Is the end of golf at hand?

I have a growing collection of golf clubs, assembled as family members gave up the sport or died. They’d come in more handy if I hadn’t given up the sport a few years ago.

For years I ignored the signs that golf wasn’t for me, including the time I lost a ball while putting on a green in Copake, New York. And, frankly, most of my enjoyment of the sport came from the suffering of others. No other sport can provide the pleasure that watching a bag of golf clubs thrown into a lake can provide.

Just a few years ago, getting tee times at local golf courses was nigh impossible.

Now? Golf is dead.

What happened?

The Star Tribune has the latest death notice today, the 100-year-old Minnetonka Country Club is closing up shop.

In recent years, many communities have closed up their courses, often newer ones, built by developers who offered suburbs a “free” golf course in exchange for the right to build McMansions around it. Suckers. Cities found it was expensive to keep up free golf courses.

But when a century-old course gives up the ghost, especially in a money-rich community, the culture has changed for good.

The Strib has the roll call of death:

Last year, the 18-hole Lakeview Golf Course in Mound closed, sold to a housing developer after the golf course owner also sold the nearby nine-hole Red Oak Golf Course in Minnetrista to the housing developer.

And last year, Plymouth’s 18-hole Elm Creek Golf Course closed, much of the 110 acres turned into affluent homes. Even in Edina, the nine-hole Fred Richards Golf Course was shut down this month, but its 42 acres will be remade into a public park and recreation land.

Golf courses here once would stay open until Christmas if the weather was favorable. In a warmer-than-normal fall this year, many courses have already called it quits for the season.

There’s little to suggest it’ll make a comeback. On Wall Street, investors are short-selling golf stocks like Adidas, Calloway, and Nike. And Dick’s Sporting Goods dumped hundreds of its golf experts at its nationwide chain of stores.

Good, says Elizabeth Klusinske, who writes at Decoded Science.

Golf courses take up about 1,504,210 acres of land in the U.S., which arguably could be put to better use. The late comedian George Carlin was greatly bothered by the amount of space taken up by golf courses and even suggested solving the problem of lack of availability of low-cost housing by building houses for the homeless on golf courses.

Aside from turning golf courses into homeless shelters (which likely won’t happen anytime soon), just letting the land go fallow and less manicured would be beneficial for the environment.

Granted, it probably wouldn’t be much of an improvement if it were paved or taken over by urban sprawl instead. Better potential uses for the space include wind farms, areas for solar panels, parks, community gardens, or land for free-range livestock grazing, to name a few examples.