RINER — Three years after being put up for auction, the Auburn Hills Golf Club property could again be under new ownership.
Danny Thompson, who owns the club with his wife, Martha, recently announced plans to auction off the property on Sept. 6 — unless various members of the community who want to keep the place a golf course pledge to buy at least 98 of the 140 shares in the property.
Thompson, who plans to hold on to the remaining 42 shares, said each share will cost $10,000.
Thompson said he’ll turn over management of the property to a board of directors if the share sales result in him owning less than 10% of the total shares.
The sale of the shares would ensure the course is debt free and can remain a golf club, Thompson said. He said he promises that the course, under his direction, won’t operate at a debt of more than $100,000.
The course hasn’t been losing revenue and memberships since he bought it, Thompson said. The challenge has been paying off debt on the property while also continuing to make necessary capital improvements, he said.
“I want to keep it a golf course, if there’s any way possible,” he said.
The course currently has 170 golf and 100 pool memberships, according to information provided by the club. Additionally, roughly 30 homeowners in the Auburn Hills golf community have a golf or pool membership.
In contrast, the club had 150 golf and 70 pool memberships in 2016 when the Thompsons bought the property for $744,242.
The Thompsons have also been paying $109,000 a year toward a note on the course, according to information from the club.
The potential auction of the property comes amid challenging times for golf clubs nationwide.
“It’s a golf business,” Thompson said. “You’ll find out, industrywide, it’s declining.”
In the U.S. and Canada, course closings have steadily outpaced openings, according to the latest edition of Golf Around the World, a widely cited report on the health of the golfing business.
While the U.S. continues to have the most courses in the world — 16,752 — the number of new courses that opened in 2018 was sharply down from preceding years, according to Golf Around the World.
Fifteen new courses opened in 2018, down from between 26 and 32 a year from 2014 to 2017, according to the report.
Courses have also been closing in Southwest Virginia.
The old Christiansburg-based Meadows Golf and Swim Club property, which was put up for auction in 2017, is set to be converted into a residential development by the owners of the Shelor Motor Mile dealership.
The Pulaski Country Club was sold at a foreclosure auction in May 2017, after racking up about $1 million in debt. The owners of that club said at the time that Pulaski County’s shifting economy contributed to the decline.
The Thompsons bought the Auburn Hills course under a firm called Tee Up LLC.
Thompson, however, first got involved in the course’s ownership in 2013 when he and Phillip Nolen — under a firm called Fore LLC — bought the course for $1 million.
Prior to that partnership, the course was under another company headed by John Sutherland.
Details on the course’s ownership and sale prices over the years can be found in Montgomery County deed records.