After sale falls through, could another Columbia golf course be foreclosed?

The sale of the former The Windermere Club golf course near Blythewood is off, and the owner of the course, now know as Blythewood Country Club, is seeking new investors.

The cratered deal has some northeast Richland residents, including Blythewood Mayor Mike Ross, fearing another Crickentree situation — a club going into foreclosure and being swept up by an investor who will close it and build homes on it.

Last week, Richland County Council gave final approval to a plan to develop the former Golf Club of South Carolina adjacent to the Crickentree neighborhood near Lake Carolina after a compromise that resulted in fewer than 200 homes being built on the 183-acre property.

The new homes would erode the property values of homes adjoining the course and further jam the northeast Richland County’s roads, schools and other services.

“It scares me to death that what we saw happen to Crickentree would happen to these other golf courses, and all of a sudden we have many more homes developed in the northeast,” he said. ”My concerns are great that (golf courses) would go into foreclosure and Richland County Council would vote to allow more homes.”

Snellville, Ga., group L&J Acquisitions had expressed interest in buying the course, which like many golf courses, is struggling. In August L&J Acquisitions signed a management agreement with the course, but pulled out after a month and defaulted on the agreement, Windermere owner John Bakhaus charged.

Bakhaus is preparing a legal action against the firm, he said. The State has reached out to L&J.

Now Bakhaus is looking for other investors to step up.

“We’ve talked to a number of people,” he said. “We would like to see some local people who want to see this unique course kept alive and be great.”

The course was design by the legendary Pete Dye, Bakhaus is making improvements to the course to try to boost its use.

Greens on the first nine holes were upgraded from bent grass to ultra-dwarf Bermuda, which is more compatible with Columbia’s scorching summers, six months ago. The second nine opened with new greens Friday.

“That’s the same grass they have at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, where they play the Wells Fargo Championship,” new general manage Fred Layman said

Layman added that the fairways are now weed-free and work has begun on the bunkers.

“We have a new plan and we’re going to be better stewards,” he said.

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Bakhaus hopes the re-branding and changes to the country club, which also boasts a full service restaurant, Olympic pool and 12-court indoor-outdoor tennis center, will turn the finances around.

He noted that most golf courses are struggling with more than 1,000 closing nationally this year.

Avid golfers “are aging out and young people are not picking up the game,” he said.

But foreclosure is a fear, he said. And if a developer wanted to buy it, close it and build houses, Bakhaus would have to consider the option, he said.

“But we are fighting to keep it as a golf course,” he said. “That’s kind of a last resort.”

Jeff Wilkinson has worked for The State for both too long and not long enough. He’s covered politics, city government, history, business, the military, marijuana and the Iraq War. Jeff knows the weird, wonderful and untold secrets of South Carolina. Buy him a shot and he’ll tell you all about them.