The semi-private course in Evans, Ga. was closed in September after a failed suit against the county. Owners contended that sediment accumulation in Willow Lake was the result of negligent county stormwater control. Jones Creek Investors, which acquired the gated community’s course in 2008, is trying to find a buyer
The Jones Creek Golf Course in Evans, Ga. is showing signs of neglect two months after its owners ended their eight-year legal battle with Columbia County, The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle reported.
The Rees Jones-designed course, inside the gates of the Jones Creek subdivision, would be unplayable even if it reopened tomorrow, The Chronicle reported. Nine months of closure has left it with overgrown grass, weed-covered greens and downed trees that have been left where they fell.
“It’s not a golf course,” said Mike Brown, President of the Jones Creek Owners Association. “It looks like a golf course that has closed.”
The semi-private course was closed in September, The Chronicle reported, after a federal judge ruled against a suit that was filed against Columbia County by Jones Creek Investors and the Savannah Riverkeeper seeking damages for sediment accumulation in Willow Lake, which the owners contend was the result of negligent stormwater control by the county.
The owners in March withdrew a second lawsuit in state superior court, effectively ending the legal battle, The Chronicle reported.
Jones Creek Investors, which acquired the gated community’s course in 2008, told The Chronicle it is trying to find a buyer. The neighborhood’s pool and tennis courts are owned by the homeowner’s association.
“We are actively pursuing a solution for Jones Creek and our partnership,” said Ray Mundy, the investor group’s managing partner. “All of us want to find a good solution that allows things to move forward.”
Mundy declined to comment on the course’s state of maintenance, The Chronicle reported. Brown, the owner’s association president, said there is concern among residents that the spring and summer growing season will negatively impact the course and the neighborhood’s property values.
“We would like for a golf course to open and be maintained,” Brown told The Chronicle, adding that real estate reports have not yet shown a “drastic decrease” in home values.
“That’s not to say it won’t go that way,” Brown said. “A neighborhood without a functional golf course would not be as desirable.”
Scott Johson, Administrator for Columbia County, Ga., told a group of community leaders in April that the county was not interested in buying the Jones Creek property, The Chronicle reported.
“We don’t want to be in the golf course business, obviously,” Johnson said at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Luncheon Series. “But we stand very ready to work with whoever the new property owner is; whatever we can do to fast-forward permits, if we can help ease the way, we stand ready to work with them on that.”
Private and semi-private course operators have struggled in recent years as interest in golf wanes among younger generations, The Chronicle reported. To survive, independent golf course operators have been selling to large investment groups that can achieve profitability through size and scale.
West Lake County Club, a golf course community just two miles from Jones Creek, sold its member-operated course to California-based Concert Golf Partners in 2015, The Chronicle reported. Heritage Golf Group, part of private equity firm Tower Three Partners, acquired the private Champions Retreat club in Evans in 2014.
It’s not unheard of for a golf community’s residents to acquire the neighborhood course, The Chronicle reported. Homeowners in Edgefield, Va.’s Mount Vintage, for example, purchased the 27-hole course from a Tennessee-based bank that had foreclosed on it. The owner’s association converted the club to a public course and formed its own management company to oversee the operation.
Residents of Sky Valley Resort and Golf Club in Rabun County, Ga. also banded together to purchase the golf and recreation facilities that formed the centerpiece of their mountain community in 2009, The Chronicle reported. Bob Larsen, one of eight Sky Valley homeowners who organized the buyout, helped sell $10,000 memberships to raise the $900,000 needed to purchase the course and the $700,000 required to bring it back up to playable shape.
“It doesn’t take long [for a course to deteriorate],” Larsen said. “You had better get going if you’re going to salvage the course.”