Almost four years after it went into foreclosure, a Chesterfield County golf course is getting a second wind.
The new owners of the Westham Golf Club, created as part of the once-troubled Magnolia Green development off Hull Street Road in Moseley, are planning a $7 million upgrade that will finally take the course from nine holes to 18.
The move is one of the first signs of optimism in the local golf course scene since the recession forced several courses into bankruptcy, foreclosure or fire sales.
With its multimillion-dollar makeover, which will include re-ordering some of course’s current holes, Westham will also get a $2.5 million clubhouse and a driving range. Construction should begin on the course next spring with a targeted completion date of spring 2015.
“There was never a doubt in my mind [the owners] would finish,” said Bobby Kidder, general manager at Westham. “It was just as to when to pull the trigger.”
The course’s fate was tied to that of Magnolia Green. The massive development just west of 288 is zoned for up to 3,500 homes, but, like many suburban housing projects, it stalled during the recession.
iStar Financial, a publicly traded REIT, was the original lender on Magnolia Green. It foreclosed on the property in 2009 after a $96 million loan went into default and before the first nine holes at Westham were completed. iStar opened the course for play in summer 2010.
Sales of residential lots have picked up at the development over the past couple of years, said Jan Cooper, a vice president at iStar Financial, and completion of Westham’s golf course is a major step forward.
“It was a big decision for us,” Cooper said. “We started running the numbers and felt like this was going to be in the best interest of iStar in order to maximize the value of the community and in the best interest of the residents.”
About 100 single-family lots were sold to builders last year, Cooper said, and the company put 40 more lots under contract in the first quarter. Ryan Homes, HHHunt, Craftmaster Homes and Royal Dominion Homes are building at the site.
“We don’t like to talk about it as a foreclosed community anymore,” Cooper said. “It’s not what we considered a bad asset – just that the borrower got caught up in the bad timing of the economic downturn.”
Since taking over, iStar has tweaked the development’s plan.
“It was designed to be more of a higher-end golf course, country club community,” Cooper said. “We’ve realized that’s probably not the best position for that community right now. I’m not going to be able to sell 40 half-a-million homes in one quarter.”
Instead, they are diversifying, with townhouses in the $200,000 range and larger properties in the neighborhood of $400,000.
There are 290 homes occupied in the development, with another 30 under construction, said Tom Page, a vice president at iStar who is overseeing Magnolia Green.
The company is aiming for 160 lot sales this year, he said.
The Westham course is run by Billy Casper Golf, a course management firm out of Northern Virginia. Westham’s new nine holes – just like its first nine – will be designed by Nicklaus Design, a course architecture firm founded by golf legend Jack Nicklaus.
The semi-private club has 49 members, said Kidder, the course’s GM.
“They are probably more excited than I am” about the new additions, he said.
As a full 18-hole course, Kidder said the club has a goal of reaching 250 to 300 members.
Kidder wouldn’t share revenue figures for the course but said about 15,000 rounds of golf were played there last year. That’s up about 1,500 from 2011.
Morning rates run just under $40 for a round and jump to about $50 on the weekends.
The course will remain semi-private once it has its full 18 holes, Kidder said.