Community Rallies and Saves Friendliest Golf Course Around
Tuesday, September 29th, 2020
Southbridge Golf Club members and residents of the Southbridge community, facing poor course conditions and potential closure of the Rees Jones designed course that has long been known as one of the premier courses in the Savannah area, have banded together to purchase and operate the course.
A small group of members, led by long-time resident Patrick Graham, formed Southbridge Golf Group and began negotiations with the owner of the course to purchase in early July, 2019. The owner informed the group that it was his intent to close the course at the end of the year if the current leasee did not renew or purchase the club. It was then his determination to put it up for sale as a golf course or development property.
The group realized in order to purchase the club and make the necessary improvements they would need additional funding. This led to the group incorporating as the “Southbridge Savannah Golf Club, Inc.”. A detailed business plan, which addressed the purchase of the course, purchase of new equipment, course improvements, and working capital needed, to make the dream of owning the course and bringing it back to “Premier” condition was created.
An agreement was made with the owner to purchase the course for $1.5 million and an established budget for purchase and improvements was created. Starting in late July, 2019, the group held a series of meetings with the members of the club and residents to outline the situation that they faced and the need for capital funding to make the business plan a success. The group proposed issuing common shares of stock at $5,000 per share with a goal of having members and residents purchasing at least 450 shares. The response from the members and residents was very positive and within eight weeks the group had raised the minimum funding.
After their initial rally, the group put together a management contract with the current lessee at the time and began managing the golf club as of October 1, 2019. The group operated the club from October 1, 2019 until the end of the year using mostly volunteers who performed as pro shop attendants, cart operators, electricians, mechanics, cleaners and landscapers, among other things. Support from the Southbridge Men’s Golf Association, the Southbridge Woman’s Club, and the members and residents was overwhelming.
The minimum funding goal of $2.25 million was met in early December, enabling the purchase to be completed on December 18, 2019. A new Board of Directors was elected by the shareholders who then took office on January 1, 2020.
The new board hired David Wilding as General Manager with over 20 years’ experience and Clark Rookstool as Course Superintendent, with over 15 years in the industry beginning the implementation of the business plan.
“The greens are now back, the Club is on a sound financial footing, membership is starting to come back and we are 100% debt free,” states Patrick Graham, Chairman of the Board and one of the founding shareholders.
The course remained open throughout the entire journey, and to date has sold 480 shares to 280 members and residents.
The board of directors acknowledges the tremendous support from the members and residents; as this could not have been done without them. The future looks very bright for the Southbridge Savannah Golf Club; Savannah’s friendliest golf course. With the golf season upon us, we invite you to come out and see the progress!