Marcus Pointe Golf Club closing at end of year (August 26, 2014)

Marcus Pointe Golf Club, which opened in 1990 as Pensacola’s residential golf facility, announced Tuesday morning the course will be closing at the end of this year.

General manager Nikki Nash met with employees Tuesday to detail the closure.

“The decision to close has been a very difficult one for my entire family and has weighed heavily on us for several years,” Nash said in a news release Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the financial commitment to accommodate for the decline in the sport over the years has become entirely too costly to maintain.”

Nash said the course will remain open until Dec. 31. She emphasized all of the scheduled tournaments and other events at the course will occur as planned. Nash, a University of West Florida graduate, turned 27 Tuesday. It added to the emotional difficulty of the situation, but she said the decision would not have been any different on another day.

The golf course closure includes the clubhouse and the popular Iron restaurant that became popular with area residents. The facility was remodeled and rebranded with Chef Alex McPhail returning to Pensacola after working as a chef in New Orleans.

McPhail said Tuesday he will relocate the restaurant to downtown, hopefully before Christmas. He said moving the restaurant had long been a part of his plan, even before the announcement that the golf course would close.

McPhail credited the support of the community, “not only just the golfers and the Marcus Pointe residents, though they have certainly been a factor” for making the restaurant a success. He looks forward to continuing the same hours and full service in the new location.

The 120-acre property will be listed for sale with Rodney Sutton at Sperry Van Ness.

“We are considering all options during this sale,” said Nash’s father, Neal Nash, the course owner and a Pensacola developer who built the course and marketed the area as a golf residential community. Because the announcement just occurred, Neal Nash said a price has not yet been posted.

The 18-hole course opened on Nov. 11, 1990 as a pristine public golf course and hosted several professional and amateur tournaments during its tenure. Among them were the Pensacola Ben Hogan Classic, which was part of the PGA Tour’s developmental tour, now called the Tour.

The closing of Marcus Pointe follows the 2010 closure of The Moors Golf and Lodging, located off Avalon Boulevard. The Moors opened in 1993 during what became the heyday of golf in the Pensacola area. The Moors hosted the Senior PGA Tour, now called Champions Tour, for 10 years with the Emerald Coast Classic and Blue Angels Classic.

When The Moors closed, owner Jimmy Lee said declining play at the course made it impossible to continue operations. The same situation has occurred at Marcus Pointe and is symptomatic of what is happening with golf courses across the U.S.

Nikki Nash said in addition to the downturn in golf participation, the course has dealt with several weather hardships. In January, the hard freeze damaged the greens. Then, In the catastrophic flooding April 29-30 in the Pensacola area, the primary water supply for the course irrigation system was destroyed, Nash said.

The closing of Marcus Pointe is the latest in what has become a nationwide decline in courses and participation. Last month, HBO aired a documentary on Real Sports entitled, “The Downturn in the Golf Industry.” and spoke with people who are trying new ways to get people to play the sport again.

Steve Mona, chief executive of the World Golf Foundation, told CBS MoneyWatch that golf reached its peak in 2005, right before the Great Recession, with 30 million participants playing 550 million rounds of golf. Last year, he said that figure had shrunk to 25 million participants and 465 million rounds.

The National Golf Foundation revealed earlier this year that 643 golf courses have closed across the U.S. since 2006 with a net loss of four million golfers. The NGF predicts that number will reach more than 1,000 courses closed in the U.S. by 2020.

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