Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 13, 2008

Giving up the Golf

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Point, Errata — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 7:10 am

Taking a bit of a break from all the school talk, this article was in the New York Times a while back, with the news that folks simply are not golfing as much as they used to.  Highlights:

…Over the past decade, the leisure activity most closely associated with corporate success in America has been in a kind of recession.

The total number of people who play has declined or remained flat each year since 2000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million, according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

More troubling to golf boosters, the number of people who play 25 times a year or more fell to 4.6 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000, a loss of about a third.

The industry now counts its core players as those who golf eight or more times a year. That number, too, has fallen, but more slowly: to 15 million in 2006 from 17.7 million in 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation.

…golf, a sport of long-term investors — both those who buy the expensive equipment and those who build the princely estates on which it is played — has always seemed to exist in a world above the fray of shifting demographics. Not anymore.

Jim Kass, the research director of the National Golf Foundation, an industry group, said the gradual but prolonged slump in golf has defied the adage, “Once a golfer, always a golfer.” About three million golfers quit playing each year, and slightly fewer than that have been picking it up.

Surveys sponsored by the foundation have asked players what keeps them away. “The answer is usually economic,” Mr. Kass said. “No time. Two jobs. Real wages not going up. Pensions going away. Corporate cutbacks in country club memberships — all that doom and gloom stuff.”…

Chalk it up to golf being yet another victim of tough economic times.  For most people it probably is an issue of time in addition to the economics.   My husband like to golf, but hasn’t golfed in the past six to eight months at least because there simply is not the time.

And I hate to go back and further flog Richard Bangert’s follow-up My Word, but one of the points he made at the end of his Devens is Heavens commentary was this:

…A delegation could visit Devens. While in Devens, that delegation could stay at the new Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, play a few rounds of golf at the new 18-hole championship course, and ponder why our golf course/hotel plan is still on the shelf…

We can’t get our current golf course up to snuff, trends are showing that the interest in golf is decreasing, not increasing, I personally hope those golf course plans for the Point stay firmly on the shelf.


  1. I disagree with your take on the viability of a golf course at the Point. I play at least eight times a year, so I guess I am a “core player.” The thing is, I only play Chuck Corica a couple of times a year, because the course is abused by the high number of rounds played there, which in turn results in poor conditions (the course is almost unplayable during the wet months due to poor drainage). The high number of rounds is in turn a function of poor management; anyone read the story about how the monthly passes are abused?

    Many Alameda golfers I know (who don’t abuse the monthly pass cards) would rather (and do) drive to Metropolitan (Oakland airport) or San Leandro to play, partly because of the poor conditions at Chuck Corica and partly to avoid the crowds.

    Another consideration is that the golf experience, unlike most other sports, is in good measure a function of aesthetics. A course sited in a beautiful location is much better than the exact same layout sited in an average location; if you took the Pebble Beach layout and put it in Modesto you would take away about 80% of the experience. That is why siting a course at the Point, with the San Francisco skyline seeming to float just a few hundred yards away, is a fantastic idea; there would be no other course like it in the world, not to mention in the region.

    Comment by Michael Rich — March 13, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  2. I agree with Michael Rich. And, the city has already spent much time and resources on the golf course plan at the Point. It remains a good way to cover up that polluted plot of land.

    Comment by Sam — March 13, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

  3. A golf course maybe good at the point but, the soil is just as bad as the other course. I live at Bayport and it is clay soil. By the end of summer the Bayport Park was a mess from overplay of soccer. It was closed all winter and is finally coming back, but they are already abusing it. It rains and the water sits there for days…The soil conditions are terrible here and on at the point.

    Comment by Joel — March 13, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

  4. The Point golf plan was for a high-end course with greens fees in the $100-200 a game range.

    The reason it’s not moving forward is that the only financially feasible way to make it successful is to partner it with a convention center (if the convention center is successful) and the tourism downslide of the early-mid ’00s killed any idea that it would be successful any time soon.

    If memory serves, the research that was done was that another low green-fee course, like the Corica, could not be supported (which appears to be bearing out for even the Corica itself these days).

    Comment by John Knox White — March 13, 2008 @ 8:20 pm

  5. The popularity of golfing, whether it is up or down, cannot be used to support or discredit the golf course and hotel plan for the Northwest Territories at Alameda Point. As a stand-alone golf course, the declining trend in number of rounds played nationally is arguably one reason for leaving the idea on the shelf. With the Alameda Point plan, however, the golf course is viewed as an amenity for convention goers, seminar attendees and tourists at the high-end hotel/convention center that is integral to the plan. The hotel/convention center would be the moneymaker. Hotel tax, restaurant sales tax, land lease payments from the hotel owner, etc. would be the financial incentive to pursue this project.

    People budget their time differently at a convention or on vacation than when going about daily business. The NY Times article might argue against continuing to operate the Chuck Corica Course, but not the Alameda Point Golf Course.

    Connected to the success of the hotel and golf course is the adjacent parcel of land that is identified for a Public Benefit Conveyance to be used as a sports complex. The hotel money flowing to the city is to be earmarked for construction of the sports complex.

    The real screening mechanism for whether the golf course is a good idea is not what the NY Times has to say about golf trends, or what has occurred in Devens, Massachusetts. It is the RFPs (Request For Proposals) to the hotel industry. The first attempt produced zip. When a company like Marriott decides it is a risk worth betting on, we will know whether the plan should come off the shelf.

    The other issue tied into the golf course is the limited choices for what to do with that contaminated parcel of land. The best choice (so far) is to cap the land with dredge spoils (mud), contour it, anchor it with plants requiring minimal water to minimize leaching, and charge people to use it for recreational purposes.

    Another reason that generalities about golfing are not instructive here is that the Alameda Point Golf Course will fill a unique, desirable niche in the world of golf as one of the few world class St. Andrews-style links golf courses in the U.S. It would take only one national or international championship event to bump the golf course revenue above break even.

    A better reference point for evaluating the wisdom of a golf course at the Point is the Torrey Pines Golf Course located in La Jolla, owned and operated by the City of San Diego. If Torrey Pines is going down the tubes, that would be good to know about. I don’t have that information available, but their website gives the impression they are holding their own.

    The relevance of the Devens, Massachusetts experience to Alameda Point is that the scale of the entire project calls for a lot more financial capital and political capital than can be mustered by a small city trying to sub out the whole project, especially when the all-important clean-up schedule is vague and unpredictable. By having a more powerful reuse authority, the Seaplane Lagoon, for example, could be turned into a fully functioning marina and ferry terminal much sooner, which would have relevance to the hotel and golf course. History is passing us by with a piecemeal approach. At the very least, it would be worth talking to people who have used a different model and been successful. It is not the particularities of Massachusetts that argue for looking outside the box. It is the scale of the project.

    Two final points: If national trends were enough to keep a project on the shelf, we wouldn’t be building extra movie screens in Alameda. But as we all know, there are more layers to that decision than a NY Times article.

    Finally, if in the distant future the hotel fails and no one plays golf anymore, future generations will thank us for leaving them such a wonderful park. They won’t look kindly on us if continued stumbling leads to an auction and the Port of Oakland buys this parcel.

    Memo-to-City: Post a sidebar explanation on your website of the golf course/hotel business plan and the rationale behind it.

    For more information see:


    Comment by Richard Bangert — March 14, 2008 @ 7:21 am

  6. Wow. #5 is one of those rare posts that rises above bickering and name-calling to make multiple well-reasoned point. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with your points, well-said!

    Comment by Neal_J — March 14, 2008 @ 10:09 am

  7. I agree with Neal_J. Great post, Richard.

    Comment by Michael Rich — March 14, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

  8. When can we start to see construction of the course. The time is now

    Comment by Scott Gray — December 8, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

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