Golfers were still teeing off at the Pemberton Valley Golf and Country Club this week, but how much longer the course will stay open is unknown.
The club has been in poor financial shape for years, but in a letter sent to Pemberton council at the end of July, the board of directors expressed little hope that the golf course would remain open.
The letter, signed by the board of directors, stated: “Regrettably we foresee the doors of the Pemberton Valley Golf and Country Club permanently closing on the night of August 12, 2007.”
But the club didn’t close last Sunday, and no one seems to know how long it will remain open.
The Pemberton Valley Golf Society was supposed to make a presentation to Pemberton council on Tuesday night, outlining their plan of action. But they didn’t show.
Barb Therrien and her husband, Dean, are charter members of the club and have been golfing there since 1994. Therrien believes the current society is doing its best to keep the club open, but she’s not sure what will happen.
“We’re all kind of in the dark, but we know that the club is definitely financially in big, big trouble.”
Therrien attended Tuesday’s council meeting, hoping to find out more about plans for the club, and said she doesn’t know if the society’s no-show is a good or bad sign.
She said having the Village of Pemberton step in and save the course would be a last resort, as she doesn’t believe they have the necessary financial resources.
“There are rumours — lots of them — that there might be a couple other people in the wings waiting to bid on it, too,” said Therrien.
Calls to the general manager of the club, Gordon Bell, and board members were not returned in time for publication.
But when contacted on Tuesday, Dave Callum, head golf professional at the club, said it’s “business as usual, until further notice,” although tee times are now being booked a maximum two days in advance.
Therrian said the closure date has been pushed back a few times now, and when she last played a round at the club on Tuesday, she was told the club will close at the end of the week.
“As of now, the golf course, as far as the society — being the members owning it — will be closing on Friday because the bank won’t extend the payroll or guarantee it.”
It’s gotten to the point that volunteers are now keeping the grounds, with Therrien’s husband going out Monday to mow the rough on the front nine.
“Saturday, Sunday, everyone that was out there working on the grounds were members,” said Therrien.
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said he recently heard the bank extended the closing date until September, and is confident the course will stay open until the end of the season.
If the club can hold on until the off-season, Sturdy said he hopes they can sort out their financial problems over the course of the winter.
He added that Pemberton council doesn’t plan on getting involved in the situation until the society and the bank decide what they want to do.
If the society dissolves, the bank will become the leaseholder, and can operate the club themselves, have someone run it on their behalf, or sell. If they decide to sell, VOP may step in and purchase the club from the bank to keep it from closing.
“We’ll do all we can to make sure that does not happen, because it’s an excellent community asset,” said Sturdy.
“But at the same time, we don’t want to be bailing out the bank.”
Sturdy pointed out that the bank would simply own the lease to operate a golf course, but has no claim on the land itself. The VoP holds the rights to the land through a Crown grant, under the condition that it is used for the golf club only.
If the club closes, the land will revert back to the Crown.
But Sturdy said something would have to go “enormously sideways” for that to happen.
“The golf course will not revert back to the Crown… that would be a travesty.”
Therrien said the PVG&CC is the only affordable local golf course, and hopes it stays open.
“I just can’t imagine 160 acres of nice golf course going back to hay.”
She and her husband plan to play up until the club closes its doors, but are hoping for the best.
“I guess we just have to wait and see if somebody steps up to the plate.”