Phoenix Lake Golf Course, the nine-hole, 2,700-yard course that opened in 1968, will cease operations Oct. 1 and the debt-free facility remains for sale, the owner said Thursday in a phone interview.
“I’ve had the golf course 12 years, I’m getting older, and it’s time to move on,” said Karen McKee, speaking for PLGC Partners. PLGC Partners are Karen L. McKee, her daughter Michelle M. McKee, and Karen McKee’s boyfriend, Ruben Flores, the course superintendent since 2002.
Recent infrastructure failures at the course have included more than 10 main water line breaks in the past few weeks, PLGC partners said in a letter dated Aug. 21 addressed to annual pass holders, the PLGC Men’s Club, the Phoenix Lake Ladies Golf Club, and the public.
Phoenix Lake Golf Course has about 40 annual pass holders, Karen McKee said. She said she’s had the course for sale for the past year for $1.8 million or $1.5 million with conditions.
She said the club was not able to open for a time in February and March because of snow on the course.
“We’re typically open year round,” she said.
This past winter brought multiple low-snow events, with snowfall sticking in downtown Sonora on at least three occasions, rain-and-hail flooding and a sinkhole opening up in a parking lot in downtown Sonora in March, as well as late-spring precipitation that included nearly 10 inches of rain -- and snow at some foothill locations -- in the month of May.
Annual pass holders will receive prorated refunds, PLGC Partners said in the Aug. 21 letter.
“As of right now Ruben will maintain the greens and I’ll maintain the fairways,” Karen McKee said. “My goal is to sell it as a golf course. I expect that to go for six months. At that point, we may open up, we may sell, or we may shut down.”
Karen McKee said her preference is to keep it as an active golf course. If somebody buys the course, it will be the new owner’s choice whether to keep the property open as a golf course, she said, emphasizing, “If somebody buys that’s their option.”
Karen McKee said she and her partners purchased Phoenix Lake Golf Course for $1.6 million and another $500,000 for the business in 2007, and they invested another $500,000 in improvements to remodel the pro shop, pave the golf cart paths and repave the parking lot, and resod the tee boxes. Karen McKee said they have about $2.5 million altogether wrapped up in Phoenix Lake Golf Course.
“I’d also look at a lease-to-sell arrangement over the course of 10 to 20 years,” Karen McKee said. “I really hope that it remains a golf course and that somebody decides that’s something they want to do.”
PLGC Partners have operated Phoenix Lake Golf Course since 2007. The course was designed and opened in 1968 by Bert Stamp.
Jeff Christensen, president and founder of Sierra Golf Management Inc., based in Chowchilla, used to manage Phoenix Lake Golf Course, in the late 1990s, before the McKees and Flores bought it in 2007.
“We took it up in December of 1994-95,” Christensen said Thursday in a phone interview. “I had it about five years. That was a heyday of golf then. Everyone was thriving. There were a lot of courses. I think Sierra Pines was still open then.”
Christensen, of Twain Harte, has lived in Tuolumne County since 1994 and he’s been affiliated with the Professional Golfers’ Association since 1984. He said Thursday he was both surprised and not surprised to hear the current Phoenix Lake Golf Course owners will cease operation.
“Golf in California and the U.S. is in decline,” Christensen said. “It’s not something we like to see. That’s a nice little facility. All I can tell you is golf is a declining sport and we’re seeing the mortality of a lot of golf courses that might not weather the change in golf. That person who was 45 and playing golf is 70-plus now, and the game’s gotten too time-consuming.”
Christensen and Sierra Golf Management have been contracted by the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians to operate Teleli Golf Club, formerly known as Mountain Springs Golf Course, which reopened in May. The 18-hole course off Lime Kiln Road was closed the first four months of this year before the tribe bought it.
Asked how business has been at Teleli Golf Club since rebranding and reopening earlier this year, Christensen said, “We’ve had really good solid months. We’re getting really strong support there. Our goal is to continue to provide a good product and people will come. You gotta do it right. We’re getting some pretty good bang for the buck.”
Asked if the recent success at Teleli Golf Club he described had anything to do with the decision to close Phoenix Lake Golf Club, Christensen said, “They have a really loyal little group there. Regardless of the surge or decline of the previous Mountain Springs, they had a really strong core there. People who like Phoenix Lake like Phoenix Lake.”
The announcement puts the Summerville High School girls golf team under pressure to reschedule their final three matches of the current season, Karen McKee said
They played their first match of the current season Thursday at Phoenix Lake Golf Course, Karen McKee said.
Back in the first four months of this year, while Mountain Springs was closed and before it was sold and rebranded as Teleli, Phoenix Lake Golf Course hosted both the Summerville boys golf team and the Sonora boys golf team, Karen McKee said. Mountain Springs, now Teleli, is the home course for three local high school golf programs: Summerville boys, Sonora boys, and Sonora girls. The girls golf season is each fall and the boys golf season is each spring.
For the past five years, Phoenix Lake Golf Course has allowed all local high school golf team members to play and practice free, Karen McKee said. Also for the past five years, Phoenix Lake Golf Course has hosted Special Olympics golf athletes to learn, practice, and play golf before traveling to Special Olympics competitions.
In addition, since 2015, Phoenix Lake Golf Course has been the First Tee venue for First Tee of Central Valley based in Modesto. First Tee is a national youth development organization intended to introduce kids and teens to the game of golf and its inherent values.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.