The suburban Memphis, Tenn., club announced it was closing following the deaths of longtime owners Ken and Mary Anderson. Now, a group of approximately 20 members are banding together to secure necessary funding to make a competitive bid directly to the trust in charge of the property.
The Germantown (Tenn.) Country Club is slated to close, but some dedicated members say they’re not going to let the golf club die without a fight, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.
On the heels of the closure announcement, a group of club members has banded together to try to purchase the club from the current owners and keep it open as a golf club.
C&RB reported shortly after the start of 2019 that the club announced it would be closing for financial reasons in February, surprising members who have played golf and dined at the Germantown institution for decades.
Chuck Kantor, who has been a club member since 1990, is working with a group of about 20 other club members to get together the funding necessary, the Commercial Appeal reported. That will likely require a few million dollars to make a competitive bid directly to the country club owners before the establishment closes February 28.
While Kantor knows the members’ group likely won’t offer as much money as a developer might, it could offer the ability to close a deal quickly, while also appealing to nostalgia, the Commercial Appeal reported.
“We want to save it for the golfers, but we want to save it for the city, too —we don’t have a lot of green space left,” he said. The group also has concern, he added, about workers at the club who would lose their jobs and about people who have lived along the course.
Germantown officials announced in January that Mayor Mike Palazzolo had directed city staff to explore purchasing the golf course and turning it into a municipal park, the Commercial Appeal reported. Palazzolo has also said he would not support changing the zoning on the property to allow for commercial use or apartments. Currently, the land is zoned for single-family homes.
Any development on the land would require significant work, as it has poor drainage and large portions of the course flood with heavy rains, the Commercial Appeal reported. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, much of the golf club is designated as a flood zone. Developing in that area would require consultations with the federal agency, which tightened regulations about developing in floodplains after Hurricane Katrina.
Steve Chandler, who is working with Kantor and others to purchase the club, was less optimistic than Kantor that the group would be able to convince the owners to sell to them, the Commercial Appeal reported.
“I think it’s a very, very long shot,” Chandler said. “Personally, I don’t think you can compete as a country club versus a development.”
While no next steps have been publicly announced or divulged to members, Chandler and others said they would be surprised if the owners were closing down the club without a buyer waiting in the wings, the Commercial Appeal reported.
Chandler said he had followed discussions and rumors about the club’s future after the longtime owners passed away, but he was shocked with how fast things were moving since the closure was announced in early January, the Commercial Appeal reported. He said he didn’t blame anyone, but that he was disappointed.
“I’ve been a member of the club for about 29 years, and my daughters and granddaughter were on the swim team,” he said. “It’s like being in eighth grade and moving away. You lose your friends.”
Michele Botwinick, daughter of longtime owners Mary and Ken Anderson, said the club had been held in a trust since before Mary Anderson’s death and continues to be held in a trust, which is managed by the trustee, the Commercial Appeal reported.
She said the decision to sell the club had been a difficult and personal decision for her family.
“We are saddened as much if not more than those in the community about the decision to close the club,” Botwinick said in an e-mail. “This has been an agonizing experience for us knowing the [effect] it would have on the members and employees. We care deeply about the employees at the club and are making every effort to help them leave with dignity and have a chance to find employment elsewhere as quickly as possible.”
“The final decision is ultimately out of our hands,” Bostwick added. But she and her family had hope that the club would be purchased by people who intended to keep it in operation as a golf club, the Commercial Appeal reported.
While Germantown CC’s golf course may not be as well manicured or its clubhouse as glamorous as other country clubs in the Memphis area, Kantor said, it has been a great place to golf with a membership of fun, unpretentious people.
“A lot of us have been here 15-plus years,” he said. “We’ve got great groups, and they all get along. We don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Club member Jim Brannon, who has been a member for 23 years, played at Germantown CC five or six days a week with the same group of people, the Commercial Appeal reported. But now that group is breaking up, with its members starting to join other clubs in the area in anticipation of Germantown’s closing. Brannon himself will join TPC Southwind, but he said he almost couldn’t sleep in the days after learning about the club closure, wondering where he would go.
If the owners do sell Germantown Country Club to the group of members, it’s unclear how many members will be left to play there, the Commercial Appeal reported. Club staff told the newspaper on January 15 that “hundreds” have already moved to other area clubs.
Staff members will get severance packages, and one said they had been told they will be offered assistance filing for unemployment or submitting resumes if they had not found new employment by the time the club closes in February, the Commercial Appeal reported. A staff member said the time since the announcement of the closure had been chaotic and confusing, and he hoped the property wouldn’t end up sitting unused for years.