In 2008, Sandy Khan bought her dream home in the upscale Crickentree neighborhood in Blythewood.
The house is located on the 8th fairway of the Golf Club of South Carolina at Crickentree. Khan enjoyed sitting on her back porch in the mornings, gazing at the manicured fairway and the woods beyond as an occasional golfer came swinging through.
“It’s very peaceful,” said Khan, a Blythewood insurance agent. “It’s quiet. You have birds and animals. It’s just a beautiful sight. It’s priceless.”
But that could change soon.
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Two weeks ago, the national investment firm that holds the loan on the course announced to neighbors in an email that the course had gone bankrupt and foreclosure proceedings had begun. In a public meeting with residents, an attorney for that firm — E-Capital — told neighbors the intent was to subdivide the golf course into small lots and build 450 homes.
“I was disappointed and a little bit angry that all of a sudden houses were going to be behind us,” Kahn said. “I think it’s terrible.”
It might also be costly for the current homeowners.
Last year, 15 homes sold in Crickentree, according to data from the real estate firm The Moore Co. This year, none have sold, although five are on the market.
The firm’s Graeme Moore said northeast Richland County is already a saturated market where resales are competing with new construction, which has limited any substantive increase in values for the vast majority of homeowners.
“It’s classic supply and demand,” he said. “In my opinion, if the golf course tanks, which looks inevitable, and if developers plop down a cheap neighborhood with 400-plus homes in its place, Crickentree the neighborhood is in real trouble.”
That’s a big concern for Khan.
“I feel like people won’t want to move into the neighborhood anymore,” she said. “And as our properties are depreciating, the owners are going to make money on those homes” built on the golf course.
An E-Capital official contacted by The State newspaper declined comment.
Crickentree’s plight is not unique among the 18 courses in Richland and Lexington counties. One other Midlands area golf course recently closed, and others are in danger.
Jessica Chavis, an instructor with the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports and a specialist in golf club management, said the Midlands has too many golf courses, and some are not well-run.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the number of people who play golf; that is actually up,” she said. “What we have is an over-saturation of the market with clubs in general.”
Eventually, the commission plans to link the 4.5 miles of cart paths to the Three Rivers Greenway, a series of river walks in Columbia and Lexington County.
“We’re weeding out the clubs,” USC’s Chavis said. “Clubs that are mismanaged . . . are not going to last for long.”
Terry Sedalik, executive director of the Charleston-based S.C. Golf Course Owners Association, said many golf courses, here and elsewhere, were built not primarily as recreational venues, but rather as amenities for new subdivisions.
“You’ve got that in Columbia for sure,” he said.
Once the subdivisions are built out and all the homes sold, the golf courses can be sold off to investors, Sedalik said.
“So the golf course has to be viable,” he said. “Otherwise, (the investor) is going to ask, ‘What’s my highest and best use of this property.”
‘A good way out’
Kahn said the Crickentree course had not been well-maintained.
“It was neglected,” she said.
But before the company can begin building houses, it first must purchase the property through bankruptcy court, and then get Richland County officials to approve a zoning change from a recreational designation to residential.
As the foreclosure and zoning debate unfolds, Crickentree residents say they are trying to find a way to reopen the course.
Sedalik said that in other neighborhoods, residents have banded together to buy and maintain the courses.
“The homeowners association could take over,” he said. “That would be a good way out.”
For instance, The Members Club at Woodcreek & WildeWood — which comprises two 18-hole courses in northeast Richland County — was sold to club members in 2009. Now the club’s board is re-evaluating that arrangement to try to involve the homeowners associations of the two developments, club sources said.
Kahn said she is hoping to work with other homeowners to find a solution.
“Hopefully, we can work as a team,” she said.