Bill Cook has been living on the No. 6 tee of the Crooked Creek Golf Club for the past 12 years, and his view isn’t getting any greener.
Crooked Creek, which has been operating for 20 years, has decided to sell. Tony Withers, one of the owners of the club, said the economics of keeping the course are getting worse and worse.
“It’s just economically a losing proposition,” he said. “Our exit strategy was for it to be a neighborhood, but I never thought it would be in my lifetime.”
Crooked Creek opened in December 1993 and covers 160 acres. It plans on selling to a single-family or multifamily residential developer, and the decision has been met with frustration by some members of the community.
“There are 538 homeowners out there that will be hurt financially by the sale of this golf course,” Cook said. “We don’t want the golf course torn up. I would rather see weeds grow up than see a house put in.”
Because of regulations within the town, only 40 percent of the 160 acres would be developed into roads and houses. The rest would be open space.
“As we get someone on board, we can meet with the residents and show them what’s happening,” said Sam Ravenel, a partner at Crooked Creek. “It won’t make everybody happy, but they’ll know what to look forward to.”
The community discovered the club was closing this March.
Homes within the community are all custom built and held to a certain architectural standard according to the 1993 covenant created by the golf course ownership and signed by Withers.
Greg Buscher, president of the homeowners association, said the community will work with the developer to ensure cohesion in the neighborhood.
“The neighborhood’s anxiety is more about the unknown site plan of what will be developed and how it will affect the community and property,” he said. “The Crooked Creek Association is united to do whatever it takes to protect its interest.”
Cook expressed similar sentiment. “There’s not going to be anyone happy seeing a developer come in with bulldozers,” he said.
When the community began in 1993, Residential-30 District zoning was applied, meaning the area was intended to accommodate low-density residential development. Within R-30, most lots contain around 30,000 square feet of land, around 0.69 acre.
“As a community, we know the land is unique, and we truly want to work with the developer to enhance this community and ensure cohesiveness for the neighborhood,” Buscher said.
In larger subdivisions, like Crooked Creek, paying a premium on property can usually run $25,000 to $75,000 depending on the type of location, according to Mike Pratt, Realtor at Wake County Golf Homes. Most homes in Crooked Creek are priced between $200,000 to $600,000.
“For those who bought property early on and possibly paid a premium for their location, they’re going to be impaired,” he said. “If your lot backs up to the 18th hole with a tremendous view and over time it becomes part of nature, it’s certainly not going to carry the same value.”
Because Crooked Creek is a public course, the community doesn’t have to make a payment toward the club’s upkeep.
“They certainly used it for visual enjoyment, jogging and walking dogs,” Withers said. “We’ve accommodated that, but we didn’t charge. We tried to be, and have been, a good neighbor to everybody.
Buscher and Kevin Hilt, vice president of the HOA, said they tried to make arrangements to help the club when they were notified of its financial troubles by increasing community membership dues.
“We could have worked out a situation at the time,” Buscher said. “They said, ‘You guys can’t afford what we’re looking for.’ There was nothing precluding them to negotiate.”
Withers said competition from other courses and fewer people playing golf has contributed to his decision.
“They want to claim there’s more competition,” Hilt said. “Yes, that’s correct, but the population has gone up. Courses can be very successful in the area, especially with Crooked Creek being a public course.”
Managers of other golf courses in the community say business has stabilized.
Robbie Glad, general manager of Raleigh’s Wil~Mar Golf Club, said Wil~Mar relies on its public play because it is semi-private.
“Membership went down in mid-2000s around 30 percent, but we’ve picked it back up in the last three or four years, which is promising,” he said.
At Hedingham Golf Club in Raleigh, area manager Tad Wood says business has been steady.
“We had a tough winter, but business has been good in the last year,” he said.
Hilt said little maintenance has been done for Crooked Creek to compete with other courses.
“A business today like the golf course has to be dynamic and progressive in order to compete, and if you are not, then you are going backwards,” he said. “Their dream of having a golf course has been replaced with the vision of big money.”
Negotiations are under way, but the golf course is not under contract, and it will remain open at least through this year.