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Golf course reopens; members try to protect worth

The Golf Club of California, a private members-only club at the intersection of SR76 and Gird Road, reopened its doors for play on January 10 after a two-month hiatus.

The club, built in 2002 by developer Lyon Homes to accompany the Sycamore Ranch community, closed October 31 after owner and general manager Kay McLaughlin sent an e-mail to members citing she had to close the club because of significant financial issues.

According to Parker Mahnke, a longtime Golf Club member, the club will reopen as a “member-managed club” and will provide a basic level of service for course maintenance and outside services.

The course’s clubhouse will not be open and members’ access will be limited to the course and locker room.

McLaughlin, who will not hold an active managing position with the reopened course, intended to keep the club open for the December holidays for play two days a week and reopen for normal play in February by supporting the club with personal funds, but Mahnke said McLaughlin’s liquid assets are exhausted.

A few of the club’s members decided to generate the necessary cash flow needed to reopen the club, as well as protecting membership worth.

“If the course is abandoned it will decrease significantly in value and likely be acquired by someone who would make it a public course,” explained Mahnke. “This effort is to the benefit of current and resigned members in that they are able to access the course and protect their invested deposits.”

The course’s reopening brought a significant cut in the dues required from each member.

Executive membership fees until the club is fully functional are $500 a month, with unlimited cart usage and locker rent included.

However, in order to access the course, members are expected to be up-to-date financially on their accounts.

But with only 40 members, the Golf Club is short $15,000 out of the $35,000 needed to keep the course running on its bare minimum.

To bridge the monthly deficit, aggressive programs have been proposed, including reduced guest green fees and offering a reduced annual membership program to Sycamore Ranch residents.

“This undertaking is with the understanding the club is in a transition period with likely new investors or ownership,” said Mahnke.

McLaughlin stated she had acquired the interest of several domestic and international investors and is aware that selling the club is an option she must consider.

“It might not be the best solution for me,” said McLaughlin, “but I have to do what is in the best interest of the membership.”

Before any sale can be made, McLaughlin must address several problems that contributed to the course’s shutdown, such as encroachments on land set aside to protect area endangered species by the San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) and on some adjoining land owned by the Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD).

Mahnke said the DPLU could waive pending fines if a remediation plan is in place and hopes negotiations can continue with FUHSD after “some positive public relations.”

McLaughlin said, however, that she is still in the process of negotiating with the DPLU and does not believe she has been treated fairly by FUHSD, as the land had been used by Lyon Homes without any problem.

Anticipated changes to the course may include reducing the putting green, moving cart paths to allow for vegetation growth and eliminating or moving tee boxes on greens.

Some say it would not be likely to impact the course’s play in a significant way.

“The present effort to open the club and increase revenues has been made in the mutual best interests of all,” explained Mahnke. “The present membership effort is to increase revenues to sustain the future viability of the magnificent golf experience we all enjoy.”

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