Two years after the property went dormant, Roger Thompson, who took over the facility in January 2010 and closed it a year and a half later due to a contract dispute with the facility’s owners, plans to purchase the 18-hole golf course and reopen it by the end of December. Crews have spent the past two months reseeding tees, rebuilding bunkers, and trimming trees and shrubs, and work will begin on restoring the course’s 18 greens this week.
Two years after going dormant, Spring Hill (Fla.) Golf and Country Club will reopen by the end of December, the St. Petersburg (Fla.)-based Tampa Bay Times reported.
Since its doors closed, Richard Bowden and other golfers who enjoy playing the course have been hoping for the day when they could once again drive a ball down the long fairways, the Times reported.
“It’s a shame because it’s a great golf course and very convenient to me,” said Bowden. “It’s been like a ghost town here for a while now. And I’m anxious to see that change.”
The return of play on one of Hernando County’s oldest golf courses is on its way, said Roger Thompson, who took over the facility in January 2010 and closed it a year and a half later because of what he called a contract dispute with the facility’s owners. Thanks to a new agreement that gives him the option to purchase the dormant 18-hole course, he plans to reopen it by the end of December, the Times reported.
“It’s taken a long time, but we’re happy to be bring it back,” Thompson said. “People who played it before are going to notice a huge difference, and it will be better than it’s ever been.”
Crews have spent the past two months reseeding tees, rebuilding bunkers, and trimming trees and shrubs. This week, Thompson said, work will begin on restoring the course’s 18 greens. Most of Thompson’s 30 former employees have told him they would return once the facility is up and running, the Times reported.
Since closing the facility in August 2011, Thompson said, he has had to overcome several obstacles to implementing a long-term business plan that would make the golf course a moneymaker, the Times reported.
“We couldn’t do the things before that we needed to do to offer a quality golf experience to customers,” Thompson said. “It was frustrating to sit back and watch (the course) deteriorate and not be able to do something about it. My hands were tied.”
Thompson remained hopeful that things would eventually work out. He stayed in touch with the club’s nearly 140 members and, without a professional-grade mower, kept the weeds on the 211-acre course at bay using a 50-inch Craftsman lawn tractor, the Times reported.
“I didn’t want people to think I had totally abandoned the place,” Thompson said. “I still had an active lease, and I felt I was responsible to the property owners around here to keep it looking decent.”
Originally opened in 1969, Spring Hill Golf and Country Club was purchased in the early 1980s by the Canadian-based Lemkco Florida Inc., which also operates Seven Hills Golf Club, and the facility continued to flourish until the economy began to flounder in recent years. In 2010, Lemkco owner Michael Kahanyshyn abruptly shuttered both facilities, citing financial reasons, the Times reported.
Although Lemkco was willing to give Thompson a five-year lease, Thompson said his desire was to negotiate a purchase option so he could attract investors. He claims he has spent more than $250,000 to bring the golf course up to acceptable playing level.
Once the purchase agreement was finalized with Lemkco, Thompson said he was able to accept an investment offer from an out-of-state company to pay equipment, golf carts and other amenities for the operation, the Times reported.
However, Thompson said that the unexpected death of his friend William “Lucky” Luchsinger, who was killed last month in a pedestrian accident in Spring Hill, has put a damper on the excitement surrounding the golf course’s reopening. Luchsinger was going to serve as the club’s General Manager.
“It was a hard blow for us,” Thompson said. “He was very knowledgeable about golf course operations.”
While the county’s still-fragile economy may not be the ideal climate to launch a new golf operation, Thompson believes Spring Hill Golf and Country Club’s reputation is still strong enough to attract players, the Times reported.
“This is a golfing community with a lot of people who enjoy the game,” Thompson said. “But people want their money’s worth when they pay for a round of golf. We want to give them that, and much more.”
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