Those living in the neighborhood surrounding Saddlebrook GC in Indianapolis, Ind., hope to save the “18-hole gem,” which was sold at auction in 2016, by mounting a fundraising campaign to raise $300,000 that would be used by a new buyer, Green Golf Partners, to restore the course. Contributors of $1,000 or more would earn discounts from Green Golf on rounds of golf, merchandise, and food-and-beverage purchases.
Residents of neighborhoods surrounding Saddlebrook Golf Course in Indianapolis, Ind. hope to save their “18-hole gem” by mounting a $300,000 fundraising campaign to help a prospective buyer return it to playing condition, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.
The public course closed in late 2015 after Indianapolis-based owner Cooprider Golf & Recreation Inc. defaulted on a $2.4 million bank loan. The club was put up for sale at auction in 2016 (http://clubandresortbusiness.com/2016/03/saddlebrook-gc-sold-auction-690000/), and now Danville, Ind.-based Green Golf Partners has signed an agreement to buy the course, the Journal reported.
Although the course’s greens have become “haggard” and its bunkers are now overgrown with weeds, the Journal reported, neighboring residents are undaunted and hellbent on saving the course, which they say is critical to preserving property values on their homes, which typically sell for $200,000 to $250,000.
“It’s the only asset we have in the neighborhood,” said Lisa Cole, chairwoman of the fundraising campaign. “We don’t have pools or tennis courts.”
Friends of Saddlebrook LLC, the entity neighbors formed to help save the course, so far has received $178,500 in pledges and hopes to have $250,000 committed by the end of the month, the Journal reported.
The organization makes clear in its fundraising pitch to area homeowners how important the course is, saying there is “no way for any buyer to pay [the bank’s] asking price, restore the course, and be able to operate it successfully.”
The donations made to the campaign wouldn’t be used for Green Golf Partners’ acquisition of Saddlebrook, the Journal noted, but instead would be earmarked for helping the new owner bring the course back up to par.
After more than a year of inactivity, Saddlebrook is showing neglect, the Journal reported, with the clubhouse bearing unsightly boarded-up doors and windows, and the 135-acre strip of golf course in sore need of landscaping.
The fairways, however, have at least been mowed, giving encouragement to Green Golf that it can nurse the course back to health for a 2018 opening. The company is hoping to close on the sale by mid- to late summer of 2017, the Journal reported.
“If [the fairways] had grown, it would have been infinitely more difficult to bring it back as a golf course,” Green Golf President Mike Shaw told the Journal.
Indianapolis-based RN Thompson developed Saddlebrook in 1992 and expanded it to 18 holes two years later, the Journal reported. It sits in a crowded golf corridor that includes nearby Broadmoor Country Club and Highland Country Club.
Even so, Saddlebrook always seemed busy and never really competed with the membership-driven private clubs, said Cole, a longtime Saddlebrook resident, who attributed the closing to Cooprider Golf & Recreation’s overpaying for the course.
The company, operated by Liz and Tom Cooprider, bought Saddlebrook in the late 1990s from RN Thompson, the Journal reported. The Coopriders are well-known in local golf circles, having managed several area courses, including Sahm Golf Course.
“They were upside down before they even got started,” Cole told the Journal. “They were loaned an incredible amount of money.”
Green Golf is confident it can make the course profitable, the Journal reported. Shaw declined to divulge how much his firm offered, though it’s likely less than the bank’s starting bid.
“The location is certainly fantastic for us,” Shaw said. “Specifically, on the west side [of Indianapolis], it fills an important need for the community for affordably priced golf.”
Green Golf Partners currently manages 15 courses in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Florida, including Twin Bridges Golf Club in Danville, Ind. Saddlebrook would be the first course Green Golf would own, the Journal reported.
A more moderate investment by Green Golf than Cooprider paid should help Saddlebrook succeed, John Snell, a Fishers, Ind.-based real estate broker and appraiser who specializes in golf courses and briefly listed Saddlebrook on behalf of First Financial bank, the Journal reported.
“What the seller couldn’t survive on, the buyer might be able to at this new price point,” Snell said. “So instead of closures, we’re seeing many courses move down the food chain.”
Mike David, Executive Director of the Indiana Golf Office in Franklin, Ind., told the Journal that he doesn’t think “the supply-and-demand issue has sorted itself out yet.”
“We still have more courses than we need,” David said.
The fear that Saddlebrook could be developed into apartments is helping motivate neighbors to get involved, the Journal reported.
“The homes are built around it, and the course serves as drainage,” Cole said. “If someone started to mess with it, it would have negative consequences.”
The course is surrounded by 341 homes that make up the Saddlebrook neighborhood, the Journal reported, though Cole said the fundraising effort has also received pledges from other nearby subdivisions.
Residents can contribute whatever amount they wish to the campagain, but are encouraged to give at least $1,000, the Journal reported. Those who hit that benchmark will receive discounts from Green Golf on rounds of golf, merchandise, and food-and-beverage purchases.
Friends of Saddlebrook supports Green Golf as course owner, in part because the company told residents at the start of negotiations that it wanted to establish a neighborhood advisory council to stay connected, the Journal reported.
The $250,000 the group hopes to raise by the end of April would be handed to Green Golf over time, Cole said, to ensure that the money wouldn’t be squandered. Friends of Saddlebrook then wants to raise an additional $50,000 to go directly to fixing or replacing fencing surrounding the course, the Journal reported.
“It’s an investment in our community, quite honestly,” Cole said.
Cole and her husband, Bob, built their home in 1993 near the 16th hole and watched one of their two sons learn to play golf on the course—skills he then parlayed into a spot on the Pike High School golf team, the Journal reported.
She’s passionate about saving Saddlebrook, as stressed through a message in the fundraising pitch: “The simple truth is: this is our last chance to save this 18-hole gem and preserve the integrity of our neighborhoods—there are no other options!”
Besides the course and 2,900-sq.-ft. clubhouse and banquet hall, Saddlebrook includes a driving range and two storage buildings totaling 8,400 square feet.•
First Financial Bank attempted to recoup the millions of dollars it was owed by suing Cooprider Golf in December 2015 and ultimately foreclosed on the property, the Journal reported. A court-appointed receiver set the stage for an auction in March 2016, which attracted interest from both golf course operators and apartment developers. A winning bid of $690,000 was made by a representative of an unnamed real estate developer, it was reported at the time.