Two years of negotiations – but still no deal. Earlier this week, the City of Rocklin announced that no resolution was reached on what to do with nearly 200 acres in the middle of the city. The property used to be the Rocklin Golf Club, formerly Sunset Whitney, but it was closed in August 2015 due to financial reasons.
“The city is disappointed we couldn’t come to a solution that would provide some use for that land that would be beneficial to the residents and beneficial to the landowners who own that property,” said Michael Young, communications and legislative affairs officer for the City of Rocklin.
He said the property owner, Charlie Gibson, has indicated plans to fence up the now-vacant golf course.
“Those 200 acres are going to become an eyesore if they’re not already, and it will be to the detriment of everybody involved, including the city,” said John Hodgson, a Sacramento developer and past chair of Urban Land Institute.
Hodgson believes doing nothing with the land is a bad idea.
“Consider your choices,” he said. “Consider a fire hazard not maintained with graffiti, vandalism, a deteriorating situation – compared to something that’s developed.”
In fact, the owner tried three separate times to sell the city on redevelopment plans to build homes on the property, but many residents opposed those plans.
“We had a couple public meetings with hundreds of residents in attendance,” Young said. “Most of those residents expressed, I guess, a desire to see the land stay as-is.”
The city says the land presents no higher threat to safety than any other open spaces, and will be subject to the same city ordinances, including weed abatement and fire protections. The Rocklin Fire Department noted that the land is still private property, so there is not much else they can do to mitigate the fire danger.
The Rocklin golf course closure may be indicative of a broader trend of declining interest in golf. For example, rounds at Woodcreek Golf Course in Roseville have dropped from 60,000 rounds annually in the early 2000s to 48,000 rounds in 2016 – a 20 percent drop. Similarly, Roseville’s Diamond Oaks Golf Course saw a 17 percent drop in the same period of time.
“Golf courses are less desirable, at least less financially desirable now,” Hodgson said. “Golf is not as popular – it’s still popular, but not as popular and there’s lots of golf courses out there, so from an economic point of view, the golf course – I can see how it doesn’t make sense.”
Roseville golf director Rob Frederick said things like the amount of time needed to play and how expensive the game is are factors keeping people – particularly young people – off the links.
“Whether it be money, time – all those factors contribute to it,” Frederick said. “More of higher age demographics as far as retirement, so [there are] just fewer people playing golf.”
Another factor locally has been the drought. In the Sacramento area alone, four courses have shuttered since 2014, including Bass Lake in El Dorado County and Rolling Greens in Roseville. Nationwide, more than 800 golf courses have closed in the last decade, according to Bloomberg News. The National Golf Foundation also reported a 20 percent drop in people playing the sport since 2003.
“There’s no doubt that there’s fewer golfers coming into the game,” Frederick said.
However, that doesn’t mean area golfers haven’t forgotten playing on the now-abandoned course in Rocklin.
“It sucks because it was a really good track,” said Roseville golfer Diego Marcial. “I mean it was a lot of fun to play that track.”