The Richmond Pines Country Club on U.S. Highway 1 in Rockingham will soon no longer be a golf course.
Craig McNeill, of McNeill & Associates Realty Company of Rockingham, purchased the property in January, after a drop off in funding and clientele forced it into foreclosure.
In January, McNeill said his goal for the property was to restore the facilities — the country club, the pro-shop and the pool and pool facilities — in order to make them available for the public; for weddings, birthdays, reunions, retreats and meetings. Years of neglect have left the floors rotting, the landscaping overgrown, the tennis courts cracked and sinking and the pool and pool house in disrepair.
“My focus right now is the club house,” McNeill said this week. “Not the golf course.”
McNeill said he bought the property for its real estate value. He said, after due diligence, he found that the golf course would take more money to restore and maintain than it would create in revenue. He said the clientele draw is not what it used to be. In an attempt to adapt to the situation, McNeill is exploring other options for the land.
“Golf courses everywhere are in trouble. Several have closed in Moore County as well,” he said.
McNeill’s plan is to keep the acreage closest to the club house, and divide the property on the outskirts into 5-acre lots to be sold for residential development.
“It will be restricted like Pine Lakes,” he said. “That will increase the property taxes coming into the county.”
McNeill said he has asked neighboring property owners if they would like to have the first option to purchase the lots once they are subdivided.
David Wells said he lives on Fairway Drive in Pine Lakes, and his lot backs up to the golf course. McNeill informed Wells of his decision for the property. Wells is not happy with the idea of the golf course being carved up for residential lots.
“I think it ought to be a golf course and a country club,” said Wells. “It’s a jewel. It’s a crying shame. I don’t understand why local politicians don’t get behind the golf course.”
Wells said physicians who look to relocate to Richmond County not only ask about schools and crime rates, but also where they will play golf. Wells said he and his friends who play golf together have been going to other golf courses in surrounding counties. He believes that, if the golf course was maintained, it would draw the amount of clientele needed to fund the upkeep.
“The golf course maintains the country club,” said Wells. “(Other golfers) would drive here. They love diversity. It would be a multi-county draw.”
Wells said it was a lack of membership and poor management that ultimately drove the golf course into the ground.
Former country club board member William Reynolds agreed.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” said Reynolds. “I was a member of the country club from 1960 until four years ago. We have a group of about 26 golfers and we take our $525 plus food and beverages to Scotts Meadows in Laurinburg, they have a nice facility out there. It’s a shame that we can’t keep our money at home. I have been on the board and the swimming pool has never been profitable. And the small amount of people who will rent the club house for parties won’t be enough (to maintain the property).”
Reynolds said he believes that without golf, the country club won’t be able to maintain itself.
McNeill said he looks forward to selling lots for spacious country upscale living, while Wells and Reynolds said they are sad to see a golf course designed in part by Donald Ross disappear, and wonder how McNeill will sell lots in a fragile economy.
“Once it’s done, it can never be undone,” said Reynolds.
“It’s a shame for all of us — it’s a shame for the county,” said Wells.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.