Neighborhood groups rally to find solutions
The Grand Ridge golf course located on the west bank is suffering financial woes and solutions for those issues are being examined. The scenic 18-hole course that stretches throughout the Willowdale subdivision had run into financial trouble five years ago. At that time, it was purchased by a group of 25 investors who hoped to revitalize it and attract more members.
The investors spent dollars and immense amounts time in recent years to save the course, and with it the beauty and green space that it offers.
Investor David Allemand posted on a Facebook page devoted to updates and discussion of the Willowdale neighborhood. “We have made some mistakes and had issues with course quality for the first couple of years. But we have been trying hard without expecting much of a return on investment. In short, we loved this course and its history and were ‘all in’ as amateur aficionado owners and managers. We stepped up!”
“We are not apologizing and in fact we feel proud that we have gone all in on attempting to save this community treasure! Course quality has been much improved of late, we have an outstanding new greenkeeper but we have lost a large number of members, subsequently we have lost a large amount of income.”
This cannot continue, continued Allemand. “The cupboard is bare,” he said.
Golf courses across the nation are having problems, with nearly 800 failing in the past 10 years.
“That’s the bottom line,'” said Grand Ridge business manager Barbara Fuselier. “Fewer golfers and more courses.”
It’s now down to the wire for Grand Ridge, and unless the club gets 150 to 200 new members and increased green fee play within the next few months, it will not survive as a golf course.
Concerned residents in the neighborhood are rallying to find a way to either keep the course open or at least keep the green space. Both plans would require immediate support from the community.
Jim Carlson, Matthew Lyons and Stuart Ponder have started a Keep Willowdale Green group, which is also on Facebook. The group believes that since so many young families have moved into these neighborhoods in the past few years, they would support a transformation of the golf course. They are looking at options that include turning the golf course into a non-profit green space with trees, fishing, walking/running trails and community gardens.
“The neighborhood has transformed,” said Lyons. “Zee Ann Drive had four children six years ago. Today there are 30.”
The reality is that today of the 280 houses on the course, only 80 are members despite being sent several letters asking them to support the club to keep the green space behind their houses.
“People have said ‘I’m not going to join because I don’t play golf,’” said Fuselier, who is also an investor. “It’s not about playing golf, it’s about maintaining quality of life.”
Besides the $150/month golf membership, the club currently offers a $35/month community membership for those who don’t play golf.
If Grand Ridge doesn’t get the support it needs to remain a golf course or to evolve into a green space, it will likely fall into bankruptcy or be sold to developers. Two large land developers have learned of the dire situation and have made offers to buy the course contingent upon being able to develop it for housing.
Kristen Guidry Gilbert has called for a public meeting at the Grand Ridge Club House Jan. 18 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss all options.
“We are still trying to save the club!” she said through a Facebook post. “If we cannot band together to do this, then we will work from there.”
Lyons added, “Years ago the community had a vision of the quality of life that they wanted to preserve. We believe that this is an opportunity for the community to rally again and renew commitment to previous solutions or invest in new solutions.”