Golf may not be dead at closed-down Rocklin course

The signature hole at Rocklin Golf Club was No. 18, a short over-water par 3.
The signature hole at Rocklin Golf Club was No. 18, a short over-water par 3.

Rocklin Golf Club was bleeding money for years before owner Charlie Gibson closed shop earlier this month. But a multinational company called Golftec thinks the sport can survive at the abandoned property, albeit with a few modernized tweaks.

Golftec, which has an indoor facility in Rocklin, provides lessons centered around video analysis of players’ swings. Chris Woods heads the local operation, and he is seeking to enter a partnership with the city to purchase and renovate the unkempt course, using a combination of company and taxpayer money. Woods said an advisory board would oversee the golf course along with Golftec’s existing Rocklin practice facility.

The city has been watering the 187-acre property since Aug. 13, when it executed a license and access agreement with Gibson’s firm to access the closed course. City spokeswoman Leslie Woodman said there are no immediate plans for what to do with the shuttered golf course, though the city manager’s office will be “looking at both short- and long-term options.”

Using the 18-hole Rocklin course would allow Golftec to construct a comprehensive practice facility with elements such as sand traps and putting greens, Woods said.

“We want to be cool and be on the cutting edge of things, get people some jobs and make a couple bucks along the way,” Woods said. “Golftec is one of the few really successful golf-specific companies in the U.S.”

Woods and Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst plan to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss the viability of Golftec taking over the course historically known as Sunset Whitney. Though Woods said he is optimistic about the company’s expansion hopes, he said he may face opposition from groups such as Friends of Rocklin Open Space, which favor leaving the land in a more natural state.

“We’re just trying to get in on the dialogue and see if we fit in somewhere,” he said.

The decision by Gibson to close the course follows the council’s June rejection of his plans to develop 38 new homes on part of the property. He cited the city’s refusal to allow him to build as the final blow to his cash-strapped club.

Rocklin citizens have approached the city manager’s office with suggestions of what to do with the property, ranging from equestrian parks to shopping centers. If the city does purchase the land, it must do so with a plan that will benefit the community as a whole instead of one interested party, Horst said.

“I’m not sure it makes sense for 60,000 taxpayers to pay for the benefit of a few,” Horst said. “We have to remember that the golf course went out of business because of a lack of economic support from the community.”

The property is zoned for recreation-conservation use, preventing potential buyers from striking a deal with Gibson unless they plan on developing some sort of private outdoor facility akin to a golf course. Given the City Council’s unanimous rejection of Gibson’s housing proposal, any rezoning application including significant new development of the property is unlikely to pass, Horst said.

A net total of 146 golf courses have disappeared over the last year, according to the National Golf Foundation, as key demographic groups have shifted their interest to sports which take less time and cost less to play.

Still, Golftec has seen a 73 percent national increase in sales over the last five years, according to the Huffington Post. Woods credits the company’s economic success to offering more complete golf training than stand-alone clubs.

Gibson previously said he wanted to sell the course to someone who would continue to use it for golf. However, Horst said the owner has expressed concern that another golf course would create unwanted competition for his clubs in Roseville and Davis.

On Tuesday, Gibson said he is “looking at all my options.”

“Everybody who has or wants anything to do with that property is exploring all the options and opportunities,” he said.

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