Royal Oaks Golf Course on verge of closure
By Robert Norris | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The owners of Royal Oaks Golf Course are on the verge of making a decision to close the course.
Gary Roberts, a shareholder of New Royal Oaks LLC, said the ownership group will meet Oct. 8 to decide how to cut their financial losses.
Unless a buyer for the course comes forward or a decision is made by the property owners of the Royal Oaks community that would reverse the losses, Roberts said he anticipates the course will be closed.
“If we don’t find a buyer, we will have to close,” Roberts said. “This is not happening just at Royal Oaks. Twenty-five courses have closed at Myrtle Beach in the last five years.”
Closure of the course at the end of the golfing season, when the grass is dormant, would allow the current ownership several months to attempt to sell the course while it still could be maintained in a reasonable condition to be reopened as a course, according to Roberts.
Roberts gave two reasons for the lack of financial success for Royal Oaks: the economy and the lack of support by the residents of the Royal Oaks community. He said only 12 to 15 of the more than 400 Royal Oaks property owners are members of the golf club.
“They’ve had a lot of warning. ... At the last three (annual) ownership board meetings, this has been discussed,” Roberts said. “What they’ve heard every year is that we need financial support from the community in order to continue this. It’s like it fell on deaf ears.”
Joe Soutullo has heard it. He is a golfer and president of the Royal Oaks Property Owners Association Board of Directors.
“Every year it’s the same thing: We don’t make any money; we’re going to close. But this time it seems more real,” Soutullo said.
“It’s in our best interest that the golf course not close. But at the same time the homeowners association doesn’t have enough money to say, OK, we’ll buy it.”
Soutullo said he has not been told the course will be closed, but there are rumors among residents who heard from golf course employees that plans are being made for Royal Oaks to shut down Nov. 1.
No decision made
Roberts said that decision has not been made, but he acknowledged management was preparing for an orderly closure, in case that happens.
Soutullo said that even if the homeowners association had the money to save the course, it could not keep it from closing by Nov. 1. It takes a two-thirds vote of the community to pass any effective measure, and the voting process takes two months.
“I’m waiting to Oct. 8 to make a final decision. To me right now, everything is rumors,” he said. “To me, it’s wide open what will happen.”
Over the years, the homeowners and the golf course management have had issues that remain unresolved to the satisfaction of the residents, including the current issue of stormwater drainage and ownership of the drain pipes.
“It’s a whole long list of issues that go back 10 to 12 years,” Soutullo said.
Including this one: “Just because you live in Royal Oaks subdivision doesn’t mean you have any break on membership fees.”
Soutullo and Roberts both agree that closure of the course would hurt property values. Other options, such as turning the course into walking trails, children’s play areas and dog trails, would be on the table if the course closes, according to Roberts.
Golfers like course
Joe Gribble and Phil Merritt hope that doesn’t happen. Both were playing the course Monday.
“I’ve been playing down here since it opened,” Merritt said. “I’m hoping they don’t close it, but I don’t see the profit.”
Gribble has golfed at Royal Oaks before it was Royal Oaks.
“I’ve been playing this course since it was the old Wallace Hills back in the day.”
Roberts said he believes new ownership could turn things around at Royal Oaks.
“The concept can still work for someone. It’s a great community. A lot of great people live there. But there needs to be a common ground between the ownership and the people who live there. We’ve not been able to do that.”
In December, a another Blount County golf course, the Golf Club on Lee Shirley Road, failed to sell at auction as an 18-hole course. It was auctioned off as residential lots. Pine Lakes Golf Course on Singleton Station Road is in the path of the proposed Alcoa bypass highway.