(Image: ktotakov; defunct buggy on an abandoned golf course near Brisbane)
While most sports depend on highly consistent playing areas and fields of specific sizes, golf is one of the exceptions. The limits to how golf courses are designed are often those of imagination and physics, and what might not show up across professional fairways could be a major success on a mini or crazy golf course. It’s a sport that allows people of all ages and abilities to enjoy a round, either alone or as a group. But golf’s enduring popularity doesn’t always guarantee the long term success of its lush greens, fairways and clubhouses. This article documents 10 abandoned golf courses, driving ranges and other facilities that have been sadly forced to close in recent years. Though some are slated for redevelopment as housing estates, others are slowly returning to nature.
Wake Forest Country Club, North Carolina, USA
(Images: Steve Rhode; overgrown fairways, greens and bunkers of an abandoned golf course)
The Wake Forest Country Club first opened in 1967, and it had a major claim to fame. It was created by prolific golf course architect Gene Hamm, whose vision shaped the design and layout of more than 60 different courses across Virginia and the Carolinas.
The country club closed in 2007, and the golfers strolling its manicured greens were replaced by photographers seeking to document the overgrown and abandoned golf course as it slowly returned to nature. Then, in 2011, the Wake Forest Country Club passed to new ownership and with it the promise to reopen the abandoned golf course. Greens were to be relaid and the neglected club house was to be renovated. But the reopened club has nevertheless met with some challenges, due to a dispute between the development of land that had originally been designated as public space.
Abandoned Golf Course at Moatlands, Kent, England
Golf has always been popular in the UK, but it was especially hot in the 1990s, as courses popped up all across the countryside. But while there were many places perfectly suited to golf, with rolling hills and beautiful country settings, it was only a matter of time before the market collapsed under the weight of so many new courses. One of the casualties was Moatlands between Paddock Wood and Brenchley, a course that players had lauded not so long ago.
Moatlands closed in 2008, and as the years progressed the once-manicured greens started reverting back to their natural state. Writing for Golf Monthly, Jeremy Ellwood took a trip down memory lane by revisiting the abandoned golf course in May of 2015, where he found that shadows of the formerly immaculate course were still visible in its overgrown fairways, disheveled bunkers and neglected greens. But at this point it’d be easy to mistake the former golf course for a natural meadow, a place that nature doesn’t have to work too hard to reclaim.
Abandoned Golf Course, Location Unknown
(Images: Forsaken Fotos; the location of this abandoned golf course is uncertain)
We don’t know much about this abandoned golf course, but the series by Forsaken Fotos was too good not to share. From the long-forgotten VW camper to the equipment left to rust in the fields it’s clear this place has seen better days, but it’s also completely devoid of the vandalism and graffiti that covers so many abandoned places. It’s a good illustration of why many urban explorers and photographers choose to leave the locations of their photo shoots a secret, preventing others with less honorable intentions from finding and ultimately destroying the site.
Instead, this one was at the mercy of the elements and, ultimately, progress. Forsaken Fotos wrote on Flickr that the abandoned golf course and its weathered clubhouse were part of an active construction site when the pictures were taken, and that the location was destined to become a housing development.
Abandoned Mini Golf, Sunset Resort, Connecticut, USA
(Images: Trenten Kelley; abandoned miniature golf course in Connecticut)
Today, it’s Sunset State Park. After demolition crews made their way through the grounds in 2012, there was little left of the once-thriving resort that finally went out of business in 2008. Known best for its camping, the resort had once been the place to spend a nature-filled weekend with the family, boasting everything you could possibly want from pools and restaurants to, of course, miniature golf.
According to Abandoned Wonders, who was fortunate enough to explore the grounds of the resort throughout its various stages of abandonment and destruction, the mini golf course was a feature of the children’s area of the campground. It stood beside an in-ground pool and a playground, but by the time they got there it had become completely overgrown.
An old sign captured by photographer Trenten Kelley boasts that mini golf is the “new fun!”, and features a wonderfully vintage young golfer whose dedicated expression suggests that the junior version of the sport takes just as much concentration as its grown-up counterpart. But for this abandoned miniature golf course, a possible visit from future stars is now, sadly, a thing of the past.
Abandoned Driving Range, Rockville, Maryland, USA
Rockville, Maryland lies within the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, northwest of Washington, DC between Bethesda and Gaithersburg. It’s a thriving, bustling metropolis, but there’s still a handful of abandoned buildings being slowly reclaimed by nature. Among them is this abandoned driving range captured by photographer and researcher Ryan Crierie. He’s been fortunate enough to preserve what’s left of the buildings there, and it’s allowed him to share an important message.
Many of the windows in the abandoned clubhouse are broken, and vandalism has taken such a toll on the site that he was loathe to explore much of the building’s interior. It’s all been long boarded up anyway, in an attempt to keep out the people that would do more damage to the lonely old building.
Crierle also stresses what’s long been of utmost importance to the code of the urban exploration: take only pictures, leave only footprints. The damage that’s done to many abandoned buildings – here and elsewhere – makes it more and more unlikely that anyone will be able to justify the financial burden that comes with repairing and ultimately saving the building. Time will tell, meanwhile, what the future has in store for this abandoned driving range.
Abandoned Driving Range, Brisbane, Australia
(Images: darkday; an abandoned driving range near Brisbane, Australia)
Photographer and urban explorer darkday seems to have a preference for finding the artistic underground, but she’s also documented an abandoned driving range somewhere in the area of Brisbane, Australia. These photographs of the abandoned driving range capture the spirit of sunny Australia, and it’s still easy to imagine golfers flocking to the range for a few practice swings before retiring to the clubhouse for a few drinks in the nineteenth hole.
The giant golf ball out front makes it clear just what the grounds once were, undoubtedly as much a place for social gatherings as it was for sport. The abandoned driving range might be incredibly overgrown, but the awning still stands over the walkways – for now – although we all know how fleeting the faded afterlife of derelict places can be.
Thamesview Golf Centre, London, England
(Images: Andrew Bowden; Google Maps; Bing Maps; abandoned golf course in London)
Traditionally we think of a round of golf consisting of 18 holes, but in a busy world, finding the time to play a long game might prove difficult for many. One solution was the nine-hole ‘executive course’, so called because it targeted businesses execs meeting with clients, or young professionals enjoying a game after work. But the popularity of executive courses has waned over the years, with many upgraded to a full 18-holes, while others have closed completely.
In March of 2014 it was reported that several more time-friendly nine-hole golf courses in southern England had closed due to financial difficulties. The Thamesview Golf Centre had only recently been upgraded and completely refurbished, boasting not only a golf course and pro shop but also a driving range, function suite, bar and cafe.
What exactly happened to force the course to close seems to be a bit of a mystery. According to The Thamsemead Grump, the empty grounds remained seemingly accessible after the old course and its driving range closed. There was some suggestion that the abandoned golf course may become a residential development, and it’s understood that those who did play there had mixed opinions of the centre anyway.
Abandoned Trinity Loop Mini Golf, Newfoundland, Canada
(Images: Brian Summers; abandoned miniature golf at Trinity Loop, Newfoundland)
The Trinity Loop has a fascinating history that starts in 1910 and makes it not just an abandoned golf course, but a one-of-a-kind, repurposed then once again abandoned train line.
When the project to build a railway across Newfoundland began, the area around Trinity and Bonavista Bay needed some special attention. The steep gradient and difficult terrain required that a rather special sort of railway be built, and engineer J.P. Powell designed the Trinity Loop. Built around a pond, the loop made the steep grade navigable for trains, and it’s the only one of its kind not buried within a mountain.
When the railroad closed in 1984, the original plan was to scrap it. But local railwayman Clayton Cook started a movement to save it, and the railway was ultimately purchased and turned into an amusement park – complete with working train and, of course, a mini golf course.
By 2004, however, attendance was down and the park closed. When photographer Brian Summers took a look around, what he found was pretty heartbreaking. Vandals had broken in first, smashing windows and concession stand dishes with equal enthusiasm. Summers also documented the abandoned mini golf course, now overgrown with weeds and looking rather faded.
Fossilised Crazy Golf in Victoria Park, Glasgow, Scotland
(Images: Bing Maps; Derelict Glasgow; abandoned crazy golf course in Glasgow’s Fossil Grove)
Fossil Grove is a weird part of Glasgow‘s Victoria Park. When builders started hauling away rocks in 1887, they uncovered the fossilised remains of a 330-million-year-old forest. The trees that once stood there are now extinct, and an attempt was made to preserve at least some of them as the one-time quarry was turned into the park we see today.
That in turn gave rise to the Fossilised Crazy Golf course, which was developed in that corner of Victoria Park. Now neglected and covered with litter, the crazy abandoned golf course winds its way through the land where the ancient forest once stood. But it wasn’t the first occupant of this strange spot.
The location was initially home to a bandstand; once that was destroyed, crazy golf was installed. Now, after years of abandonment, there’s talk of the area being rejuvenated. Just what Glasgow City Council will decide to do with it remains to be seen.
Longstanton Golf Club, Cambridge, England
(Images: Google Earth/Street View; abandoned golf course at Longstanton, Cambridgeshire)
Longstanton Golf Club (aka Cambridge Golf Club) opened in 1992, and welcomed its remaining members in for a final round in 2013. The entire process was a fast one that left many members stunned, according to Cambridge News. Members were given just nine days notice that it would be closing, before the doors shut for good and an air of silence blanketed the greens and fairways.
Like many facilities of its kind, it had been ailing for a while. Economic difficulties and a tough financial climate put a strain on the recreational facility, and when talk began of turning the soon-to-be abandoned golf course into a housing development, it seemed as though the writing was already on the wall.
The paper reports that due to its abrupt closure many members weren’t even able to take to the fairways for a final time. Golf is as much about the camaraderie and competition in the moment – and the relaxation in the clubhouse afterwards – making it especially sad when closure comes as quickly as it did for Longstanton. The image from Google Street View (above) suggests that, for the time being at least, the abandoned golf course is slowly returning to nature.