Troubled golf course calls it quits

A long-struggling local golf course closed for business in recent weeks as the future of its real estate – much of which is prime riverfront property – is weighed for potential redevelopment.

River’s Bend Golf Club’s closure came after a slow but steady decline that included its carts getting repossessed, its irrigation system getting cut off, its greens dried out and cracked and its fairways overtaken by weeds and high grasses.

The exact date of the closure could not be determined. The club’s phone is no longer in service and owner Ronnie Kelley did not return messages this month. Messages sent to Kelley’s River’s Bend email address bounced back.

The course was still technically open for golfers as recently as May. Kelley said at the time that golfers still passed through every so often and he’d sell them a round to the course for $10.

Kelley said the greens dried up last summer when he wasn't able to maintain the irrigation system.

Kelley said the greens dried up last summer when he wasn’t able to maintain the irrigation system.

Conditions had deteriorated further in recent weeks, according to Esther Lee, president of the River’s Bend Homeowners Association. She said the course had fallen out of compliance with the county’s vegetation ordinance after grass and weeds in some spots had grown higher than 18 inches.

“It certainly was higher than that,” Lee said.

Lee said the county had a meeting earlier this month for River’s Bend homeowners to discuss their concerns about the status of the course.

Lee said PC Amin, a River’s Bend resident who controls the loan secured by the golf course, eventually had someone out to cut the grass.

Amin has been quietly pulling such strings for the course in recent years as he’s weighed his options for its potentially valuable acreage. The golf course’s land is all zoned residential, a designation that’s been in place since it was developed.

Amin has been paying the taxes on the property and has said he is waiting to make his next move – likely to foreclose on the 177 acres – until he knows exactly what he’ll do with the land.

One option on the table is to potentially sell the course’s riverfront property – amounting to about 110 acres – to the Trust for Public Land, a conservation group out of Washington, D.C., that would look to maintain the land as a park. That section of the course sits along the James River across from Henricus Historical Park, making it a strong candidate for conservation.

The second scenario for the riverfront piece is to sell it to a developer who would look to build homes with a view.

The troubles at the River’s Bend course began after the recession when Kelley began to fall behind on bills.

A veteran of the local golf scene, Kelley has owned the River’s Bend course since 2004. Faced with a court-ordered tax auction in 2013, Kelley put the business into bankruptcy and then crafted a plan to have riverfront property placed into a conservation easement, a process that never came to fruition.

Kelley previously lost one of his other courses, Prince George Golf Club, to foreclosure in 2013.

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