Forest Meadows Golf Course closes

Forest Meadows Golf Course officials have announced that they will close its gates, making it the second Calaveras County golf course to shutter in almost two weeks.

Sierra Golf Management, the management group that owns the golf course east of Murphys, issued a letter on Dec. 28 announcing that it would close the golf operations on the course after its Dec. 1 seasonal closure, citing losses in revenue as the main reason behind the move.

“This decision was not an easy one to make; we have valuable employees who rely on us for a paycheck and loyal customers who truly love the golf course. Unfortunately, we have analyzed sales reports, expense reports and market trends we have also deliberated and debated extensively and at the end of the day, we simply cannot afford to operate at a loss and continue ‘out-of-pocket’ funding of this operation with no chance of a return and no end in sight,” Sierra Golf Management said in a letter to the Forest Meadows Owners Association.

According to their letter, Sierra Golf Management has attempted to get the association to buy the course in an attempt to keep the course open, but, according to current association President Allen Dodson, the purchase proposal was shot down in 2015 and has not been revisited as a potential option.

“We have no interest in buying a loss-making enterprise,” said Dodson. “At the time, the board discussed it and determined that it did not make sense.”

Dodson said he is not sure how much money the course is losing, but has noticed the number of golfers on the course diminish.

Sierra Golf Management President Jeff Christensen could not be reached for comment.

Dodson said that in 2015 he mentioned to homeowners that if they had any interest in the course, that they could form a limited liability corporation to purchase the course outright, but that the homeowners association would not engage in purchasing a golf course.

“I would say that the board made it pretty clear in 2015 that if any one homeowner or anyone else wanted to form an investor group to purchase the course, that would be the best way to go,” Dodson said.

According to a letter sent on Oct. 22, 2015, by Sierra Golf Management to then-association President Eric Davis, proposals were presented to the homeowners association to find ways to mitigate a “continued negative cash flow.”

In the letter, Sierra Golf Management mentioned that if it backed out of the deal, that

“Ultimately, Sierra Golf Management and the Forest Meadows Owners Association will both suffer a loss in value, certainly a lose/lose event.”

The letter continued with a list of proposals that included a $50 voucher for nongolfers to buy food or beverages at the course, and a $1,000 per month account between the homeowners association and Forest Meadows Golf Course that would be used for capital improvements at the discretion of the HOA.

The proposal also included a $50 per month, per property fee to be used to help with the exchange of properties.

In the letter, Sierra Golf Management mentioned the potential to close the nine-hole course.

Forest Meadows joins La Contenta Golf Club outside Valley Springs as courses closed in Calaveras. La Contenta, which also utilized Sierra Golf Management as the course operator, closed its fairways citing fiscal losses as the main reason. Unlike La Contenta, however, Forest Meadows is not owned by a separate limited liability corporation.

Dodson, who is currently on vacation, said that he is not sure how people are reacting to the news, but he perceives that the number of people who play golf at Forest Meadows has significantly dropped over the years.

“The people who have bought into the community in recent years are not golfers,” said Dodson. The course “is seen as a positive, but not a necessity.”

It remains unclear what Sierra Golf Management plans to do with the course near Murphys. In the Dec. 28 letter, the management group made it clear that it has not finalized any plans and is searching for ways to still use the course.

“We have had many discussions and ideas about what we will do with the property after it is no longer a golf course,” the letter read. “At this time they are just ideas and no plan has been finalized on what will be the next chapter in the life of this property.”

Dodson said that he has not heard much about what the future of the property might include.

“It’s pretty much been up to them to decide what they want to do and we haven’t been receiving significant communication from them,” Dodson said.

Forest Meadows Golf Course was an 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones. Seven holes were removed in early 2015 and the course was eventually renamed Murphys 9 Golf Course. It is surrounded by more than 500 homes and includes views of the Stanislaus River Canyon.

Christensen said in 2015 that Forest Meadows could not operate any longer as an 18-hole course.

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