E.A. Sports Today

Indian Oaks to close

Sources indicate increased business pressures forcing new operators to shut down

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

“Unless something major happens” in the next 72 hours, Indian Oaks Country Club apparently will cease operations for the first time in 46 years Friday, some four months after Lewis Roberts took control of the property in hopes of returning the club to its former heyday.

Multiple sources have cited increased business pressures on the new owners for the decision. The source said the course recently had to turn back delivery on an order for 30 new golf carts to the manufacturer and the 12-person staff was released Monday.

“I guess Friday is going to be it,” director of golf Ron McClellan said. “I hate it for Lewis. I’ve never met a person who cared any more than he does; I told him that several times. I said I never worked for a person who cared that much. It just took me by surprise.”

Roberts had no comment on the report “at this time.” He did say, however, “I’d like to keep it open.”

The course posted this on its Facebook page late Tuesday afternoon: “It is with a heavy heart we say this … We will be closed until further notice. … Our endeavor just didn’t work out.”

Roberts took over the operation of the course under a 10-year lease-to-purchase agreement from Jere Mason Sr., whose family ran the facility since 1997. If the deal fell through, the property would revert to the Mason family corporation, Jere’s Inc.

Roberts did purchase the maintenance equipment at the time of the lease. Mason said he would help broker its sale.

Mason said Roberts currently is not late on any payment, so any shuttering would not be a foreclosure, but after Oct. 20 he has the option to take back the property. He isn’t immediately certainly what that would mean for the future of the golf course.

“To be frank I don’t have a plan yet; I have heard they are going to close the course Friday,” Mason said. “I have no idea what I’m going to do yet. As far as I know, he may have some investors coming to buy the property. If it comes back to me, I would hope we would find somebody to buy it and open it up.”

The purchase of Indian Oaks was the first venture into the golf business for Roberts, a service technician for Cable One and a local sports official, although he has been a long-time player of the game. He honed his game on the Willard C. Byrd-designed course, his late father-in-law William Warren McCullars was a charter member and former chairman of the club’s board, and he even designed the cart path on the 16th hole.

He estimated it would take a reinvestment of $1.5 million to bring the facility to meet his vision.

The plan was to keep Indian Oaks a public-access facility until the club reached 300 members. It had 40 members at the time of the operator change.

Indian Oaks is one of eight golf courses in Calhoun County, seven with public access. Since the course opened in 1968 as a nine-hole facility, Cane Creek, Silver Lakes, Cider Ridge and Stoney Brook all have been built within the county limits.

Since the Masons came to Indian Oaks, Cider Ridge has come on line, Fort McClellan has closed and its Cane Creek course moved into city hands and several other courses in the area have either struggled or closed altogether.

McClellan said the course has come “a long way in a short amount of time.” It has made a number of cosmetic improvements and with the exception of a few troublesome greens its putting surfaces are as good and fast as anyone can remember.

“David (Bentley, course superintendent) and his crew have done a fantastic job to get the course to where it looks like a golf course,” McClellan said. “That’s what’s so bad, to get to a point and knowing you’re there and the end is inevitable.”

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