King’s Grant Golf and Country Club may close at the end of August.
Methodist University, which owns 51% of the course of Ramsey Street, sent members a letter dated last week, Monday, Aug. 1, stating its intent to end an operating agreement with a company that leases the course.
The leadership of Methodist University will be meeting soon to discuss future actions with respect to its 51 percent interest in the King’s Grant Golf Course,” said the letter from university President Ben Hancock. “There are no plans for Methodist University to operate the golf course beyond the end of August.”
A company owned by Mike Monk, a longtime King’s Grant general manager, has leased the course from Methodist since Deb. 1. He said Friday that his company,Two Putt Golf Management, is trying to negotiate with Methodist to keep the course operating.
“I still think there is hope in the final hour, if you will,” Monk said. “We are not going to quit fighting until Aug. 31. If on Aug. 31 we don’t have a resolution, then we will be done.
“We are just too far along with this…to just let it go.”
Monk said the course has made money since he took over the lease agreement, and many improvements have been made.
But Hncock’s letter did not sound encouraging for King’s Grant, which is surrounded by 450 home with an average tax value of $318,000. Hancock wrote that Methodist had been negotiating with prospective buyers for 150 days.
“We wanted to provide these prospective buyers wit every opportunity to complete the purchase, but learned late last week that their offer had been withdrawn,” Hancock wrote.
Among those prospective buyers ws a group that includes Chris Blanton and Gary Robinson of Fayetteville.
Blanton, who was critical of how Methodist has managed the course over the years, said the group couldn’t reach an agreement because of a dispute over 10 acres and problems with a lake dam that the state has labeled high-risk of failure.
Blinton said the dam could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. The 10 acres that had been in dispute is owned by a group hat includes Chris Manning, one of the originak developers who helped lead Methodist to buy King’s Grant.
The driving range and part of the maintenance shed and clubhouse sit on the 10 acres. Manning’s group was allowed King’s Grant to use the property, but someone other than Manning would not agreet to sell it, Blanton said.
Blanton said he still hopes his group “can pull a rabbit out of the hat” and buy the course from Methodist.
But in his letter, Hancock wrote that Methodist’s trustrees agreed nearly two years ago that the university should no longer operate King’s Grant at a loss and should either sell its interest or enter into a long-term agreement with a management company to end the shortfall.
Methodist spokeswoman Sandy Ammons said Fruday “the university’s decision to cease operating King’s Grant Golf Course was not an easy one, but represents the best interests of the university and its financial well-being.”
Methodist bought the majority interest in the course in 2007. The course sold for $2.9 million.
Methodist’s main intent was to woo even more students to its acclaimed golf management program. But that never materialized, largely because of a rule change limiting the number of students in the program, a decline in Golf’s popularity and an increase om similar programs throughout the country.
Originally, King’s Grant members – the 49 percenters, as they call themselves – were excited about Methodist taking over the course. They thought they would see improvements, including a new clubhouse.
That never happened. Members say the course has deteriorated since Methodist stepped in. A leasing company from South Carolina took over the management of the course., but members say it didn’t fare any better at keeping the course in good shape.
Then, in February, Methodist entered into a leasing agreement with Monk.
Fayetteville Councilwoman Kathy Jensen, a 20-year resident of King’s Grant, said Monk has greatly improved the course this year.
“We are all just kind of in shock,” Jensen said.
In his letter, Hancock said the agreement with Monk was never intended to be long-term.
“We were willing to operate at a loss for these past six months because of negotiations underway for a sale and to maintain operations as long as feasibly possible for King’s Grant community,” Hancock wrote.
Blanton said he doesn’t understand why Methodist would let the course close. The university would continue to lose money, he said, and King’s Grant would lose even more value if membership disappears and the course goes to seed.
Monk agree. He said King’s Grant is making money, though most of it is being plowed back into improvements, including thousands spent on cart paths, drainage and the pool.
“The course is vastly better off since Feb. 1 than it has been in the last 10 years,” Monk said. “That’s a fact.”
Blanton, a King’s Grant member, didn’t try to hide his frustration with the university. He said Methodist could have sold the course last summer, when it was asking $1.4 million and had legitimate offers.
“They have made so many bad business decisions,” Blanton said.