The proposal was pretty much a no-brainer for David Charney, founder and CEO of Capital Homes.
After an Arkansas investment group approached him about a housing development project at Emerald Falls, a defunct golf course on the eastern edge of Broken Arrow, he moved on the opportunity and added to Oklahoma’s growing list of converting fairways to backyards.
“I reviewed the platted subdivision and saw that it had beautiful land surrounding these lots,” he says. “There were lakes and trees, and the former golf course corridor. It was not economically feasible to bring the golf course back into operation, but it provided a beautiful greenbelt and walking trails.”
Eighteen houses stood at Emerald Falls in 2017, when Charney took over the project; by November, 55 had been built or were underway, with space for about 200.
In Yukon, a portion of the former Westbury Country Club is set to open in the spring as Oak Haven, a 22-acre, gated, rental community for active adults 55 and older, says Amy Camarata, a project director with 2Cor318, which bought much of the golf course in a public auction about six years ago. (The company name comes from the biblical 2 Corinthians 3:18.)
Ron Walters Homes is building the Oak Haven duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes, with 100-150 units planned. Single-family homes are underway on about 30 acres known as Crystal Creek, Camarata says, and 2Cor318 is considering a 9-acre community of senior patio homes that would be owner-occupied.
“The key to successful 55-plus living is creating a community that people want to move to,” Walters says. “People go to a park, nature trail [or] hiking to connect with the outdoors. Why go to a park when you can live in one? This is what makes a golf course attractive. It has natural elements that have been developed over time as an enhancement to the course.”
Charney says Emerald Falls offers houses “for empty nesters and young families who just want a pretty space around them, on the edge of a thriving suburb.”
He says he has tried to convert the golf course “with dignity and a concerted effort because I saw much beauty in the land. It gave me pleasure to breathe life back into something that was abandoned.”
Camarata says her company is “keeping a lot of the aesthetics of the course and would like to incorporate golf in some way, maybe a chipping green, or something along those lines.”
The former clubhouse and pool areas will be remodeled to provide such amenities as a fitness center, swimming pool, tornado safe room, sports lounge and open-to-the-public restaurant.
Housing isn’t the only way to reuse a golf course. Since 2008, the Bartlesville Development Authority has owned the Sunset Country Club, which closed the previous year, and turned it into a 205-acre industrial park, authority president says David Wood, adding that 40 acres were sold in 2018 to Service and Manufacturing Corp., a custom fabricator based in the city.
Wood says the industrial park, adjacent to the Bartlesville Municipal Airport with runway access, would work well for aviation-related businesses, such as fixed-base operations and repair and maintenance facilities.
However, in Sapulpa, Clary Fields is among the closed golf courses across the state that have not been repurposed.
Suzanne Shirey, president of the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce, says Clary Fields is in a flood plain, so no structures can be built on it. A Sapulpa resident recently suggested it would be ideal for a bicycle motocross practice site.
“I think that would be a great repurpose,” Shirey says.