Lesson from a Forgotten Golf Course

Abandonment leads to opportunity

The Backstory

History and nature work well together… where humans try to leave a lasting legacy, mother nature has a way to remind us that unless we take care of what we have, she’ll take it back.

The Muskingum River valley in the Coshocton area has a rich history, with the canal boats, Roscoe Village, and Lake Park nearby, so there is plenty to explore. Around every turn on a bike trail or hike atop a hill, the concept of reclamation and how much of what we do matters is on display.

While not quite the “Cosmic Ice Ball Theory” level of pessimism…

In 5 billion years the sun will burn out, and the Earth will be a cosmic ice ball hurling through space. No one will care what happened at any given time. ~ Cosmic Ice Ball Theory

… seeing an old golf course where thousands of people spent hours and hours of their time just sitting in ruins is both depressing and intriguing.

The Object

Just think about it… the business owners and employees spent HOURS of their lives, not to mention a large amount of money, to keep the Hilltop Golf Course humming along.

Now… gone.

The Hilltop Golf Course was originally founded in 1918 and carved out of the forest on top of a hill, with the old canal and a creek in the valley.

According the Coshocton Tribune in its May 2016 article, the course upkeep was just too much… more money went out to care for it than came in from player revenue, and that’s with the county parks helping with the mowing.

Screenshot of Google Maps in July 2017. Satellite image is a few years old.

In looking at the course on Google Maps, it would be great to see the hill reclaimed by the forest and the tree density back to the way it was. Instead, we’re treated with open fairways of grassland and deteriorating evidence of a failed business. Granted… it took almost 100 years!

The old 16th tee from the Hilltop Golf Course in Coshocton, OH

Temporarily reborn with purpose

Fortunately, the reason I was at the old course was for the Indian Mud Run event. The registration, exhibitors, practice area, and merchandise took up the space in the clubhouse and around the parking lot.

Needless to say, the facility was in pretty bad shape. The parking lot was barely visible beneath the weeds; the clubhouse felt and looked like it hasn’t seen a human in a long time; and the paths reminded me of the grass paths I cut in the weeds when I was in elementary school.

From fairway to grassland

Seeing the unmaintained facility was sad, but it was fascinating too. It was good to walk around and imagine what this place used to look like in its prime. Strolling through so much history — feeling the energy of the people that used to dedicate their lives to this land, the patrons, and the business — was worth the hike.

The Lesson

That’s what happens when things go wrong and left alone long enough. Another person comes along and wonders what they could do with the mess. Opportunity. Maybe they can do it better than the last person.

Maybe… maybe not.

The golf course had a 98 year run… almost 100 years! I bet at 20, 50, or 75 years into the business, people didn’t think it was going to go down. It was a staple of the community, yet here we are… abandoned and waiting for a sucker… I mean opportunist.

The Take-aways…

  • Where an idea fails, there is another to pick up where it left off… eventually, the failure is forgotten… the only thing left to see is OPPORTUNITY.
  • Understand what made something a success… and failure.
  • Take care of what you have or nature will take it back.

It might be a simple history lesson, business lesson, or another instance of history repeating itself, but the abandoned golf course in Coshocton is waiting to have life breathed back into it again.

An old fairway being reclaimed by nature

Written by Shaun Holloway.