Golf courses face uncertain future

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Bobby Wilson, center, putts on the eighth green Thursday while golfing with his son Scott Wilson, left, and grandson Cameron Wilson at Northgreen Country Club.


Staff Writer

Monday, July 23, 2018

It’s no secret that the golf business has been struggling to find ways to grow, and its decline has been felt in the Twin Counties.

Recent rumors have been floating around about a couple golf courses in Nash County closing. Birchwood Country Club, a semi-private country club in Nashville that was started in 1960, is rumored to be contracted out to a homebuilder who plans to redevelop the course for housing.

Local lawyer Joe Hester, who is the acting president of Birchwood Country Club, wouldn’t confirm or deny whether Birchwood was being sold. Hester said no transaction of a sale of Birchwood has been finalized and that business at the country club is going on as normal. According to a local official, Birchwood’s membership has dropped significantly over the years. 

“We’re in the process of trying to resolve everything and it will take some time before things work themselves out,” Hester said.

Randy Davis, general manager and golf professional at Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount, said rumors that Northgreen is closing aren’t true. Davis said Northgreen’s course and property is currently listed for sale for $1.3 million.

He added Northgreen, which was established in 1974, has been owned and operated by Jim McCumber for almost 10 years. But McCumber’s Northgreen Ventures in Jacksonville, Fla., which financed the purchase of the club, was forced to foreclose on it in 2016.

“Our owners are involved in other ventures and simply do not want to own a golf course 500 miles away,” Davis said. “We would love to have a local individual or group of individuals purchase the course and re-invest in it.”

Davis said that golf has had its challenges in the region during the past 10 years. Hickory Meadows golf course in Whitakers shut down in 2012, and the owner of the 56-year-old Happy Valley golf course in Wilson announced that it will be closing at the end of the golf season this year, he said.

Davis said Northgreen has been struggling for the past few years, trying to get the golf course back in shape — however, times have been tough with a weak demand in the market and competition from other courses. He said the downward trend in the golf business is just as much of a national issue as it is locally.

“Golf used to be booming, but there’s just not that many people to support that many golf courses,” he said. “It’s almost survival of the fittest, and we’re trying to hang on as long as we can. Benvenue Country Club has been around for years and it’s well-established, and Belmont Lake Preserve is like the new kid on the block. It’s a nice place to go and play. We’re more blue-collar and third in the pecking order.”

The Northgreen golf course is known for its history, with 10 Atlantic Coast Conference championships played there in the 1980s and 1990s that featured several golfers who became well-known on the professional ranks, Davis said.

“We have a good golf course,” Davis said. “It just needs a helping hand so we can get back into the game or the status I would like to see it be again.”

Davis said a positive that has happened at Northgreen is a membership drive last year brought in 1,600 members. Another asset, Davis said, is Northgreen’s banquet room, which he acknowledged is a little dated but can handle up to 350 people for an event, still is in great shape. 

“I literally get five calls a week from people who want to have a function here,” Davis said.

With the prospects of continued economic growth in the Twin Counties, Davis said he believes operations at Northgreen can return to sustainable business levels.

“I think this a good time with the local economy with new businesses coming into the Rocky Mount,” Davis said. “CSX is back on the hook again and you have Triangle Tire and Corning that are going to be bringing a lot of jobs. I’m sure a few of them are going to play golf.”