Golf focus has turned tide at former country club


July 03, 2012 at 1:05 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

(From L-R) Director of Sales and Marketing Bill Covert, Head Golf Pro and Club Manager Scot Burchardt and Grand Ridge President George Williamson pose for a photo on one of the course’s lush greens.
Jonathan Menard
(From L-R) Director of Sales and Marketing Bill Covert, Head Golf Pro and Club Manager Scot Burchardt and Grand Ridge President George Williamson pose for a photo on one of the course’s lush greens.
When Willowdale Country Club closed in November 2011, it seemed destined to share the same fate of other golf courses around the country that disappeared as the economy took a major hit.

But a group of 30 local investors couldn’t stand the thought of the 77-acre course that winds through Willowdale Subdivision falling into disrepair. So they purchased the club for $620,908, changed the name to Grand Ridge Golf Club and got to work refurbishing the course to its former glory.

So far, the gamble seems to have paid off.

"Our membership has grown extensively," Scot Burchardt, the head golf pro and manager of Grand Ridge Golf Club, said. "We are getting a lot of people from Harahan, Kenner and River Ridge and the course is in amazing condition."

Last year, Burchardt said dirt and weeds could be found on the course’s greens, but now 100 percent of the course greens are covered with Bermuda grass and there are no weeds to be found.

"We also thinned out all of the unwanted trees and we are now displaying our oak and cypress trees," Burchardt said. "We cut down 210 trees overall."

The property is also covered by a top-notch irrigation management system, Burchardt added.

"This is the first time we have had something like this on the course in three years," he said. "Now we are able to properly irrigate the course without over watering areas."

George Williamson, the president of Grand Ridge Golf Club, said the speed at which the course has rebounded has exceeded expectations. There are now 180 golf members at the club and 95 community members. A community membership allows residents to walk or bike around the course during certain hours.

While membership has increased, Burchardt said there are several non-members who are coming to play on the now public course.

"The reputation of Grand Ridge is getting out throughout New Orleans," he said. "We are seeing a lot of transient traffic from as far away as Reserve."

Currently, Williamson said about 60 percent of the golfers who play the course are non-members.

The club is also debt free.

"To be a course in its infancy and be debt free says a lot about our business," Williamson said. "We maintain a very good golf course and pay our bills. We manage it very tightly to stay debt free.

"We run a tight ship."

Burchardt and Williamson both said that the course has become profitable because of a unique business strategy where 100 percent of the club’s efforts are focused on golf.

"You can either have a business model where you are a country club with tennis courts, a swimming pool and nice restaurant or you can have a model where you focus on golf," Burchardt said. "All of our efforts go towards our golfers and everything is centered around golf. Even the food products we sell at our café are things golfers would like, such as po-boys and sandwiches."

As for the tennis courts and swimming pool that are currently on site, Williamson said Grand Ridge will not reopen and run either.

"The swimming pool is an asset, so we have to decide what to do with it," he said. "We have something in the works for the tennis courts, but we will not run either the pool or the courts."

The club has opened a new golf shop that provides amenities such as apparel, shoes and clubs for members. Burchardt said that members receive a discounted rate at the store so that they can purchase items for a lower price than they could get at any other retailer.

Grand Ridge is also offering free clinics and will allow the Hahnville golf team to practice on the course. Tournaments will also be held to support other Hahnville athletic teams.

"We have also gotten interest from several of the plants in the parish and we plan to hold tournaments for them here," Burchardt said. "Right now we are two years ahead of where we thought we would be at this time.

"We are going to be one of the top-conditioned golf courses in the New Orleans area in the next couple of years."

And residents of Willowdale and Willowridge subdivisions are starting to take notice. Bill Covert, who is the director of sales and marketing for Grand Ridge, said he recently went door-to-door in the neighborhoods during a membership drive.

"People were excited and told me how much they enjoy the work we have done on the course," Covert said. "It just enhances their property values."

Membership to Grand Ridge is $150 a month and includes unlimited golf and carts. Burchardt said that price is set to increase in the next few months. Non-members can play a round of golf for $39 for 18 holes or $29 for nine holes.

For more information on Grand Ridge, visit www.grandridgegolf.com.




View other articles written By Jonathan Menard

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