How Prophetic: Golf Courses As Historic Places

Just the other day, a client and I were talking about a historic golf club and I later went home to see if the club was included in the 1994 book by Patrick Seelig, Historic Golf Courses in America.

It wasn’t but I did find something very prophetic and of great interest in the beginning of the book. After an introduction by no less than Arnold Palmer, the author presented his “case” for a national register for historic golf courses. In that case, the author shows uncanny insight in suggesting that someday MIGHT be sold and developed, but moreso in projecting (in 1994) that Tiger Woods would have won the 2011 US Open and that It would have been held at Merion (it was held there in 2013), despite the conventional wisdom at the time that Merion would no longer qualify as a suitable US Open venue.

The bigger question, is how can a club or golf course benefit from listing on the national register of historic places and what has to be done to accomplish such a listing? There are certainly clubs on the list, like Merion, Oakmont Country Club and Augusta National, but the list also includes affordable and “no frills” courses such as East Baton Rouge GC (LA) and City Park GC (CO). According to an article on the designation of Temple Terrace GC (FL), the application fee is $12,000. It is likely that such a listing would preclude future development of the property and while it is possible that there could be some income tax benefit, it would seem to me that the primary benefit would come from the potential impact on potential alternative uses of the property and resulting ad-valorem real estate tax benefit that could result. Of course, each case is different and would require specific analysis not only to determine if the property would qualify, but also if there would be benefit and if it makes sense to become listed.