Area Golf Course Development Catches Up With Rising Demand

Other regions of the country have their mountains, sea coasts, white-water rivers. The flat Midwest has only corn or so it seems. Golf continues to grow as a major real estate crop.

Columbus may be turning into Midwest mecca of sorts for golfers, with nearly 100 courses within a 40-mile radius of the state’s capital city, and another proposed golf community on the drawing board in Dublin.

“Golf fits the Midwest,” says Columbus-based golf course designer Mike Hurdzan.

Golf course communities have become so popular because they increase the value of the adjacent residential real estate, says Rob Vogt, a principal in the Danter Co., a Columbus real estate research firm.

“From a golfer’s perspective, I think the overall preference is for a stand-alone course,” he said. “Many of the newer golf course communities that are being built are being more considerate of the golfer. That is, they are not lining houses or units on both sides of the fairways.

“Based on our research,” Vogt adds, “the best approach to golf course residential development is to route approach roads along fairways so that all residents of the community and visitors have a sense of being part of the golf course. This approach also limits the ‘canyon feel that is created when houses line the fairways. The downside is that there are fewer golf course lots and consequently the developer can’t make as much money on these premium lots. The upside is that this approach increases the value of all lots in the development”.

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Unmet Demand

“Columbus has historically lagged in golf course development,” Vogt says. “Twenty to 30 years ago we had substantially fewer golf courses than we could support based on participation rates. With our positive population growth and young age profile, the problem was compounded. It is only recently that supply is catching up with demand.”

Another problem is the topography of Central Ohio.

“Unlike other communities that offer premium hilltop views, lakes and rivers, and heavily wooded lots, developers in Columbus were left with mostly cornfield sites,” Vogt says. “In order to create interest in these executive housing sites, golf courses were integrated with the community.
“Depending how a golf course community is laid out, everyone in the community can benefit from the views and landscaping created by a well-designed golf course,” Vogt adds. “The golf course becomes an amenity to market and sell the homes. The fact there is also a big demand for quality courses also helps.”

Jim Vutech, a principal in the advertising agency Conrad Phillips and Vutech of Columbus, agrees that golf course communities are increasingly more considerate of the golfer. He cites the New Albany Country Club Communities, which is on his firm’s client roster, as an example.

“The fairways are lined with common areas, walking paths and winding roadways,” Vutech said. “There are no Jungle Gyms in back yards in view of (the) golfers. The mindset is not to segregate premium golf course lots with non-premium lots. All homeowners benefit from the course, both in terms of aesthetic beauty and value.”

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New Targets

Central Ohio flatlands are stilled ruled by King Corn. But farms remain an ideal land site for golf course development, whether stand-alone or communities.

“Since a developer needs several hundred acres to assemble for a well-planned community, farmers with large tracts of land are a logical target,” Vogt says. “I think if a developer could assemble a large tract closer to the city, he would take that track. The real advantage to the developer purchasing farther out island costs.”

Long-time Etna Township resident Ethel Cochran’s farm is now the home of Cumberland Trail, a golf course community being developed by Ron Huff of National Realty Services in southwest Licking County, about 12 miles east of Columbus.

Cumberland Trail is an 18-hole public golf course named after the landmark highway near which it was built at Route 40 and Route 310 (Route 40, commonly known as the National Road was originally Cumberland Trail). The homes are in the $170,000 to $200,000 range. There are 352 lots for single-family homes, and future plans call for a 276unit multifamily complex and an additional 138-unit condominium community.

Valuable Amenities

“Developers can add a high perceived value to their communities through golf courses,” Vutech said. “Other alternatives, like equestrian amenities, appeal to a far more narrow market and are therefore riskier.”

Hurdzan, whose Hurdzan-Fry Golf Course Designs in Columbus (including Cumberland Trail), has designed 250 golf courses in North America, Canada, Australia and Mexico, says a golf course development requires “a client willing to let you spend his money to work on his ground.”

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