Since the 19th century, the sport of golf has been a staple of American culture. These days, golf courses are as common in the suburbs as Starbucks and McDonalds. Entire subdivisions and neighborhoods are built around them, but what happens when a course closes and is left abandoned? Can you even tell? Does it even matter?
I actually really enjoy golf, despite the fact that I've been playing since 2004 and have only had three pars in my life. However, even though I'm awful at the game, I still find it enjoyable and that's why I feel it's so popular. You can be a pro on tour and make millions or you can just go around, relax, throw back a few beers and play a few holes. It's an activity with wide appeal, so it's a no brainer as to why it's so popular, especially in the United States.
|- Wildwood fairway. Ronny Salerno.|
Another factor that certainly helps the game's popularity is the accessibility. No matter where you go in the country, there's no shortage of golf courses. For several decades entire communities have been built and continue to be built around courses. You don't even have to like golf, you can just soak in the pride of having your McMansion on the links. From gated communities to blue collar subdivisions, you see them everywhere. They add property value, prestige and entertainment.
|- Former cart path. Ronny Salerno.|
I'd been to and played at an abandoned mini-golf course, but I'd never come across a full fledged abandoned golf course before and "exploring" one isn't really the most exciting thing I've ever done.
|- Overgrowth along the cart path that is more of a hiking trail these days. Cameron Knight.|
That was until Cam and I were driving through my hometown of Fairfield recently. In a subdivision known as the "Villages of Wildwood;" condos, apartments and homes surround a closed 9-hole course. If you didn't know what you were looking for, you'd assume the course is still open. The grass is still cut, but the greens and pins are gone.
|- Cart path and fairway. Ronny Salerno.|
It's quiet, the geese still lounge around by the pond and occasionally a jogger comes down the former cart path. Unlike many of the abandoned locations I've photographed, there's hardly any signs of dilapidation or neglect. Hell, when abandoned, a golf course pretty much just becomes a walking trail and even if it was overgrown you could just rebrand it as a "nature preserve" or park.
|- The cart path slowly eroding away and being reclaimed by nature. Ronny Salerno.|
|- The cart path slowly eroding away and being reclaimed by nature. Cameron Knight.|
Nevertheless, it's still closed and you have to wonder how the people who specifically bought property on a golf course must feel. In Wildwood, the former clubhouse still operates as a neighborhood bar and aside from mixed Google reviews, the apartments and neighborhood seem pretty good. It's a nice community centered around something that's abandoned, but even in its abandoned state it really isn't all that bad. Every year there seems to be reports of declining numbers of golfers. People blame the weather, the economy and dwindling interest. Combined with a huge stock of aging suburbs built on cheap materials - will the abandoned golf course become a more common site in the American landscape?
|- Water hazrd. Ronny Salerno|
|- Former green. Ronny Salerno.|
|- Several American flags pushed into a tree by the cart path. Ronny Salerno.|
If you're in Wildwood and need to perfect your swing though, you can probably just sling your camera to the side and practice your chip shot...
|- Terrible swing. Cameron Knight.|