The Garner, N.C., property was founded in 1958 as one of the first black-owned country clubs in the U.S., but Saint Augustine’s University, which bought the property in 2007, has struggled to maintain the facility. The university has considered selling the club, but a spokesperson said a sale is unlikely.
Meadowbrook Country Club in Garner, N.C., was founded in 1958, and was one of the first black-owned country clubs in the United States. However, its future is uncertain after Saint Augustine’s University bought it in 2007 and has struggled to maintain it, the Charlotte N.C., News & Observer reported.
“Each person had to pay a little more than $100 for a 120-acre tobacco field,” said Joe Sansom, the son of one of the property’s founders. “My dad (took out) a lot of loans to the people so he could buy the property.”
Forty-five charter members paid $100 each for membership. Meadowbrook had a junior Olympic sized swimming pool, tennis courts and other facilities. “If you didn’t play golf, you could go swimming, cook out or have parties in the clubhouse,” Sansom said.
During the club’s peak, the grasses were much greener and hundreds of people could be seen out at the club at once. When Saint Augustine’s University purchased it, Sansom said they couldn’t pay the bills, and the club was struggling, the News & Observer reported.
“Once integration came, every month was a challenge to pay the bills,” he said.
Country clubs eventually desegregated, and black members could join any country club they wanted, which they did. They closed down the pool and tennis courts, and borrowed money from members, but it was not enough to keep it up. He said he and board members of the club wanted to keep it in black-owned hands and Saint Augustine’s, a historically black university, was interested, the News & Observer reported.
While improvements were made to the course, the course isn’t nearly how it used to be, frequent and longtime visitors to the course say. The bunkers are filled with grass. Some of the greens are rough, the News & Observer reported.
“I come out here when I have some free time,” golfer Marcus White said. “The greens need a little work. It’s hard to putt on the greens but I guess it would get a little better if they had a little more income.”
Shelly Hinton, a spokesperson for the school, said Saint Augustine’s has explored selling the country club, but that it won’t happen. Efforts to reach Saint Augustine’s president Everette Ward were unsuccessful, the News & Observer reported.
Mayor Ronnie Williams said a representative at the school asked town officials if Garner might be interested in purchasing the club. “He wanted to know if the Town of Garner was interested in it for future park land, given the expectation it would be developed into residential properties,” Williams said. But the town decided against it, the News & Observer reported.
“If the town were to buy it, we would have to put in a pump station, which would be expensive,” he said.
For members of the club and volunteers, selling the club would be devastating to them. But they say they wouldn’t be surprised, given the club’s ups and downs over the years, the News & Observer reported.
“This place used to stay crowded,” Bernard Williams said. “If you came here on the weekend you were trying to hurry up and get in here.”
Williams’ father was a greenskeeper at the club and Williams would come when he was young. But Williams, John Hinton and Will Lassiter say just because the club was black-owned, didn’t mean it was welcoming to the whole black community. They say during its early years, the only black people who were allowed were teachers, lawyers and doctors, those who made the most money, the News & Observer reported.
Eventually after realizing that Meadowbrook couldn’t be kept up that way, it started to let those who were not as wealthy play golf there. The founders started to host golf tournaments and needed some good golfers. It became a popular place where the all men could golf, the families could cook out, kids could swim, play putt-putt and just have a good time, the News & Observer reported.
Today, the course is open for anyone to golf. Volunteers help out and keep up the course, along with staff member Robert Hinton, Saint Augustine’s golf coach. Lassiter and Williams say it’s common to see white and black people on the golf course, the News & Observer reported.
The club still has potential, Williams said, adding that recently had a cookout like old times. “We had enough food to take to-go plates and take home food to our wives,” Williams said. “It could be a viable place that could generate funds.”
They’d like to see it revitalized some day. “If they were to sell this place, we’d have nowhere to go,” Lassiter, 62, said. “This is our culture.”