- Rick McCrabb Staff Writer
The closing of Weatherwax Golf Course has meant a boom in business at other area golf courses.
Since Weatherwax, formerly owned by Myron Bowling, a Hamilton auctioneer, was sold to MetroParks of Butler County, then closed on Nov. 6, 2016, golfers and non-profit outings have moved to other courses.
Adam Helms, Hamilton’s director of resident services and general manager of Potter’s Park and Twin Run, the city-owned courses, said after Weatherwax closed, they were “kind of curious” to see if any Weatherwax regulars would shift to Hamilton.
So the city offered non-peak season passes — good from Memorial Day through Labor Day — and reduced the price from $250 to $150. All 100 passes sold on-line, and through the information on the registration forms, Helms said many of the golfers reside in the Middletown area.
He said the city has seen “an uptick” in the number of tee times at Twin Run. Twin Run, located at 2505 Eaton Road, is closer to Middletown, and its par-72 layout vs. the shorter par-69 layout at Potter’s Park is more similar to Weatherwax, he said.
Meanwhile, Jordan Lawson, general manager at Wildwood Golf Club, a private, member-owned course, said people anticipated the closing of Weatherwax would create a jump in membership at Wildwood.
But Lawson called the closing “not a game-changer” because the courses are so different. Weatherwax, for years, was city-owned while Wildwood is open to members only.
He said Wildwood picked up 13 golf members, three more than his goal, pushing its total membership more than 300.
“It definitely helps,” Lawson said of the revenue generated by the memberships.
But he was quick to point out that Wildwood had to be selective in the number of outings and high school teams allowed to play there. He was contacted by 13 organizers interested in moving their outings from Weatherwax to Wildwood. He allowed two, he said.
Lawson, who worked at Weatherwax for 16 years, starting when he was 14, also opened the course to two Monday night leagues that used to be held at Weatherwax.
Several local high schools, which previously held their home matches at Weatherwax, were interested in Wildwood, but Lawson refused. Three high school golf teams — the Fenwick and Madison boys and the Edgewood girls — hold matches at Wildwood and that’s because members are associated with those teams, he said.
It was important for the course to be available to its members, said Lawson, in his fourth year at Wildwood.
Former Weatherwax golfers and outings also have landed at Shaker Run Golf Club in Warren County, said Joe Robertson, a 1996 Middletown High School graduate and director of sales and marketing. He said 18 to 20 golfers, who used to regularly play Weatherwax, joined Shaker Run. He expects those golfers to play about 50 rounds each this year.
He said several organizers of outings contacted him, and two have moved their outings there. Shaker Run hosted seven golf events this month, and had more than 120 players on some Mondays and Tuesdays when there were no events, he said.
The golf industry saw a net loss of 187 courses, according to the World Golf Foundation — 200 courses closed and 13 opened.
Golf courses around the world also spent $3.5 billion last year completing renovations.
Shaker Run is rebuilding parts of the golf course and renovating the clubhouse, Robertson said.
After Weatherwax closed, Jim Kraft, who leased the course for two years, moved to the nine-hole Forest Hills Country Club in Middletown. Kraft said it’s hard for him to judge the amount of play at Forest Hills since this is his first year, but members have commented about the number of golfers.
Kraft also has seen many of the same faces he saw at Weatherwax.
“People are playing and that’s good for this place. That’s good for any golf course,” he said.
Kraft signed a one-year lease from Roland Lutz to operate Forest Hills and the lease expires Dec. 31, 2017.
He has driven by Weatherwax just once, and after he was told the greens and tee boxes were bulldozed, he said he has no interest in seeing the course again.
When asked if he misses Weatherwax, Kraft said: “Every day.”