Stark County’s claim as “Ohio’s Golf Capital” could be in the rough after another well-known golf course is slated to close.
The Skyland Pines Golf Club, a public 18-hole driving range and banquet center in Canton, will close in September to make way for unnamed development. The closure will bring Stark County’s public and semi-private courses to 17, said Tonja Marshall, sports tourism director for the Stark County Convention & Visitors’ Bureau.
Semi-private golf courses include Glenmore Country Club, which Bertram Inn guests can play, and Shady Hollow Country Club, which guests can play, she said.
In the early 1990s, the Visitors Bureau marketed the county as the state’s golf capital, and Stark had more than 20 golf courses by the 2000s.
Marshall said golf tourism in Stark County is constant throughout the summer, consisting mostly of groups from hilly western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. The visitor’s office, in cooperation with nearby tourist offices in the region, has focused more on the “exorbitant amount of excellent golf opportunities” in the entire region.
“Although we need to adapt and change our messages, our region will continue to be the Gulf capital of Ohio,” she said.
Less and less courses
By the end of this year, Stark County will have lost at least four golf courses since 2014.
Tam O’Shanter closed in 2018 to become parkland and commercial developments. The Rolling Green Golf Course closed in 2016 and the Edgewood Golf Course closed in 2014 – both became housing developments.
The Bob-o-Link golf course in North Canton also reduced its 36-hole course to 18 holes in 2002. The southern portion of the property became residential and the remaining holes became the Sanctuary Golf Course.
Built in 2005 and opened in 2006, Quarry Golf Club was the last golf course to be built in Stark County.
The National Golf Foundation’s 2021 Industry Update, which focused on the pandemic’s impact on golf, reported that 2020 saw the largest drop in closings of 18-hole equivalent courses. It was heralded as a sign that golf’s “15 year market correction” may be coming to an end.
Since 2006, when the subprime mortgage crisis began, the United States has lost more golf courses than it gained every year, with one exception in 2008. According to the National Golf Foundation, a forecast made in the late 1980s, golf course supply could grow Limiting the industry helped fuel the development of thousands of new courses well into the early 2000s.
“A decade and a half later, thanks in part to real estate developers looking to convert unprofitable golf courses into profitable real estate, and a surprising surge in golf activity catalyzed by the pandemic, we are nearing an equilibrium of supply and demand,” said Joe Beditz. wrote the President and CEO of the Foundation.
Marshall said cost is one of the primary reasons Stark County golf course owners cited in their decision to close.
“There’s just a lot of the time, care, and expense involved in golf course maintenance,” she said. “So I don’t think it’s necessarily something special for our region, but something that happens throughout the industry.”
The continued popularity of golf
First Tee of Canton, the local section of the international youth development organization, has seen a surge in enrollments in each of the past eight years that Angela Palomba has been executive director.
“From our perspective, we see the game thriving and growing as many youngsters want to learn or families want their children to participate,” she said.
First Tee’s 9-hole golf course and driving range on 25th Street NE have programs for children 7-18 years old, but not enough space to accommodate everyone, Palomba said. Therefore, the organization is working with golf courses in the area, including Skyland Pines and the former Tam O ‘Shanter, to run courses and the Junior Tour.
“So it was a bit of a challenge when the courses close and there are fewer places,” she said.
Last year First Tee started with an extension of five holes. Palomba said the larger layout, which would still be maintained as a 9-hole golf course, will allow golfers to use the course and driving range at the same time.
“At the moment we can’t do both because the driving range hits the golf course,” she said.
The aim is to have two holes completed by autumn so that further courses can be held on 25th Street in the spring. Palomba said First Tee’s programs and events, like the Junior Tour, give young golfers the opportunity to play affordable, competitive golf on-site.
“So we want to make sure we can keep doing this and make it available for the families in this ward,” she said.
Will Van Nostran said he and his family have been involved in the Stark County Amateur Golf Hall of Fame and its events for more than 50 years. His uncle Doug Van Nostran is a member of the board of directors.
The organization’s 87th Stark County Amateur Golf Tournament was scheduled to draw 120 golfers to Prestwick Country Club and Skyland Pines Golf Club this weekend.
“There is still an interest in amateur golf here in Stark County,” said Will Van Nostran.
Playing at Skyland Pines is “always a pleasure,” he added, and the banquet center has hosted many events for the golf organization and the wider community.
“From a memory and a nostalgic standpoint, they are sorely missed,” said Van Nostran.
Doug Van Nostran’s company, Van Nostran Young & Associates, insures several local golf courses and sponsors the amateur golf tournament.
The elder Van Nostran said many courses had a “banner” year during the pandemic because of the interest in outdoor activities. But with some of Stark’s “main” courses closed or closed, it has become more difficult for leagues and players to book tee times, especially in the evenings and on weekends.
“In my opinion, the remaining public courses can live very well,” he said.