Long-standing Milford golf course to close in 2021

MILFORD — The Rookery, a golf club based out of Milton, has announced that its second location in Milford will not open in 2021.

In an email sent out to some of the club’s membership Saturday, The Rookery’s director of golf Butch Holtzclaw said that although the Milford property has not been sold yet, it has never been profitable for the company, leading to its impending closure.

“With the growth of Milford, we thought things might change, but they have not,” he said in the email. “We are saddened that we will not be able to continue to support the course, but it does not make financial sense for our company.”

In addition to its original course in Milton, The Rookery has run the Milford location for the last nine years and owned it for the past five.

“During our nine years operating the North course, it has never operated at a profit,” Mr. Holtzclaw said in the email.

He added that operating in the COVID-19 era has been especially challenging.

“We were hit hardest during April and May,” Mr. Holtzclaw said in the email. “During that time, the clubhouses were closed, and part of that time, we had no cart revenue.”

Brent Elzey of Milford has been golfing at The Rookery North since he was a little boy, back when it was still the Shawnee Country Club. He said not everyone on the membership rolls was notified about the impending closure.

“I’m not sure what the deciding factors may be (for notification),” he said. “Maybe they don’t have all the emails for the members.”

Nonetheless, he was unhappy with the way the notification was carried out.

“It just wasn’t done right, I don’t think,” Mr. Elzey said.

Although he said he can’t speak for all or most members, of the ones Mr. Elzey has talked to, he said “everybody’s pretty upset” over the closure.

Mr. Elzey said that with The Rookery North shutting down, options for relatively affordable golf in the area will diminish.

“All the memberships are more expensive than The Rookery,” Mr. Elzey said of other local operations like Wild Quail Golf & Country Club in Wyoming or Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia.

At Jonathan’s Landing, a full annual golf pass costs $2,250 for access to its one course. This year, full access to both of The Rookery’s courses was $1,750. There was also a membership option for just the North course, which was $995.

While Mr. Elzey said he will still golf when The Rookery North closes, he said he’s unlikely to buy a membership at another course.

The Rookery North’s closing will also have an impact on high school golf. Both Milford and Lake Forest have been using it as their home course.

Milford coach Keith Kendzierski said school officials are just starting to look into what the Buccaneers’ options might be.

Geographically, Lake Forest could go north and play at Jonathan’s Landing. But Mr. Kendzierski said it would probably make sense for Milford to consider playing at The Rookery’s course in Milton.

Wherever they play, though, it won’t be nearly as convenient for the Bucs as playing at The Rookery North and its predecessor, Shawnee Country Club.

“It’s been a longtime Milford tradition, golfing there,” said Mr. Kendzierski. “I’ve seen (social media) posts saying, ‘My kid graduated from Milford. He golfed there.’ There’s a lot of sentimental value, I believe.

“I joke around with the kids out there to use proper etiquette and proper manners. I joke with them, ‘I want us to golf on this course long after I’m gone, so don’t get us kicked out of here.’ And then, here we are,” he said.

Mr. Elzey was saddened by the course’s impending closure. For him, golf at The Rookery North has been a multi-generational family affair. It’s where his parents taught him to golf when he was young. Now, it’s where he and his brother bring their kids to teach them.

The course was first constructed in the late 1950s as the Shawnee Country Club, when it was just nine holes, Mr. Elzey said. In the ’80s, nine more holes were added to make it a full course.

In his email, Mr. Holtzclaw said The Rookery has been operating the course for the past nine years and bought it outright five years ago. He said the previous owners also had been struggling to keep the course financially viable.

Aside from the course’s long history, Mr. Elzey said it’s important to Milford as an attraction.

“Milford does not have a whole lot to offer as far as things to do,” Mr. Elzey said. “They’re wanting to build houses here left and right, which is all good and well, but when you start taking attractions away, what do you have?”

While Jo Schmeiser, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, said she had no firsthand knowledge of what’s happening with The Rookery, she hopes that the course will be able remain open somehow given its important role in the community.

“I hope that somebody does purchase it if it’s going to be for sale,” she said. “There’s several local tournaments and non-rofit organizations that rely on having their tournaments here to raise money for their organizations.”

Mr. Elzey said it would be great if the city or state could step in to help rescue the course.

“I would rather that happen than it become a development or just be shut down and be a wasteland,” he said. “The state has done a great job with a few of the other golf courses they’re a part of.”