One of the new operators of the nine-hole Pine Brook Golf Club said business at the on-site restaurant and club memberships has picked up since they took over the facility this year from the debt-ridden corporation that had operated it for decades.
Don Blanchard and Jim Esper, owners of Blasper Inc., a landscaping business, leased the golf course from the nonprofit corporation for $1 in April, and opened it to the public for the first time in its 89-year history.
Blasper is operating the golf course through Oct. 31. Under a separate agreement, Blanchard is operating the club’s restaurant under a corporation called Debco.
He closed his longtime restaurant, The Railyard, to focus on the Pine Brook venture.
The golf club did not plan to open this year, citing lack of members and finances. It could not operate the course as a public facility due to deed restrictions.
“Things are going well,” Blanchard said Wednesday. “We are getting the curiosity seekers making day trips over and we are getting the repeat business.”
Since April, 180 people have become members of the club, Blanchard said. The club had 98 members prior to the lease agreement. “There are many people coming here who have never been, as they say, ‘behind the bushes’ at the course,” he said.
The restaurant is also doing well, offering dinner for two for $25, Blanchard said.
He plans to offer a golf season membership starting today that allows a foursome to play the course for $25 apiece, rather than for $32 apiece. The greens fee comes with golf cart included.
The club offered Blanchard the lease as a way to stave off foreclosure on the property by NBT Bank. The club is behind on payments toward a $325,000 loan it took out with the bank in February 2010, and it also owes the Fulton County Economic Development Corp. about $50,000. Both mortgages are secured by the corporation’s primary assets — the golf course and on-site restaurant.
Under the lease agreement, the club remains responsible for paying the mortgage and city taxes but is allowing Blanchard to keep revenues from greens fees, cart rentals and memberships through Oct. 31. The club already had a relationship with Blanchard’s landscaping company, which has maintained the golf course’s greens.
Ultimately, Blanchard said he would like to take over the permanent operation of the restaurant and golf course, but he does not want to own it.
He said he would be willing to pay the mortgage and property taxes, but only if he could reach an agreement with the bank and city over annual payments. He did not say how much he would be willing to pay.
“What I am proposing is if the city would be reasonable with the taxes and NBT would be reasonable about getting their money back, there is no reason for this place to close,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard said the bank recently sent an appraiser to evaluate the facility’s value and that he has had preliminary discussions with the bank about the property.
“If we don’t get the golf course next year, no one will be more disappointed than me. We have put a lot of effort into making this place work,” he said.
“The place has to be open to the public, because private golf courses are dying by the week.”
Should the club close the course, deed covenants indicate the city of Gloversville has right of first refusal in taking it over, but it has to operate it as a public golf course. Next in line is Nathan Littauer Hospital.
The city, however, passed a resolution Tuesday night stating it will not pursue any ownership rights should they become available. “The city is of the opinion that it is not financially capable of operating the golf course in perpetuity at this time,” said City Attorney Anthony Casale. “The city will step aside. Should Pine Brook not save itself, presumably the Nathan Littauer group will assume ownership.”