She was looking to sell her family’s golf club. But then came Covid.
Amy Coghill wanted to sell Silver Lake Country Club a few years ago. It was then that golf became a pandemic-friendly sport. “My family spent nearly 100 years building this business, and I didn’t want to be the one responsible for breaking it all down.”
For a while, golf was in decline, as younger players decided they had no time to play, and with tee times slipping away empty, golf course operators were planning to sell their courses. Amy Coghill was one of them, but she witnessed a series of events come together to make her reconsider her decision.
Coghill is the fourth-generation proprietor of the family-owned Silver Lake Country Club, an 18-hole complex that covers 300 acres located in the suburb of Orland Park. Of Orland Park. The club’s golf game had been declining since the Covid-19 virus struck in the early months of 2020, snatching out her other main profit center–weddings and catered parties in the clubhouse, which can accommodate more than 600 people at one time.
Coghill 42-year-old Coghill decided to put the club on auction. It was a difficult decision given that her great-grandfather, Bert Coghill, founded Silver Lake in 1938 (after the family’s sale of the Coghill Club in nearby Lemont).
Real estate developers specializing in residential real estate looking for vacant lots immediately began bidding and eventually offered over $10 million.
Coghill started her career at the preteen age working within the indoor coatroom of Silver Lake and later worked as a waitress and grass mower. She began to think about changing her mind. “We got some wonderful offers and suddenly had a boatload of money in front of us,” Coghill states. “But I thought what I could do with the money? It was unlikely that I would look for a different route to purchase. My family has spent more than 100 years building this company. I did not want to be responsible for breaking it down.”
Her hesitation over a decision let market forces alter the situation. Then, those who had a stash of money at home decided that they needed to exercise and retook the Covid-safe course. Silver Lake’s golf courses are averaging around 60,000 annually until Covid suddenly increased to close to 72,000 by the end of this year. In the U.S., the National Golf Foundation stated that golf played increased by 14 % in 2020 and another 6% the previous year. Golf is returning.
Weddings were back in the mix, and so did weddings. Since Covid restrictions were eased last year, wedding bookings started flooding. Silver Lake is on track to host 100 weddings this year, similar to pre-Covid.
Another issue came up to aid Coghill in reconsidering her decision to make a sale. The competitors who began selling earlier began to lose their luster. Calumet Country Club was sold to a developer who had plans to construct a massive commercial distribution facility on its property. Still, a dispute over zoning issues left the club struggling to survive. Close by Gleneagles Country Club is a two-course course on the 232 acres of nearby Lemont operating for more than 100 years and was sold earlier this year by the owners of the McNulty family to the building company Pulte Group and closed in July.
This has meant that displaced weddings and golfers are going to Silver Lake. The oversupply of clubs was solved as more established clubs like Coghill in Lemont and Mistwood in Romeoville, similar to Silver Lake, absorbed new businesses displaced by less reputable clubs. “For a long time, most of us were just breaking even, and we couldn’t see anything on the horizon that gave us confidence things would get any easier,” Coghill states. “Now that confidence is coming back.”
She’s not the sole golf course owner who has been re-energized. In the west suburbs of Geneva, the Shodeen Group closed its struggling Mill Creek Golf Club more than two years back. The club comprised 150 acres of land and a flourishing wedding venue and was the mainstay of its subdivision of more than 2,000 houses. Shodeen was still mowing fairways and greens. However, the play was stopped, as it was on a course nearby, known as Settler’s Hill, owned by the Kane Country Forest Preserve.
This month, it was later announced that play would resume on the two venues: Mill Creek and Settler’s Hill. Settler’s Hill has been revamped and rebuilt and is receiving good support from the public agency that sponsors it. Shodeen is moving forward cautiously by temporarily leasing Mill Creek to an independent operator, Golf Visions Management, to see if they can fill the tees again.
“We observed other local courses being busy in the area. There’s a renewed interest with golf, and even golf clubs,” states Dave Patzelt, the president of the Shodeen, a family-owned business. Shodeen. “Times have changed.”