December 8, 2000
Enjoy the 18-hole Creekside Course at The Golf Park at Rehoboth while you can.
The owners of the 3000-yard executive layout are now underway with alternative development plans for about 53 acres on the western portion of the site.
According to plans filed with the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Delaware Department of Transportation, thirteen holes on the property would be rezoned from their current AR-1 status to Medium Residential-Residential Planned Community, and called Kinsale Glen.
102 single-family homes and 46 duplexes would fill most of the rezoned acreage, along with a tennis court, tot lots, walking trails, an indoor pool, and also an outdoor pool. Two large ponds adjacent to the 4th, 9th, 6th, and 14th holes would remain as part of the required stormwater management area.
“We’re at the very front end of the rezoning process,” said Tony Wiles, a partner in Rehoboth Golf Properties, L.L.C. “We have to meet shortly with the technical advisory committee for the Commission. There will be a public hearing before the Commission makes its recommendation, and another public hearing before the County Council.”
“We’re very sad about this,” Wiles continued. “We did what we could to develop the golf business, and spent significant money on marketing and maintenance. Our staff worked really hard to make this work. There simply wasn’t enough play to justify the continuation of the Golf Park, despite our best efforts.”
“The real situation was that we were unable to hit the projected numbers used in the original feasibility studies. It’s a sad thing, but the economic reality was something we couldn’t ignore.”
Wiles said the partners reached their decision in mid-August, after reviewing the financial records and comparing them with the prior year’s performance: “June was up a bit, July was about the same, but August was down, even though we had much better weather than last year.”
The economics of public golf now requires an intensive analysis of the likely golf population, long before the groundbreaking ceremonies. In resort areas such as the Cape Region, that analysis not only includes the likely visitors, but also the base population for Sussex County, which includes an ever-increasing number of retirees. Wiles said their feasibility studies supported the original investment, but the return just didn’t pan out as expected.
Wiles surmised that the predicted demand for play might have split among the other courses that also opened in the past few years, and diluted the Golf Park’s earnings accordingly. “Golf courses may be the wave of the future, but that wave’s not here yet,” Wiles said. “We have a solid core of repeat customers, though, who will likely help some other course increase its rounds.”
As for the company’s remaining 23 acres near the entrance to Kings Creek, Wiles said they are considering different golf-related options. “We have a long-term lease there. There’s enough land for a full 18-hole pitch-and-putt course, or restoring the driving range, or using the remaining holes from the Creekside Course for a teaching facility. The large putting green, restaurant, and golf shop are on this part of the property, and will likely remain. In any event, the executive course will stay open until actual construction starts on the new project.”
The rezoning proposal adds about 40 more homes than what could be built under the existing zoning, but Wiles pointed out that the project’s amenities could not fit within the acreage without rezoning. He also said that the 46 duplex units on the southeast corner of the parcel would be “designed to look like large houses, similar to those in Kings Creek.”
Wiles also noted that the plans call for a conservation easement on the development’s parcels adjacent to Kings Creek: “The easement will primarily match the wetland delineation lines, and will prohibit the wholesale clearing of the trees in that area.”
According to the National Golf Foundation, hundreds of golf courses opened for play throughout the country in each of the last few years. The sobering experience of The Golf Park at Rehoboth shows that there are no guarantees of success, even for well-designed layouts in prime resort areas like the Cape Region.