The Rock Hill, S.C., course was taken over through a foreclosure sale and has had to dispel perceptions that it was closed. Course improvements are now being made and a new management company is working to have more golfers discover it is “as good as ever.”
In August, when Romspen Club Holdings LLC, a Toronto, Ont.-based mortgage company, took over ownership of Waterford Golf Course in Rock Hill, S.C. at a foreclosure sale and hired Traditional Golf Management of Virginia to manage the course along with others it had recently taken over in the Charlotte, N.C. region (http://clubandresortbusiness.com/2014/04/09/new-owner-takes-four-carolina-trail-properties/), the word “foreclosure” may have confused some golfers, Dean Sigmon, Waterford’s General Manager, told The Herald of Rock Hill.
While “we never did close,” Sigmon told The Herald, the club, which opened in 1998, got numerous calls asking if it had closed.
The confusion was perhaps added to by the fact that memberships with the former management did not transfer to the new owners, The Herald noted. Instead, Romspen offered a program that allowed former members to pay with no upfront fees and golf at a discounted rate from what the club charged the general public.
Club management is now working to not only physically improve the course, which was designed by Hale Irwin, but also to win back those who once frequently played Waterford, Sigmon told The Herald. Before the foreclosure, about two-thirds of the golfers at Waterford were club members. Now there are about 50 members, and Sigmon wants to at least double that number.
“We know it’s a period of recovery, and it can be a slow process,” Sigmon said.
At the height of its popularity, Waterford had a reputation as a shotmaker’s course, The Herald noted, with compact but long fairways, rolling hills and greens. Years of management issues, however, took their toll on the course, as greens, fairways and bunkers fell into disrepair, the greens became rock-hard, and some greens and many bunkers had weeds and the grass in the rough grew to extreme heights.
Most noticeable of the improvement work that is now being done is on the bunkers, The Herald reported. Where before so much sand had washed from bunkers to reveal red clay, and a one-inch rain would be trapped for up to three days, according to Sigmon, workers are now removing the old sand, fixing the drainage and installing new sand a hole at a time. So far, the first three holes have been done, and Sigmon hopes that all of the bunker work will be done by the end of the year.
The greens, fairways and rough are also being mowed with new equipment, The Herald reported, resulting in greens that are “in the best shape they’ve been recently,” according to Rick Sibrans, an eight-time seniors champ at the club.
“There are no better greens around,” Sibrans added. “They’re magnificent.”
The biggest change to the greens, Sibrans noted, has come from their aeration, which had not been done since Waterford replaced all its greens in the summer of 2010. That summer, The Herald reported, Waterford replaced its bentgrass greens with Miniverde Bermuda hybrid, to provide better resistance to heat.
Sigmon told The Herald that he’s also developing a plan to cut back some of the older trees that line the course, to address overgrowth that restricts players’ vision. In some areas, where the shade is so complete that grass won’t grow, course workers have covered those areas with pine needles.
The current optimism at Waterford is still tempered with realism, The Herald reported. With so many years of missed maintenance, “we have so far to go,” Sigmon said. But he intends to carry through on his promise to golfers that “you will see improvements each week.”
And with the recent maintenance efforts that have been made, a threesome playing at the club told The Herald, Waterford is already back to being “as good as ever.”