New owners took several swings at improving the nine-hole course, which they renamed Jack’s Mountain Preserve, that is tucked away in a rural area of the Blue Ridge Mountains and was considered by architect John R. Van Kleek to be his “masterpiece.” But while operating losses continued, prompting the decision to close the course, the owners still hold out hope that the clubhouse and property, which is deeded against development, can turn into an event center or be used for other purposes by the surrounding community.
Tucked away in a rural area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Old Fort (N.C.) Golf Course challenged generations of players for nearly 60 years with its unique 9-hole layout, The McDowell (N.C.) News reported.
Two years ago, Old Fort GC was revamped into what is called now Jack’s Mountain Preserve, The News reported. New owners Larry Deal and Deena Wade had a vision for the course and worked hard to maintain that vision while remaining environmentally sound. But with a lack of new and returning golfers, and less and less support from the community, Deal and Wade said they are no longer able to sustain the day-to-day operations of running the course, which is now closed.
“We were thinking it would increase because money was being put into it, and it just kept going down,” Wade told The News.
Deal and Wade purchased new golf carts, hired former superintendent Freddy Edwards, revamped the food as farm-to-table, added trendy Footgolf and worked hard to bring the decor up to date with the times, The News reported.
“We tried all kinds of things with the grill, and nobody would come,” Wade said. “People would come to play golf and bring their own food. It was very challenging. Both of us took [the course] full on, and there wasn’t the support coming back to make it survive.
“Every single day that we were open we were losing money,” she continued. “People love the course but they didn’t support it. I did so much outreach and never got a trace of interest. It really just reached the point where we couldn’t keep going.”
Part of the reason for closing, Deal told The News, is that young people don’t play golf anymore, with no new generation coming in to keep it going. “Another factor was the most rain that ever hit McDowell County in [its] history,” he said.
“We want to emphasize how wonderful this place was for 50-plus years,” Deal added. “All these people kept this place going and did everything they could, and we thought we could enhance that, but we couldn’t. We were told all we needed to do was get it back to where it used to be, and people said they hadn’t seen this place this nice in years—but they didn’t come back, they disappeared.”
Old Fort Golf Course officially opened on September 16, 1961, according to another article in The McDowell News.
“The golf course was an idea and then put into reality by a group of public-spirited Old Fort citizens, business and professional leaders to promote the growth of this area,” read an article from The News in 1961.
The golf course was owned by a corporation that was chartered in 1960, Old Fort Golf Course, Inc., The News reported. John R. Van Kleek, who is credited with designing more than 50 golf courses in his career, designed the Old Fort layout and told The Asheville Citizen-Times in February 1962 that it was his “masterpiece.”
Even though the course is gone, Wade and Deal’s vision of making the golf course property an area for the community to enjoy is still very much a top priority, The News reported. Along with the purchase of the course, the land included several lots around the course that seem to be taking off with newly built homes.
“We bought this to build a community around it, and we were neglecting that part,” said Wade. “We just had Internet installed for the community, and we renovated the [clubhouse] building. We are trying to be very conservative about how much we develop. I feel like over the next few years, this place will develop in such a beautiful little community.”
Plans for the golf course now include making it a space for multiple uses such as a year-round park, wedding venue, private-event space, glamping sites, a walking track, flower beds, light agriculture, flower beds and much more, The News reported.
“We have sold 12 lots, and we just closed on three of them in the last month,” said Wade. “We still have about another dozen lots to sell; we just recently lowered the price on lots.”
More importantly, when acquiring the property, Deal and Wade made sure to put language in the deed for the land that the golf course or Jack’s Mountain will not be developed, The News reported.
“When we worked out arrangements, we said we would never build houses on that golf course or put cell towers or commercial buildings. It will stay like that,” said Deal. “That is already in stone now, we have written it into the deeds, and it can’t be changed. We all gave an effort, and the future is going to be good.”