By Ruthie DiTucci

There is no denying that when a residential golf course drops daily maintenance and routine repairs, the negative affect on surrounding homes is not only alarming but extremely costly.

Real estate property prices of homes surrounding the golf course quickly take a nose dive. And worse, 90% of court cases involving real estate cases have their origins in the problems associated with neglected golf courses not neighborly disputes.

Consider that a golf property’s surrounding homes are successfully sold using the “prized jewel,” (the golf course) as the main attraction. Golf property is always sold at a premium because of the gorgeous golf course beside it.

 

 

The golf course was the caveat used to attract middle and upper class home buyers at the onset of the project.

92e21c2fad55bca0d7131e8f151d3ec5The revenues raised by the sale of those homes greatly helped the golf property because their sales forces were able to raise funding claiming, “look at all the beautiful homes going up around this golf property.”

But once that golf course goes downhill, it becomes an eyesore as the land returns to its natural state which is very unattractive.

Gone will be the hedging, the edging and the most important aspect of a well maintained golf course, the emerald bright greens.

One of the first things that begin to appear even before a golf course is abandoned, are feral cat colonies.

The cats will actually begin to appear three to five years before the golf course is fully abandoned but the feral cat colonies increase exponentially because there’s nothing to stop them from breeding or feeding on whatever they find to eat on the course during the night. The ponds provide a perfect water source.

catsquirelThat feral cat phase is bad enough because cats are protected. Killing a cat carries a $10,000.00 fine per incident. The cats are soon followed by ruined lawns left behind by armadillos that leave large, expensive ground faults sometimes 5 by 8 feet wide and 4 to 5 feet deep. You can’t kill them either since Armadillos are also a legally protected animal.

The next phase is the excessive squirrel breeding. Squirrels are also protected so your troubles compound. Squirrels are rats with hair-do’s and where ever you have an overrun of squirrels you’ll find their first cousins – roof rats. They happily catsquirrelcoincide and share living quarters with the residents and move into unsuspecting parts of local homes.

The State of Florida has 1,250+ golf courses. That’s more golf courses than any other state in the country. Golf properties don’t belly up overnight. Their descent comes in stages and they’re not in order or by accident.  The neighborhood’s decline begins 2 or 3 years before the golf course goes under.

There are occasional fox sightings but they’re soon followed by the howling of a hqdefaultcoyote which most Floridians don’t even recognize because most have never seen or heard the howling or the yelp of a coyote except at the zoo or while watching a national geographic video.

What was considered a passing and manageable golf industry problem from 2010 to 2012 is now rampant in 2015 for a multitude of environmental and changing socio-economic reasons that golf owners did not want to accommodate.

Golf property owners ride the golf course’s financial wave hoping that when the golf course issues ‘hit the fan,’ they’ll be long gone.

armadillosLet’s start with the original founders of golf resorts… They tended to enjoy being with “people just like themselves.” Most country clubs and golf resorts established from the twenties through to the eighties were exclusive. That doesn’t mean elegant and expensive – that means insular and racially discriminatory.

It took a highly expensive discrimination law suit rumbling in the background to force country clubs into letting minorities or women buy memberships or be allowed on several golf properties. People don’t talk about it but there are golf resorts right now that still prevent women and minorities onto their properties. They allow women to serve food and beverages or clean and cook but they’re not allowed on the green.

The resorts are so insular and private that their memberships fall under “private clubs” avoiding discrimination laws. Their shortsightedness is that the men that enjoyed those exclusive circumstances will eventually pass away.

Augusta National didn’t even accept women until 2012 when it was forced to do so by President Bush. He ordered Augusta National to offer Condaleeza Rice a membership. People like to think that Augusta National just opened their doors but they did not.

They accepted Connie by an unwritten Presidential Order. They knew that they either accepted her or their golf course could be the new regional garbage dump.

And the Dallas Country Club didn’t allow black membership until December of 2014. Memberships for blacks at the Dallas Country Club also took a highly expensive discrimination law suit.

The most recent and memorable “golf public relations” disgrace was in 2013 when Tiger Woods was not allowed to play the British Open because “Muirfield,” the club hosting that year’s event, had traditionally barred blacks from membership throughout its history and neither the United States government nor the PGA had the legal or moral authority to force them to let him play there.

You couldn’t even find a black or a minority on their cleaning crew or working in their back kitchen. That was bad enough but that event forced the entire golf community throughout the world and the PGA to look at how peacefully they had silently accepted racist behaviors they would never approve back home. The PGA remained silent about the matter proving that golf’s discriminatory practices were at that point impossible to ignore.

Golf courses were the last bastions of insulated white communities. Generally, when a country club member saw a minority walk on their country club grounds, even if they were just enjoying the sun and not bothering anyone – someone would place a 911 call.

As the years would pass, the members of country clubs aged and pass away. The few still living weren’t generally strong enough to play golf anymore. And in wanting to keep their treasured property isolated from the changing ethnic wave growth the country has experienced naturally, they do little or nothing to involve the local community.

In Titusville, Florida for instance, “Royal Oaks,” was taking a nose dive yet no one seemed to want to admit it. What was the first give away? That the change of ownership happened quickly and quietly. The Chamber of Commerce actually held a meeting in their country club which I attended.

After the meeting I visited the ladies’ room where I had to take a moment to fix the handle on a toilet because it was simply not attended to. Stale urine was evident even near the sink and I could smell free standing water. Sure enough there was a water leak under the sink which told me that the new owners may be interested, had clearly not made a permanent commitment. Not a good sign.

The purpose of the meeting was to show off the new and improved property and to introduce the Chamber members to the new owners. Unfortunately, the new management did not look like serious business people to me and did not express themselves in a businesslike manner.

All too often a great deal of concentration goes into fixing a bush or trimming a tree when the entire community is about to change in a negative direction and the big picture is ignored.

In fact, on most nights, during the first few weeks of the Royal Oaks new owners working through their new property, I found them sitting at tables near the exit doors. They were not right up on stools at the bar, but never the less, they were sitting at tables inside the bar, drinking with the guests.

They were not off in the back doing inventory or counting the evening’s receipts. They were drinking.

Finally, someone from one of the Carolina states decided they would be picking up several available Brevard County golf courses and started work on Royal Oaks. But the work went unpaid for some time. Then these new potential owners got silent, started parking phone calls in their voicemails that would eventually go unanswered and the day came when they too stopped answering their phones or the recording would say, “This number has been changed and there is no forwarding number or forwarding information.”

Does the golf course near you seem a little disheveled?

Don’t be embarrassed about asking questions. You deserve to know everything that negatively affects your property value. After all, it was the original investment in country club homes that helped get that golf course in your community on its feet.

Visit the golf property’s golf shops and see how well they’re stocked. Visit the property’s ponds and examine their condition. Rent a golf cart and ride the property. Don’t ignore it because the next failed golf course could be the one adjoining your property.

When it goes down, your investment will follow.

Not being a golfer, I can’t possibly come up with better ideas than a golfer would about what to do with a wasted golf course but I’ve always wondered why golf properties couldn’t be used in ways that incorporated the surrounding communities.

It’s often occurred to me as I pass a golf course, what a wonderful possibility it would be if the latch key children were delivered to country clubs instead of empty homes with no supervision where they could be fed a proper meal then taught to play golf. The exercise would occupy them comfortably and safely until their folks got out of work.

By the way, the “Country Club of Little Rock” and “Pleasant Valley Country Club,” both in Arkansas are still offering services to white members only and Bill Clinton still golfs there knowing they don’t allow blacks full membership.

Blacks are allowed to dine on the property, play tennis and even play a round of golf but they are still denied membership. Talks of accepting a local black businessman are in the works but nothing has come of it as of this writing.

While they hold their “private” standing, they can invite and reject whomever they wish. I look forward to the day when divisiveness is no longer a consideration in the planning of a golf course.

 

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