With the news that San Luis Rey Downs Golf Club course is about to close, on top of the Days of Our Lives drama over the proposed redevelopment of Escondido Country Club, and the yet unreported redevelopment of several other golf course properties on the endangered species list in San Diego and around the country, it is abundantly clear that golf, and those who play it, are rapidly becoming a forgotten and abused stepchild to our San Diego culture.
Or so you might think were you to only read the mainstream media.
In many other parts of the country this turn of events might seem trivial, but in San Diego County, the Golf Capital of the World, it is absolutely unacceptable. Here's why:
>The golf industry is one of the largest employers in our County. Major golf manufacturers have consistently grown by constantly introducing game improvement technology to golf equipment ever since Ely Callaway and Tom Crow started Callaway and Cobra Golf back in the mid 70's. It has been their engineering and design innovations that have made golf so much fun, and laid the foundation for the worldwide growth of the golf industry and the proliferation of major manufacturers in this area.
> San Diego draws millions of visitors every year, many of whom come here to enjoy golfing in room-temperature weather all year round. Torrey Pines Golf Course is as intrinsic to the golf landscape and important to our tourism as any icon in California.
> Within a very short drive, golfers can find virtually any kind of championship caliber golf landscape from oceanfront to desert, links style to mountain top, only San Diego offers it all.
> Unlike other golf resort communities, San Diego golf is available at very reasonable prices, and visitors can enjoy a bountiful selection of additional attractions that appeal to every member of the family.
Unfortunately, if you listen to the building industry dominated mainstream press, you would be lead to believe that we don't need golf courses, we need more development. More concrete, more traffic, more trash, and we have more than enough places for golfers to play than we need. Golfers are typically characterized as old, selfish, wealthy recluses who could care less about the water the courses use or the need for more local tax revenues new residential development would bring.
So their answer is simple; bring on the bulldozers!
But wait just a minute! What about our culture? Isn't the identity of our community important to our future? Shouldn't we be concerned that in response to a worldwide economic downturn we might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Just who are we, as a place to live and raise our children, as a home for local business development, a place to be born and retire to, and of course, as a place to visit?
Do we want San Diego to become the next Orlando Florida? The little brother to Santa Monica? Venice Beach or Las Vegas?
Is the coastal community concept of transient party goers and door to door bars what San Diego aspires to be?
If we are to believe the idea that we need fewer courses in San Diego, what will the working class golfer do? Green fees at the premier course are already in triple digits. Aviara, La Costa, Maderus, and others are upwards of $200 on weekends. And they are busy. They are healthy: La Costa just finished a multimillion dollar renovation.
With fewer courses, we can expect that trend to continue, potentially making golf in San Diego a sport reserved for the rich. Just like Las Vegas.
In Las Vegas, the locals avoid Las Vegas Boulevard. They rarely spend time among the glitz and glamour, the casinos and stage shows, fighting the traffic and the crowds. They live in the suburbs and feed on the tourist economy, taking what they need from the hoopla, providing supporting services, but they stay insulated from the Strip. The live in Las Vegas, but they don't identify with the Cultural Brand.
We can do a lot better!
We need to do a lot better, but if we aren't careful, greedy businessmen who are constantly trolling for the big buck payoffs, will quickly and permanently remodel our beautiful San Diego landscape into a concrete jungle of tile roofs and double parked cars. And just a few very elitist and exclusive golf courses.
Is that what San Diegans want to happen to their Brand?
Golf is experiencing some hard times, as are most middle class families. We are, as a country, a long way from complete economic recovery. But we will recover! We are already seeing the real estate industry turning the corner. Most of the value homeowners lost in the 2007 meltdown has bounced back. The tourist industry has seen double-digit increases this past year, and the high-tech medical and electronics business continues to expand.
Keeping golf courses busy is a function of the psychological health of our economy. When people have disposable income, they want to recreate. What other outdoor sport is as accessible to individuals as golf? Name one...OK, surfing...also important to our community. But there are huge differences too.
You can play golf by yourself, or with a group, as a team or as an organization. You can play golf until you are very elderly. It is good for you and seldom incurs serious injury. It makes you appreciate nature, and offers opportunities to meet new people. Golf courses provide open space, habitat for wildlife, trees and indigenous plant life, a habitat for birds, ducks, and many other wildlife. Golfers spend on room and board, food and entertainment, not to mention equipment.
Golf is rich in history and engenders good sportsmanship, community spirit and charity.
We have all enjoyed playing in fund raisers for our Military, our schools, churches and hospital and other community service organizations.
As a community, we need to keep this indigenous sport, and all of it's courses of play, alive and healthy. We need to do whatever it takes to strengthen the immune system of the sport, the business, and the landscape of golf.
Golf is our offspring! It is in our blood,
and it is written all over our hometown identity.
It has been good to us, and it will continue to be if we recognize and support it's importance to the health of our communities.
Letting golf, golf courses, and the golf culture in San Diego become an Endangered Species is counter intuitive to the best interests of our greater San Diego community.