Elkins Ranch Golf Course in Fillmore, Calif. will shutter its operation on Labor Day and plant avocado trees on the property. In Watertown, N.Y., Ives Hill County Club, which is in a legal dispute with the city, has decided to remain closed for 2020 and has not made reopening plans going beyond the year.
While a New York course will remain closed for the remainder of the year, across the country, a California property is shuttering operations for good.
Elkins Ranch Golf Course in Fillmore, Calif. will close on Labor Day after six decades of operation, the Ventura County Star reported. The decision by the Elkins Ranch Company means that Hass avocado trees will be planted on the golf course’s approximately 110 acres.
“The decision has been long in coming,” said Carla Corral, the president of the company’s board of directors. “We’ve noticed a decline in golf for the last 10 years and have been looking at options, hoping the play would increase and it just didn’t. Adding COVID-19 to it didn’t help matters and forced us to make a decision.”
Elkins Ranch Company, formed by the eight children of C.C. Elkins Sr. in the 1930s, built the first nine holes of the course in 1961, the Star reported. Corral is the great granddaughter of Elkins Sr.
“It’s tough to put into words exactly what this place means to me,” said Tim Medina, the Head Golf Professional at Elkins Ranch. “I was a punk kid when I started working here. I’m forever indebted to this wonderfully amazing little golf course with so much charm.”
Medina grew up in Piru and attended Fillmore High, the Star reported.
“Gosh, the biggest thing is the family environment from the staff to the customers,” Medina said. “There’s a lot of people who frequent this place and make it special. … I’ve been coming out here with my dad since I was 4 years old and there’s a lot of people in the same boat.”
The Fillmore and Moorpark high school golf teams used Elkins Ranch as their home course, the Star reported. Santa Paula and Trinity Pacifica highs used the practice facilities.
Ryan Gonzalez, who became the first Fillmore High School boys golfer since 1972 to win a league title, grew up at the course, the Star reported. His grandmother, Victoria Fildes, used to run the snack bar.
“Elkins Ranch is my home course,” Gonzalez said earlier this year.
Medina, who also manages the course, told the Star Elkins Ranch was on pace to end a five-year decline in the number of rounds played this year before COVID-19 shut it down. He added that business had been booming since Ventura County courses were allowed to reopen in April.
“We’re averaging over 200 golfers a day on weekends, over 150 on weekdays,” Medina said. “We’ve added over 1,000 new customers to our database. Everything was trending in the right direction.”
Corral said the company’s board of directors, most of whom are still members of the Elkins family, have been considering the change for some time, the Star reported.
“There definitely was a slight increase in play after we were shut down for a bit,” Corral said. “We’ve had 20 years to be watching what’s going on in terms of the market and noticed that play really hasn’t increased.
“It’s hard for the family to see it go, as well, but we couldn’t stick with a golf course that wasn’t making any profit.”
C.C. Elkins Sr. originally grew olives and then lemons and oranges on the property until a fungus damaged the citrus in 1954, prompting the eventual move to golf, the Star reported. Similarly, the course’s closure during COVID-19 spurs the property’s return to agriculture.
“We tried to hold out as long as we could,” Corral said. “It’s time for a new transition and a new era. We’ll be sad to see the golf course go. It’s a beautiful property. Hopefully, the [agriculture] will help our local economy and we’ll be able to continue on with the next generation.”
The final day of golf at Elkins Ranch is scheduled for Labor Day, September 7, the Star reported.
“We’re going to keep it open for the summer, hoping it helps with the transition for the employees and to allow people to enjoy a summer with the course open,” Corral said. “After Labor Day, we’ll close down the course.”
On the East Coast, the golf course at Ives Hill County Club in Watertown, N.Y. will not be opening this year and it’s unclear if the restaurant will reopen, WWNY reported. The owner, P.J. Simao, e-mailed a letter to the news media June 19 saying it “wouldn’t be prudent to open the golf course this year under the present circumstances and business climate.”
Refunds will be sent to the people who have paid for the 2020 season, WWNY reported. In his letter, Simao discusses his legal battle with the city and the Watertown Golf Club, saying the litigation “hasn’t been a pleasant experience.”
He again said Ives Hill Country Club is a target of Mayor Jeff Smith after an April 7 e-mail that Simao said threatened his business when it questioned Ives Hill being open during the winter months, WWNY reported.
WWNY reached out to the city and the mayor for comment.
Simao also said he hasn’t made a decision on whether to reopen the restaurant, WWNY reported.
The following is Simao’s full letter:
Good afternoon. After very careful thought and deliberation I have come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be prudent to open the golf course There is no way any of us could have anticipated the events of this year. As you may know, my mother passed away on Feb. 25th and that has truly changed my thought process and priorities. I tried to prolong my decision so as not to make it based on emotions and I apologize to anyone who thinks I waited too long.
When I purchased Ives Hill Country Club (IHCC) in 2007, I was trying to just save it for the community and provide an inviting place for all to enjoy. My dedicated and loyal staff has done a great job throughout the years in accomplishing that task. In 2007, I said I would operate IHCC for 2 to 3 years and then reevaluate. I have now operated it for 13 seasons. I have certainly made some mistakes along the way and I most definitely wish I could take a few mulligans with some of them.
As you probably know IHCC has been in litigation with the City of Watertown (City) and Watertown Golf Club Inc. (WGC) for over a year and a half which hasn’t been a pleasant experience. I am still waiting on a court decision on the appeal. It has been a very expensive and time-consuming process, but I felt it had to be done to attempt to right the wrong that the City has been perpetrating against IHCC for many years. I don’t regret it at all, and I am very proud of the fact that I was able to bring to the public’s attention the City’s unfair practices.
As a result, I believe IHCC is now a target of the present Mayor demonstrated by the fact that he threatened IHCC in a April 7, 2020 e-mail about IHCC’s operation during the winter months. That threat was in the first month of the pandemic and I was forced to deal with it during these most difficult times. Both the Mayor and the City Attorney blamed it on a letter that was sent to the City by the WGC’s Attorney, Mr. James Heary complaining about our winter operations but to date they haven’t produced the letter.
The City has been subsidizing the WGC through well below market rents, below market taxes and free use of properties for many years to the disadvantage of IHCC and the City taxpayers. It is my very strong opinion that if the City wasn’t subsidizing the WGC, the WGC would have been out of business a long time ago. The City has even been vigorously defending the lawsuit at a great cost and expense to the taxpayers for the benefit of the WGC. The City didn’t have to spend the amount of funds it has on the defense. The City could have simply just had the WGC defend the action and pay for the legal defense with its own funds. This was an example of their blatant disregard for fairness.
The City continues to allow the WGC to use City properties free of charge while not making the public aware of their actions. The City approved plans for WGC on April 6, 2020 which was within weeks of the onset of the Pandemic and didn’t allow the public to participate. The Council then gave the WGC over a year to complete the plans despite the fact that WGC didn’t abide by the written Agreement they made with the City last year. That was another example of their blatant disregard for fairness.
The approvals given to the WGC weren’t essential business, but the Mayor went ahead and gave the WGC another unfair advantage. This was simply wrong. I believe the timing and absence of a public comment period was meant to eliminate IHCC from the public discussion. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not afraid of competition and I actually thrive on it, but this was a no-win situation for IHCC right from the beginning as I found out during the litigation.
In closing, I haven’t made any final decisions concerning the reopening of the restaurant this year or the golf course next year but when I do, I will let you know. I sincerely thank all of you for your support over the last 13 years and I am hopeful you will understand this most difficult decision. Refunds will be sent to the people who have paid for the 2020 season.