The 82-year-old club with a nine-hole course on the banks of the Shenandoah River was facing closure on July 1, but the Warren County Board of Supervisors came to an agreement with Virginia Golf LLC, a company formed by people who said their concerns about Front Royal were “very personal” and that it would be a “labor of love” to preserve it. After original proposals called for the county to pay the management firm an annual fee, the approved three-year lease has Virginia Golf paying the county monthly and sharing 5% of any profits that are realized.
A new three-year lease was arranged between Virginia Golf LLC and Warren County, Va. to ensure the continued operation of Front Royal (Va.) Golf Club less than two days before its planned closing before a new fiscal year was set to begin on July 1, the Royal Examiner of Front Royal reported. The agreement came six days after the management firm’s initial offer was rejected by the county’s Board of Supervisors.
Under the approved arrangement, Virginia Golf LLC will pay the country $2,000/month in the first year, followed by $1,000/month in subsequent years, plus 5% of any profits that the management firm realizes, the Royal Examiner reported.
The approved arrangement also includes three-year renewal options at the management firm’s discretion for a potential of 12 years operating the 82-year-old property, which has a nine-hole golf course located on the banks of the Shenandoah River. Under county management, Front Royal has been posting losses of over $110,000 annually in recent years, the Royal Examiner reported.
The land occupied by the club was donated for public use in 1938 by William and Agnes Carson, according to The Northern Virginia Daily, with stipulations that it be used for recreational purposes, including golf. In 2005, the county assumed management of the club.
Heirs of the Carson family have claimed in a civil lawsuit that the county was leased the property, but did not receive its title, The Northern Virginia Daily reported.
In April 2020, the county released an advertisement seeking parties interested in assuming management of the course, which County Administrator Doug Stanley said at the time was the county’s sixth and final attempt to do so, The Northern Virginia Daily reported.
The advertisement received one response from Virginia Golf LLC, which originally proposed to assume management for a payment of about $25,000 annually that would decrease in subsequent years and come out of the county Parks and Recreation Department’s budget, The Northern Virginia Daily reported.
Additionally, in that proposal, Virginia Golf LLC would invest $100,000 of its own money into the property.
Two of the company’s members, Louis Nicholls and Ray Nash, told the county supervisors as negotiations proceeded that the short-term goal was to save the county money, with a long-term goal of generating revenue, The Northern Virginia Daily reported.
Nicholls, who has a background in hospitality management, said the project would be a “labor of love” for those involved with Virginia Golf LLC, as the course is a “very personal thing to many people in the county,” The Northern Virginia Daily reported.
When the land was donated to the county, Nicholls said, it was meant to be a general recreation facility, which remains the case with the golf course, boat landing and trails, The Northern Virginia Daily reported. The goal is having something everyone can enjoy through a “public-private partnership,” he added.
“We want to be partners, we’re passionate and it means a lot to us,” Nicholls said. “We want to keep Mr. Carson’s original vision alive.”
Noting that the course has never been effectively managed or marketed, Nicholls said more revenue could be generated through leasing the clubhouse for events, selling merchandise such as repurposed golf equipment, and strategic placement of vending machines,
“Clearly this thing has been bleeding money, and we need to stop the bleeding,” he said.
Before entering discussions with Virginia Golf LLC, The Northern Virginia Daily reported. the county supervisors unanimously declined in March to lease the course to New Direction Golf Management, a company that sought to assume management for $100,000 annually. At that time, Supervisor Delores Oates said golf is not one of the “essential services” meant to be provided by the government.