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Golf Course Conversions – How to Proceed in this Emerging Market

Closed and neglected golf courses are becoming a major issue for local communities in the desert. When they fall into a state of disrepair and become a blighted part of the landscape, it can bring down property values and lower the appeal of an area. In the Coachella Valley, where we have the highest per capita number of golf courses in the United States, this issue has blossomed in the public eye and the solutions cannot come soon enough. Local developers and property owners are struggling to understand the market forces for re-use and the political realities of golf course conversion.

Altum Principal Planner, Rich Malacoff, AICP, recently attend the American Planning Association’s 2018 Conference and joined a session on Golf Course Conversion. A key takeaway from the panel was that this issue is not thought about much outside the Coachella Valley. The impacts are not as severe in other regions as the proportion of golf courses is much lower per capita and the issue has not been pressed. However, almost all of the audience members were professionals who work in planning in the region and it is clear that there is a need to remedy this issue in our own backyard.

“Some people look at things and ask why, and I look at things that never were and ask why not.” – Robert Kennedy

At the Altum Group we have worked with the owners of golf courses and understand the desire to make the best use of their property. Conversely, we have interacted with the public and understand their want for the property to remain as open space. While an ultimate solution to this issue has not been identified, there are several opportunities to entertain both sides through creative imagining of these spaces.

  • Cluster Housing – Creating residences with an increase in density and/or height, allowing housing in one section of the property and utilizing the remaining area as open space.

  • Interior Housing - Maintaining an outer ring of landscaping and trails that would be open to the community and developing the interior of the site with new housing.

  • Community Village - Concept involving commercial centers within walking distance to residents.

  • Agriculture and/or Equestrian Facilities – Converting the golf course into a community garden or an equestrian center depending on the surrounding land uses and demand.

At the Altum Group, we are able to find solutions that have not been considered and utilize our knowledge of the Coachella Valley to find a way to make them successful. We understand the Coachella Valley better than most consulting firms since we were founded in the Desert and most of our staff live in the region. We are familiar with all of the local municipalities and the solutions that are best suited to their needs. When people have lived with a golf course in their neighborhood for decades, in some cases they tend to become dogmatic in their belief of what the property should be. Altum staff are able to provide outreach to the community and break down the restrictions placed on Cities when it comes to privately owned golf courses. We work with all sides to find a conversion plan that will present the best option for public and private interests. Our firm is striving to be instrumental in the golf course conversion market by working towards finding options that benefit everyone involved.

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