At least half a dozen golf courses are quietly for sale in central Ohio
An outsized "For Sale" sign in front of Pleasant Valley Golf Course in Lancaster is an unusual sight. At least half a dozen golf courses are for sale in central Ohio alone, but for the most part owners quietly market them after they have run their course for years as a family business.
Zack DeLeon, the listing agent for the 99.5-acre Pleasant Valley property listed at $1.2 million, said the longtime family owners gave him the OK to advertise it for sale because they're "ready to sell the business" and recognize that they should capitalize on its location on the busy Stringtown and Coonpath roads. Like many owners, they recognize that a buyer may not be interested in continuing to operate the golf course as is.
"The golf course industry is more difficult these days," said DeLeon, with Gorsuch Realty. "People used to spend their weekends at the club. That's over now. There are so many different social options, and families are busy with things like travel sports, club sports, you name it."
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Golfers also have plenty of options in central Ohio after several golf course housing developments were built in the 1980s and 1990s, alongside a number of well-established public and private courses.
Unlike several courses in the Columbus area that have sold recently that were immediately turned into housing developments, courses such as Pleasant Valley do not have access to city water and sewer utilities. Development for residential use would require well water and septic systems, meaning lower density than places such as MI Homes' Riviera Regency project, built on the former Riviera Golf Club in Dublin.
Much of that low-hanging fruit such as Riviera, Minerva Lake Golf Club and Shamrock Golf Club in Powell is gone in the Columbus area, which has experienced more demand for housing while demand for golf has leveled off.
Last month, owners announced that Oakhurst Golf Club near Grove City was closing and in contract to be sold, two weeks after the 165-acre property was listed for $985,000. Listing agent Shawn Parker did not respond to a request for an update this week, but earlier said he expected a mid-December closing for the sale, followed by more information about the buyer's plans — which he said he didn't anticipate would involve building housing.
Greg Hrabcak, with HER Realtors, is listing Pine Lakes Golf Club in Mt. Gilead for $1.3 million. The 150-acre property does have access to city utilities but may not be in an area that can support a large housing development. Hrabcak said Pine Lakes' owners, who are retiring, have made many recent improvements, but recognize that a golf course may not be the best use for the property today.
"The land itself becomes more valuable than the course that's on it," Hrabcak said. "People get faced with the fact that it may not be the highest and best use for the ground. Plus, golf courses are just expensive to operate, and they aren't a year-round business in Ohio."
Hrabcak said listing golf courses is often tricky. The owners don't want to scare off golfers or event business while they try to sell, going against agents' usual urge to market the property widely.
DeLeon agreed, saying he's spoken to several other agents about the situation.
"It's tough for a golf course owner. … So much of their sales each year is leagues and events," DeLeon said. "When you start talking publicly about a golf course being for sale, some of the public starts getting nervous, and may decide to make arrangements elsewhere.
"You think, 'How do I sell this and still sort of keep it a secret?' You don't have a sign on it, but you have to promote it in some way in order to sell it."
Hrabcak is still bullish on the Mt. Gilead property, which he said is well-located to both new developments and Mt. Gilead State Park right across the street.
Upper Landsdowne Golf Course in Ashville is also listed for sale for $2.2 million by agent James Maurer. Like Pleasant Valley, it lacks city water and sewer lines. Several other courses in central Ohio are rumored to be for sale, but owners declined to confirm the rumors or even listings that are for real estate professionals' eyes only.
Hrabcak, a real estate agent since the 1980s and former president of the Columbus Board of Realtors, has mixed feelings about the shakeout in the golf course business, depending on whether he's wearing his real estate professional or golfer hat.
"I'm a golfer myself. We've definitely seen more courses up for sale over the past five or 10 years," he said. "There was a period in the late '70s and '80s when there was prolific growth in golf courses, so some of this is a natural weeding out."