By Don Coble
CLAY COUNTY – Larry Lunsford nevertheless owns a golf cart, but it doesn’t run. Like all the things else related to Orange Park State Club, it has been scuttled and left to accumulate the filth and decay of indifference and nonuse.
Throughout the county, the ninth fairway at The Ravines Club and Lodge in Middleburg, at the time deemed a person of the most challenging holes in golfing-rich Northeast Florida, is overgrown by weeds. As a substitute of pricy golfing junkets, the training course has been relegated to currently being the overgrown refuse to massive rafters of wild turkeys, herds of deer and a era of carelessness.
As soon as prime resorts, the two classes have been closed for several years, leaving hundreds of homebuyers who purchased into state club dwelling with practically nothing additional than blighted tracts of land – and broken guarantees.
“In its time, it was a location to be. It was a wonderful, good golf program,” Lunsford reported.
The ending arrived so immediately, liquor is nevertheless stacked in the entrance window of the snack shack at the 10th tee. There’s no energy in the stand, but there is an opened suitcase of beer on a counter. The drinks inside of the cooler are covered with mould and rust.
Around the corner from the shack, the 10th tee box marker is hidden amongst the brush. There are no distinguishing features of the 420-yard gap remaining.
The clubhouse is worse. Some of the home windows have been boarded to cover broken glass. Some of the curtains are frayed. And the parking large amount is eerily void of website traffic or problem.
“The previous time I was in the clubhouse, it seemed like the inside of the Titanic,” said former member and homeowner’s association president John McCormack. “There were cobwebs on the partitions eyeglasses were nonetheless 50 percent-comprehensive on the counter. It was quick. It is a disgrace.”
McCormack is so disgruntled with Orange Park’s collapse he’s packing up and transferring to Savannah. He hopes the fairways there are green, the sand is raked and the expenditures are compensated.
Even though Orange Park’s closure seemed to appear without having warning, McCormack reported the demise was predicted.
“We observed it coming in the length,” he reported. “The club was teetering on not staying in good condition a person way or yet another. There was an initiative that was began to try to have obligatory social memberships. It was defeated. At that issue and time, [club owner] Charles Raulerson basically claimed the heck with it. I’m performed.
“By that time, we ended up down to 100 members – and 65 of those people were tennis users. Only 35, like myself, have been golfing members.”
Raulerson marketed the club to James Cost, but he obviously didn’t have the fiscal means to make it do the job. Rate shut on the property in April 2018. Soon after 29 several years, the club shut 11 months afterwards.
“We come to feel cheated,” Lunsford claimed. “Most of the individuals out listed here come to feel the exact way. “When the golf course was offered, it was marketed on the pretense this dude was likely to occur in and he understood how to run a golf course. I guess he had some variety of dealings up north with a nine-gap golfing course. He came down listed here. They quit undertaking weddings and things like that to deliver earnings.
“Then, we experienced two months of weather the place it rained each individual working day. The golfing program obtained saturated. You couldn’t engage in it. They couldn’t mow it or absolutely nothing. It was not having any revenue and it went belly up because they did not have nearly anything in reserve. They manufactured tons of funds again in the times doing weddings. It was a good put to come. They experienced big functions. All of a unexpected, they stopped doing it.”
Lunsford pays his lawn assistance business further to mow beyond his house line to the cart path at the 13th green. He mentioned as lots of as 12 holes are continue to being mowed by residents who nevertheless observe on the fairways.
“But mainly, we really do not want it all developed up behind their house,” Lunsford said.
Lunsford’s disabled golfing cart serves as a reminder of a way of living he utilized to delight in – but now misses.
“I’ve nonetheless got my golfing cart. The battery’s lifeless mainly because I do not use it,” he reported. “As shortly as I moved in, I bought my golf cart. Most of my friends experienced golf carts, too, but a good deal of them have moved out for the reason that of the golf.”
Builders have tried out to change at The Ravines for yrs
The Ravines catered to a mixed clientele. When it relied on the day-to-day enjoy of community users, but it also hosted a continuous stream of golfing junkets by journey teams. Lots of of the bungalows and residences that ended up rented for weekend participate in now are being employed as household condominiums – some inside of a number of yards of what used to be a meticulously groomed fairway carved by means of canyons of mature moss-draped oaks.
Built by Ron Garl and 1988 Players Championship winner Mark McCumber, the Ravines was opened in 1979. The championship-caliber training course shut in 2006 after citizens first refused to agree to social memberships and then fought to maintain two holes together Black Creek to be redesigned to accommodate new house building. It was sold to traders in 2008 for $1.2 million in a foreclosures sale. Tennessee-primarily based Ravines Holding Business won acceptance from the county council to redevelop 102 of 223 acres alongside the Black Creek to construct 154 new households.
For approximately 35 decades, the course was the focus of quite a few public hearings and zoning requests as builders needed to just take gain of its subtle elevation adjustments and pure beauty to establish unique significant-conclusion neighborhoods. Resident outrage played well with county officials, so proprietors Kenneth and Chris DeBusk “threw the keys at the bank and walked away,” according to former members.
When rated as a person of Florida’s top rated-20 courses, The Ravines immediately fell in disarray. And it in no way recovered.
Right now, the clubhouse is hidden powering overgrown trees and a rickety chain-connected fence. The no trespassing signals are rusted and hung haphazardly. Windows are possibly missing or covered with boards.
The clubhouse now appears to be far more like the set from television’s not a classy showcase for elite customers.
The swimming pool space is overgrown, much too. In actuality, the only evidence of the pool is portions of ladders sticking via the thicket.
A padlock and shoulder-substantial weeds continue to keep players away from the tennis courts.
County Commissioners not having into the golfing business enterprise
Orange Park produced a desperate ultimate try to revive the club and its facilities when it questioned the Board of County Commissioners to acquire the assets less than a few months right after the doors closed.
The commission voted 4-1 in opposition to it.
Commissioner Wayne Bolla, whose district includes Orange Park County Club, proposed a $7,500 feasibility review to invest in the club. The movement died when no person else seconded the motion.
“We are not a county that can subsidize losses,” stated Chairman Mike Cella. “We’re not significant-powered investors below. We really do not have cash funds to devote.”
Commissioner Gayward Hendry agreed, indicating, “This is a heartbreaking scenario. I can’t justify in my very own thoughts expending income to make this device entire when we have got so numerous other items in the county that the citizens are seeking at us to give.”
People blocked social memberships that may possibly have saved the two golf equipment
Both of those golf equipment tried out unsuccessfully to develop social memberships for all people. That would deliver equally with the needed cash flow that is important to maintaining a study course and clubhouse operational. Residents at the Ravines and Orange Park turned down the plans. In equally conditions, it was the trigger that led to the golfing system and tennis courts remaining shut down.
McCormack claimed 3 yrs in the past residents seemingly weren’t intrigued in conserving the club.
“They needed to sell social memberships,” he reported. “Even if it was $20 a dwelling, with 1,100 households in the entrance and back [of the community], that is a large amount of funds that could have designed the change. Absolutely everyone would have benefited.”
The Ravines and Orange Park adopted the similar path as several other golfing communities. The Countrywide Golf Foundation stated a lot more than 400 programs went defunct in 2016 and 2017. The region when experienced as many as 15,000 classes, but that range has dwindled to about 1,250.
The motive for most is a deficiency of dollars movement and the eagerness of developers to build houses and professional properties.
The Ravines and Orange Park plainly fell into the cash move lure.
Due to the fact there’s so a lot do the job to be finished and much too many undesirable reminiscences, McCormack does not have substantially hope the golf study course will re-open up. He thinks parts will be offered off for new housing and eco-friendly spaces.
“It’s a disgrace because golfing is booming, primarily with COVID,” Lunsford mentioned. “You go to the other classes – we enjoy at Eagle Landing and Eagle Harbor now – and they’ve lifted their selling prices because they can get it.”