Originally created 09/07/00

Jones Creek course sold



A Connecticut-based developer and manager of upscale golf courses has purchased Jones Creek Golf Club for $5.5 million.

Fairways International Clubs LLC bought the 194-acre, semi-public course from Delaware, Md.-based Capitol Golf Group/Blackacre LP in a deal that closed Aug. 15.

Capitol Golf Group had made sweeping changes to the course after acquiring it for $5 million three years ago, but the new owners have no immediate plans to change the course or its staff.

"Other than the Augusta National (Golf Club), Jones Creek is viewed as one of the best courses in the area," said Marc Bergschneider, Fairway International's chief executive officer. ".ƒ.ƒ. For the time being we're going to operate it the way it's been operated."

He said the company's long-term strategy is to invest more capital in maintenance to make the course more attractive and boost membership and, in turn, profitability.

"If anything, we're going to trend more towards private than public," Mr. Bergschneider said.

He said the company also plans to market the course more heavily during Masters Week, historically a profitable time for area golf courses.

Fairway International is the course's fourth owner. The Rees Jones-designed course was developed in 1985 by Bankers First Corp. and was later sold to Crescent Co. of Libertyville, Ill., in 1990.

The course is the centerpiece of the upscale Jones Creek neighborhood, a 520-acre planned residential community that is home to 540 Columbia County households.

Michael Kerner, president of the Jones Creek Owners Association, was unaware the golf club had been sold.

"To be honest with you, this is the first I've heard of it," he said.

Mr. Kerner, who is not a member, said he believes the course has improved with each new owner and that the neighborhood is interested in seeing that trend continue.

"It is a symbiotic relationship," he said. "So we are interested in the ownership of the golf course and how it's managed, mainly because we live in the same community together."

Southport, Conn.-based Fairway International owns courses in New York and Wilmington, N.C., and is developing courses in New Jersey; Boca Grand, Fla.; and North Stonington, Conn., and has plans to build courses in Sedona, Ariz., and St. Andrews, Scotland.

"We're very happy to have purchased Jones Creek, and we want to make it as good as it can be," Mr. Bergschneider said.

Capitol Golf Group, the previous owner, made broad strokes to the course, widening its fairways and lowering the length of its rough. It also changed the course's name to The Club at Jones Creek.

In 1998, the nines were reversed so golf shop employees could monitor play better because the original 10th hole is much closer to the clubhouse than No. 1.

Under the original design, play sometimes backed up because the second hole is a difficult par-3 over water.

The nines were returned to their original order of play last month.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113.