Bob Gillespie



New opening: Cliffs at Mountain Park bucks golf course closings trend in U.S.

Posted 2/2/2014 3:04:00 PM

When The Cliffs at Mountain Park – a Gary Player design and the newest addition to The Cliffs golf communities in upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina – finally opened for play in September 2013, it marked more than the end of a construction process that took five-plus years.

Located near Travelers Rest off S.C. 11 (Scenic Highway 11), Mountain Park was one of just 14 new course openings in the U.S. in 2013, according to the National Golf Foundation. By contrast, 157.5 courses (18-hole equivalents) in the U.S. closed their doors in the wake of ongoing economic issues from the Great Recession, the NGF said.

“Although openings are still at all-time lows, some of the courses opened are exciting additions to America’s golf course landscape,” according to a report in Turf Weekly, an online publication by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

The report puts Mountain Park in the “exciting additions” category. “The course took more than five years to complete because of various delays,” the report states, “but the persistence of Player and his team paid off.” The report cites a Golfweek magazine review by reporter Bradley Klein, one of the industry’s top architecture critics, who called Mountain Park “a stunning new layout.”

“The Cliffs at Mountain Park should be a very serious claimant to a place on the (magazine’s) top-100 Modern list,” Bradley writes.

Set along the banks of the North Saluda River, Mountain Park has 14 holes playing along the river and incorporates mountain ridgelines and a system of bridges connecting fairways. The course rewards a “bump and run” style of play, using lush Zoysia grass in the fairways, hybrid Bermuda on the greens and native grasses on the perimeters, part of Player’s stated goal to make the course conservation- and eco-friendly.

According to the NGF, closings of courses outstripped openings for the eighth straight year. Just 8.5 new public courses opened vs. 151.5 closings; among private courses, 5.5 courses opened while six closed. Overall, the U.S. has 14,564.5 golf courses now, the vast majority (10,704.5) of those public.

Since 2006, the U.S. has had a net loss of 643 18-hole equivalents, a drop-off of 4 percent. But the NGF, referring to the losses as “market corrections” (due mostly to overbuilding in the 1990s), points out that from 1986-2005, more than 4,500 golf courses opened, a 40 percent growth.