At a time when golf courses are falling into neglect or the path of bulldozers, a group of avid golfers on a rescue mission has bought the West Orange Country Club with the hope of keeping the club open as a golfing venue and return it to a private club.
"The investors in it are basically people who are interested in sprucing it up and fixing it and bringing it back to its former character and trying to make it work as a private course," said Jim Karr, a real estate broker, developer and land buyer at Land Plus and as well as an investor in the group.
The investors bought the club under the name of 3300 West Orange Country Club Drive LLC (the club's address) for $1.27 million on July 15, according to documentary tax stamps on the Orange County transaction.
Since the purchase, Karr said more investors have jumped into the deal and he expects there to be 10 total partners on the project.
"We basically raised the capital to pay off all the debt so we own it free and clear and we have an improvement fund and operating capital set aside," he said.
But the group will not support the course forever if it continues to operate in the red. When it purchased the property, a restrictive covenant was put on the deed that requires the new owners to run it as a golf club for two years and a recreational facility for three years after that.
"At the end of five years, if it's not viable, we will dispose of the assets," he said. "But we want it to succeed."
For Karr, the purchase and hoped-for revitalization of the 48-year-old course is a labor of love. "For me, as a member for 34 years, and a lot of the investors, we want to see it preserved as a golf course."
That will take more than just the current investors, he said.
"We are going to reach out to all former members, potential members, and have events," he said. There are also plans to reach out to the residents who live in the neighborhood around the golf course who might be interested in keeping the open space in their back yards.
"If they really want it to remain a country club they have to pony up," said Karr.
The former owners were losing money as membership continued to fall.
"They finally hit a point where they were going to have to close down the shop," said Karr.
The new owners are making arrangements to take care of a lot of deferred maintenance on the course and club facility, working to get it back in good order. They hired a landscaping company that maintains courses in The Villages and Plantation in Leesburg to spruce up the West Orange club.
"It's a neat place, an old Florida country club," he said.