Beacon Ridge is on the auction block.
Golf course broker Hilda W. Allen has the 18 hole course, clubhouse, and other amenities listed on her website with a bid deadline of Thursday, February 4.
Current club owner Don Billings told The Times that he hopes to have a deal closed by March 1, in plenty of time for the new owners to capitalize on the Spring season.
Billings notified the membership of the possible sale in a letter on Tuesday, December 8.
Billings and his wife Rhonda came out of retirement to run the club in 2013, after terminating a lease with Wingfield Properties, which had operated it for the past sixteen years. In his letter, Billings noted that Wingfield was not meeting the terms of the lease and was "continuing to let the club deteriorate."
Since then, the Billing's company, Beacon Ridge Investment Group, has made substantial upgrades, including remodeling portions of the clubhouse; adding a fitness center; reopening the pool; which had been closed by the county Health Department; and bringing on longtime Foxfire Golf manager Howard Cannon to manage day-to-day operations.
Those efforts were dealt a bit of a setback this past Summer, when over-fertilization severely damaged a number of greens. They have since been resodded with bent grass and are well on the way to recovery, Billings said.
The improvements helped reverse a decline in membership. Billings told The Times that the club currently has just under 200 memberships, with the majority of those including couples or families.
"We just felt like we had made an investment in having substantially rehabbed the club, and it holding its own for a couple of years," he said, "but realized that we didn't want to continue with the task of rebuilding it up."
In his letter to the membership, Billings wrote, "Given our ages, it is time for us to retire again." Billings is 81.
The club will continue to operate with no changes as the auction process proceeds. Billings told members that any dues prepaid for 2016 will be held in escrow and withdrawn on a monthly basis until closing, when they will be disbursed to the new owners, who will continue to honor memberships.
Long history with Seven Lakes West
Billings became the developer of Seven Lakes West and the owner of the yet-to-be built Beacon Ridge Country Club in January of 1990.
A corporate attorney, he represented a group of creditors in the bankruptcy proceedings of the Moor Group, which had purchased the assets of the original Seven Lakes development companies Longleaf, Inc. and Peter V. Tufts & Associates in 1984.
Chronically undercapitalized, Moor filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 1986. The bankruptcy court awarded most of the assets — including Seven Lakes West and Beacon Ridge — to the creditors in May of 1987. The creditors asked Billings to manage the development on their behalf.
"Seven Lakes West had thirty miles of road platted and maybe two miles paved," Billings recalled, "and two miles of waterline. We had to get something going."
The plan that Billings submitted to the bankruptcy court would have allowed the creditors to take over Seven Lakes Country Club [SLCC] as well — important to the viability of the offer, because the Club had a positive cash flow.
However, the SLCC membership made a bid to purchase the club and the court agreed, leaving Billings with about $300,000 in capital to get started.
The golf course did not yet exist — just a plan for where it was to go and a single street cut by Moore Group. Billings hired noted designer Gene Hamm to develop the golf course.
A premium course
The 6,494-yard, 18-hole Beacon Ridge Course has bermuda fairways and bent grass greens, a twelve-station driving range, a putting green, and a pitch and sand practice area.
In addition to the new fitness center and recently upgraded swimming pool, facilities include the two-story Mt. Vernon style clubhouse and three Har-Tru tennis courts.
Potential buyers must sign a confidentiality agreement and qualify in order to obtain a bid packet. Once registered they can sign into a special section of the website to access additional information and place bids. Bidders cannot see the identity of other bidders but can discover if their bid has be topped by another bidder.
A property preview date is set for Thursday January 28.
Broker Allen explained that the auction will be conducted online on February 4. She will be onsite for the event.
Allen's website is at www.hildawallen.com. The telephone number is 888-324-5020.