Investors purchase Willowdale Country Club

Plan to reopen June 1 as Grand Ridge Golf Club


April 21, 2011 at 9:59 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Pete Gilbert, the new president of Grand Ridge Golf Club.
Jonathan Menard
Pete Gilbert, the new president of Grand Ridge Golf Club.
A group of local investors purchased Willowdale Country Club and say they have cleaned it up financially and will give the parish icon a fresh start as Grand Ridge Golf Club.

“What you got here is a group of investors, local people, who live close to the golf course and hate the concept of it dying and going away,” Pete Gilbert, the new president of the club, said. “About 30 of us have stepped in with our own finances to save this thing and we are dedicating our time and resources so we don’t see the golf course go away.”

Gilbert said that the group plans to reopen the clubhouse and the golf course on June 1. Currently, the group has no plans to open the pool, though Gilbert said they will see if they can do so at some point in the future.

The club has been closed since November.

Right now, a mostly volunteer force is working to refurbish both the golf course and the facilities that make up the club.

“We are putting our energy and effort into getting the golf course in good shape,” Gilbert said. “We are getting stumps out of the ground, taking down dead and damaged trees and yanking trees out of ponds. The 13th fairway was rough and bumpy, but we are smoothing it out so it’s just as nice as all of our other holes.”

The group has also hired a new green’s superintendent, Steve Willingham, who previously served as first assistant at a TPC course in south Florida.

“He is a great guy who has a wealth of experience in the golf course business,” Gilbert said. “He is exactly what we need here.”

When the Grand Ridge Golf Club opens, Gilbert said they will offer affordable memberships and even benefits to people who aren’t big golfers. The investor group is still working on all the details.

“We want to draw in people from Lakewood, Mimosa and everywhere else on the West Bank,” Gilbert said. “We want to move away from the traditional ‘country club’ and make it a sports and recreational facility that everyone can enjoy.

For this to work, we need the support of the community and the people of St. Charles.

“If we get the financial assets in shape, there is no reason we can’t keep it as a golf course for a long time.”

Gilbert said that the survival of the country club will provide economic and recreational benefits to the community.

“Everybody that lives near the course has a little bit higher property values because of the club,” he said. “It’s also a source of recreation and gives us a green space with trees, plants and wildlife that can be enjoyed by all.”

Construction of the club was conceived in the early 1970s when some area residents were hunting in the swamps one and a half miles south of Highway 90 in Luling. They thought at the time that the oak and cypress terrain would make a beautiful golf course and subdivision, which later became Willowdale Subdivision. Since then, several other subdivisions have grown up around it.

The club operated as a country club with swimming, tennis, golf and social activities. Though it never offered a full service restaurant, it did have dinners on Friday nights and special occasions.

Parties galore were held in the early 1980s, including several local Mardi Gras balls.

According to public record, the assets of Willowdale Country Club were purchased for $620,908.37.




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