The closing of one Johnson County country club and the planned closing of another has the area’s golf scene in a state of transition regarding memberships and course traffic.
Meadowbrook Country Club closed in October 2014, leaving 400 to 500 golfers searching for a new venue. That, combined with the recent announcement that Brookridge Golf and Fitness Club’s course at 103rd Street and Antioch Road in Overland Park will be transformed into a massive mixed-use development project, has left other county private and public courses reaping the benefits.
“We’ve definitely had an increase in membership,” said Steve Specht, general manager at Canyon Farms Golf Club in Lenexa, which went from a public course into a private one in April.
“The Meadowbrook crew has been looking for a place to play,” Specht said. “We were an option for them. I’ve heard Brookridge is in flux, and I think that has helped other courses. Whenever there is one less private course, those members are going to find another place.”
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A spokesman for Brookridge could not be reached for comment.
Chris Fink, general manager of Deer Creek Golf Club, noted there’s been a trickle-down effect for other courses — private and public ones like his Overland Park course — with just the Meadowbrook closing.
“You have one course that used to do 20,000 rounds, and those rounds are looking for other places to play,” he said. “I think all the private clubs benefitted with Meadowbrook closing, but it sure didn’t hurt the public courses. The private clubs become closed or close to it, and then that helps the public courses get more rounds.”
Michael Stacks, general manager of Indian Hills Country Club, said he “absolutely” has seen a recent increase in membership at the private club in Mission Hills.
“Most new members don’t specifically say if they’re coming from another club, but I know three families from both Meadowbrook and Brookridge that have come here,” he said. “When a club closes and another club is going to close, there’s a ripple effect. Our numbers are certainly up.”
Milburn Country Club, a private course in Overland Park, has also seen a significant jump in memberships over the last year according to general manager Tim Mervosh.
“I think it’s more due to what we’ve done recently with renovations” than the Meadowbrook closing,” Mervosh said. “Those people went to a number of different places.”
Golf’s popularity as a sport in the country is declining. According to the National Golf Foundation’s most recent study, the sport lost 600,000 players in 2015, compared with 2014.
This leaves courses fighting for fewer players, and Falcon Ridge Golf Club general manager Steve Price contends there are already too many courses in the area.
“From the time the economy went in the tank in 2008, that’s the time golf development has stopped,” said Price, whose public course is in western Lenexa. “The sport itself has lost players over the years. The millennials are largely growing up playing other sports. All that translates to fewer players playing golf. Other courses closing, that’s only a good thing for the market, honestly.”
Business at Falcon Ridge, however, is up this summer, though Price said he couldn’t automatically attribute it to Meadowbrook’s closing and the situation at Brookridge.
“We’re not lacking any business,” he said. “I know I might get a couple of events from those two. We feel lucky. We’re in a really good location.”
Fink agreed with Price’s assessment of golf in Johnson County.
“At the end of the day, the market is saturated,” he said. “There’s too many golf courses. It would actually help if a couple more closed.”
Mervosh noted, however, he’s witnessing positive signs for golf in Johnson County.
“We’re seeing people come back to the game and our average age has decreased quite a bit,” he said. “There’s always going to be clubs that survive and ones that don’t. The market will level itself. There’s always going to be competitors out there for dollars. We’re not only competing against other clubs, but other entertainment options.”