Cliffside Golf Course closing: Bethel high school teams searching for new home

TIPP CITY — The COVID-19 pandemic hit local golf courses hard this year.

And now it has claimed another casualty.

Cliffside Golf Course — located in Tipp City and the home of the Bethel High School varsity boys and girls golf teams for more than two decades — announced that it would be closing permanently, according to a post of the course’s official Facebook page on May 29.

“With a heavy heart we will be closing Cliffside permanently,” the announcement on the Cliffside Golf Course Facebook page said. “We will keep this page open and hope everyone can understand. Very sorry for not responding to messages. We will announce some equipment sales and other information soon.”

For many golf courses, though, it’s simply been the economic reality after not being able to operate at full capacity during the global pandemic.

Cliffside joins the city of Dayton’s Kittyhawk Golf Center and Madden Golf Course, which both announced their closure on May 7. The closure leaves six golf courses open in Miami County: Miami Shores Golf Course and Troy Country Club in Troy, Echo Hills Golf Course and Piqua Country Club in Piqua, Homestead Golf Course in Tipp City and Stillwater Ridge Golf Course in West Milton.

Unfortunately, the closure also leaves the Bees without a home golf course for the upcoming fall season.

“It’s a sad thing for us,” said Bethel boys coach Brett Brookhart, who has coached the Bees for 27 years. “It’s the golf industry right now, and unfortunately we’ve been hit by this hard.

“My first four years or so, we played at Hidden Lake, and then we moved over to Cliffside in the late 1990s and have been there since. I don’t know what we’re going to do, to be honest. We’re trying to find somewhere to go.”

Brookhart said he understands the economics behind the decision.

“Unfortunately, with COVID, they were shut down for a couple months, and it just wasn’t financially feasible for them to continue to lease, I think,” he said. “They’ve had the course for sale, and no one seems interested. Golf’s just not a money-making business right now.

“You look at Kittyhawk down in Dayton — which would have been another possibility for us to go to — they’re completely shut down with 36 holes. It’s a tough situation we’re in right now.”

Shortly after seeing the announcement, Brookhart took to Twitter to see if anyone knew of a new place the Bees could call home, and he and Bethel girls golf coach Ed Quincel have sought out help through other channels, as well.

“I’m begging for somebody,” Brookhart said. “Ever since I’ve been there, we’ve been fortunate to have a golf course within three or four miles of the school. I’ve asked a couple in the area, and they’ve got too many teams already, or one doesn’t want high schools teams there with leagues. We’re still trying to find something. I’m not sure what we’re going to do. Maybe we’ll just be road warriors.”

“We’ve both made some contact with some courses to see if there’s even a remote chance,” Quincel said. “Even if it’s just one day a week, it would be helpful as opposed to nothing at all.”

It’s rough on both teams, as even if they played all of their matches on the road, they would have nowhere to practice regularly. And it’s especially tough on the girls program, which has made big strides in its relatively short existence.

“And the tough thing is a couple years ago we got the girls program started, and Ed Quincel has got them going real good,” Brookhart said. “I’ve got more kids interested in playing this year — and basically nowhere to go. And that’s the thing — we can go to the driving range, but practice-wise, I don’t know what to do.”

“It puts us in a really bad situation,” Quincel said. “So far, we have not been able to find anybody willing to take us on. And with me and the girls program, we’re just getting started here. Third year, we’ve got some pretty good golfers and no place to go right now.

“We could play all away matches, but then we still have the problem of where do we practice. Yeah, you can go to the driving ranges and putting greens, but it’s still not the same as actually getting out on the course and navigating your way through nine holes.”

In the end, the Bees are sad to see the place they’ve called home for so long close down.

“We’ve been at Cliffside 22 years, and we loved it there,” Brookhart said. “They’ve been so good to us. I drove out there last Friday just to see it, and it’s just sad, seeing three-feet-high grass everywhere and the greens just as bad. It’s a sad situation.”