By Ken MacLeod
Clary Fields Golf Course in Sapulpa will close at the end of October, owner D.W. Kang said Thursday.
Clary Fields, located in a valley just off the Creek Turnpike about five minutes from Highway 75, opened in 2000 with intentions of competing as a privately-owned course in the mid to upscale daily fee market. Located behind a ridge from a landfill, it was never intended as a real estate development but solely golf.
The highly-praised layout was done by Norman architect Tripp Davis and the course did thrive initially, with 20,000 to 30,000 rounds annually. Kang, a Tae Kwon Do Grand Master who had earlier built and later sold for real estate a golf course called Glen Eagles in Broken Arrow, bought the course in 2007.
Kang purchased the course for an undisclosed amount from Mike and Glenda O’Brien, who own a nearby landfill. The O’Brien’s had themselves purchased the course from original builder Bob Rosencutter.
Kang said he spent $2.8 million between purchasing the course and adding a new clubhouse and pro shop. Rounds, however, dipped with the economic crash of 2007-08, and have never recovered. Kang said the course did fewer than 10,000 rounds in 2014.
"It’s hard to compete with the municipal courses, because there is no subsidy when there is a bad year or the economy is down," Kang said.
Soon after opening, Kang released most of the staff on hand when he bought the course. PGA professional Tomas Hnizdo wound up doubling as course superintendent as Kang searched for areas of cost efficiency in a tough market.
"I’ve tried to hang in there for the last couple of years, but I’m having to put money from my own pocket in to stay in business, which is not a good business practice," Kang said. "I still enjoy the golf business but it is really tough. Overall the economy is killing the business, as well as all the electronics that the kids play."
Kang, 70, said he plans to hold onto the 70-acre site which he hopes will one day be used for development. Golf course maintenance will cease Oct. 31. While still actively teaching martial arts, he also plans to keep active in golf, both playing and teaching and would like to spend time encouraging young people to play.
"It’s a wonderful setting here," Kang said. "Hopefully we’ll be able to do some great things here down the road. I’m 70 now and going to try to enjoy life a little.
"I don’t regret it (buying Clary Fields). I really like a lot of the golfers and appreciate their presence and support. It’s just a tough business."
Clary Fields will be the third course in the area and fourth in the Tulsa market to close in the past three years. Cotton Creek in Glenpool and Okmulgee Country Club, both along Highway 75 south of Tulsa, are closed, along with Emerald Falls in Broken Arrow. That trend is reflective of the national golf market, where hundreds of privately-owned courses have closed since 2007 in a reaction to a market that became vastly overbuilt in the 1990s.