The 96-year-old club will close its 90-acre course on May 7 and remain open to host events, parties and meetings. Memberships with golf privileges will be converted to social-only. “Basically, we couldn’t justify the cost with the use of the course,” a club manager said. The club has struggled in the past 10 years to recover from a drop in membership and debt incurred as a result of the recession. A city manager thinks the course offers opportunity for sale and mixed-use development.
The Decatur (Ala.) Country Club plans to close its roughly 90-acre golf course on May 7 and convert to a social-only facility, The Decatur Daily reported.
Members were informed about the change on the weekend of April 8-9 through a letter from John Peters, the club’s managing owner, The Daily reported.
“Basically, we couldn’t justify the cost with the use of the course,” Melanie O’Toole, the club’s Event and Membership Coordinator, told The Daily.
The club, with its pool and tennis courts, will remain open as a social club that hosts events, parties and meetings, O’Toole said, and the club’s 280 members who pay for golf as part of their membership will be converted to social-only.
That number doesn’t include family memberships that include golf privileges, O’Toole added.
The country club opened in 1923, The Daily reported, but has struggled in recent years, especially during the recession.
A club official said membership dropped nearly 45 percent from 2007 to 2009, and the club was nearly $3.8 million in debt to Wachovia Bank in 2010, The Daily reported.
Ten members then purchased the club’s mortgage at “a significant discount,” Peters wrote in an April 2011 letter to members, The Daily reported. (Peters could not be reached for comment regarding the announcement of the course closing, the newspaper said.)
The club then formed Club Properties LLC, and members were given the opportunity to buy a stake in the company for $10,000, and more than 30 bought in on the opportunity, The Daily reported.
The club has between 10 and 12 combined golf course and maintenance employees, Accounts Payable Manager Michael Barber told The Daily. “Most will be moved to different departments or continue in club maintenance,” Barber said.
One employee who will lose his job, The Daily reported, is golf pro Charlie Krenkel, who was also let go from the Decatur’s public Point Mallard Golf Course two years ago because of budget cuts.
“I’m already semi-retired,” Krenkel told The Daily. “I may increase my instruction, but I doubt I will try to manage another course.”
Decatur CC’s golf course will stay open until May, Krenkel told The Daily, because it is committed to several golf tournaments, including the state high-school sectional competition on May 2.
The decision to close the course, Krenkel said, came because Decatur CC, like many country clubs across the nation, was struggling to manage the $200,000 to $300,000 it cost to run the course annually.
The shutdown of the country club’s course leaves two in the city, The Daily reported, at the city-owned Point Mallard course and the private Burningtree Country Club.
“There aren’t a lot of young folks taking up the game to replace the aging golfers,” Krenkel said. “And many people don’t want to play on a country club-type course.”
The club’s golf course has the potential for commercial development because of its location, Wally Terry, the city’s Director of Development, told The Daily.
About 30 percent of the property is under a Tennessee Valley Authority power-line easement, The Daily reported, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency map shows that a small portion in the course’ southwest corner is in a flood plain.
Terry said he expected that Lynn Layton, owner of a local car dealership, might be interested in a piece of the Decatur CC property. Layton could not be reached for comment when contacted by The Daily.
The layout and design of the country club “makes it a good location for a mixed-use development,” Terry added, that would combine residential housing with commercial businesses.
“It’s an excellent piece of property in a good location,” Terry said.
In 2007, George Tomlin, owner of a local real-estate company and a mall developer, unsuccessfully tried to buy 50 acres of the golf course, The Daily reported. At that time, Tomlin said, his offer would have allowed Decatur Country Club to keep its main building, swimming pool, tennis courts and a driving range.