CANAAN TWP. − Nearly 15 years after the Hawk’s Nest golf course was donated to Ohio State University, OSU announced that it would close all 18 holes by Dec. 15 and sell the property.
Rising maintenance costs, aging infrastructure and the inability to use the property for an educational purpose led the decision, according to a press release from OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Associate Dean and CFAES Director Ann Dorrance confirmed the news, adding that the closure will provide funding for construction projects on the Wooster Agricultural Campus.
“It was a tough call, but if our students and teachers don’t use it, then it should go to the private sector,” she said.
The golf course’s future remains uncertain, Dorrance said. It will be up to the next owners.
“Evaluation is still ongoing,” she said, so no asking price has been determined.
A golf course and a classroom in one
While the 18 holes golf field which sits just south of Creston is primarily for golfers, it has been used by OSU students and faculty as part of the CFAES turf program.
According to the OSU website, the program teaches students the science and business of turfs in commercial, residential, and recreational settings. In short, they learn to plan, budget and maintain all types of lawns.
When Earl and Betty Hawkins gifted OSU the property 15 years ago, he filled a golf course-sized hole in his program using it for turf education. At the time, the gift was valued at $4.6 million, according to the Hawk’s Nest website.
“When we were on a term system, students would drive from Wooster to the golf course for lessons, but with the term system, they just don’t have time to drive that far,” Dorrance said.
The semester system allows students to take only two course sets per year in the spring and fall semesters, compared to the term system, which allowed four course sets each year.
With terms, students could take turf lessons during the warmer months, when it was best to get hands-on experience running golf courses before moving on to different classes during the colder months, Dorrance said.
To compensate for the closure of Hawk’s Nest, she said CFAES will have study sites on the Wooster campus that will include turf patches, greens, fairways and more.
“It’s not going to be mini-golf,” Dorrance said.
Once Hawk’s Nest is sold, how will the money be spent?
Dorrance and her team at CFAES hope to invest the money from the sale of the golf course to make the campus more efficient for students and faculty.
CFAES is made up of properties scattered throughout Wayne County. In some cases, research centers and classes are 30 minutes away, making it difficult for students to attend classes on time, Dorrance said.
Some buildings on campus will be 100 years old in the next 10 to 20 years, she said. More money is spent on maintenance and repairs as these properties age.
Several buildings lack air conditioning while other sites, such as Fisher Auditorium, lack student presence.
“We want to focus on increasing student life by installing a cafeteria and computer bar in Fisher Auditorium, but it will always remain an auditorium,” Dorrance said.
Other projects include replacing buildings that would cost more to repair than to rebuild, constructing greenhouse complexes and creating new dormitories, she said.
To pay for those renovations and solidify its presence in Wayne County at its Wooster campus, OSU will sell the golf course alongside seven other properties, including one in Coshocton County, she said.
Costs outweigh value
Hawk’s Nest Golf Course is almost 30 years old with infrastructures that require constant maintenance.
That’s money CFAES can’t afford to spend on property its students don’t use regularly, Dorrance said, especially when the college wants to focus its efforts on renovating the Wooster campus.
Between supply chain issues, inflation over the past two years and an aging property, Dorrance said, the golf course has become a financial drain.
“It’s a 30-year-old property, so it needed a lot of maintenance, and a lot of the equipment was just as old,” she said.
While Dorrance is sad to see the golf course disappear, she said, it came down to cold, hard financial numbers.
“We have to become more efficient,” Dorrance said.