidas officially announced that it would sell parts of its golf division for $ 425 million.
Source: Washington Post, Business Insider
This decline in popularity is often blamed on a shift in work culture and the economy, with more people spending longer hours at the office and fewer people willing and able to spend the time and money needed to play the game.
Each golf course has its own unique set of problems to deal with once it officially closes.
While some abandoned golf courses are catching fire in drought-affected portions of California, Apple Ridge is currently being treated for arsenic and lead contamination in the soil, which resulted from pesticides that were used to treat the grass. Remedying the soil and preparing it for new developments has led to the destruction of up to 1,000 trees and shrubs, according to Derek Michalski of the local GreenUSR, a New Jersey volunteer-based environmental group. He added that the developers have promised to replace them.
Source: Bloomberg, NorthJersey.com
Currently, developers plan to build 78 upscale homes on the property — each on 36,000-square-foot plots.
However, since it officially closed in late 2015, the country club has seemingly remained uncared for.
Curtains remain hanging inside, but vandals have broken windows and tagged the walls with graffiti.
The swimming pool entrance still stands …
… and the “Staff Only” signs still mark the doors to the swimming pool’s check-in and kitchen area.
Peering inside through busted windows, you can see a grill that was left behind.
The once-sprouting water fountain now stands empty.
Trash and objects from inside the club are scattered around the property.
Although it’s in the middle of a bustling suburb, the property grounds of Apple Ridge feel eerie and silent.
It’s unclear when construction will begin on the property, as the developers have said that they will first handle the toxins found in the land.
Just 10 miles south is a property that was once High Mountain Golf Course.
High Mountain had an annual membership fee of $ 5,000, but even its relatively affordable pricing couldn’t save it. The 131 acres of land will eventually be the site of 275 homes.