ETOWAH — An Asheville businessman who is buying the Etowah Valley Country Club plans to keep it open, improve the golf course and open the dining room and grill to the public.
The golf course and lodge had been a popular destination for almost 50 years when Frank L. Todd Jr. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last November. A bankruptcy judge last week dismissed the filing, freeing the owners to sell to Kevin Griffin, a retired Asheville firefighter and owner of Hi-Alta Real Estate.
The purchase, which closed finalized Friday, included the 27-hole golf course and all amenities, including the 75-unit lodge. The business will operate under the new name, Etowah Valley Golf Club and Lodge, and remains open for business.
Griffin has hired Course Doctors owner Jim Sparks to rehabilitate the course.
"When the recession and they had less money to spend the golf course kind of slipped a little bit," he said.
Griffin said the course is known among golfers as one of the better places for championship golf. It has the length needed to be challenging for the better golfer, he said, and has always enjoyed a good reputation throughout the South and Midwest.
He has added a bar and big-screen TVs to the grill, and plans to open the upscale club dining room to the public. The new chef is Lance Carter, who ran the well-regarded Southside Café in Arden. Larry Carter is director of golf and Rick Merrick is the head pro.
"From what I understand people in the community are going to support everything very well," he said. "Homeowners associations have been contacting me about the facility. We plan to work with Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada on events."
Club members are $2,000 for families, $1,800 for singles, $1,500 for widows and $1,200 for non-residents more than 60 miles away.
Griffin expected to close on the purchase of the property this week. He would not disclose the purchase price.
The Todd family had been running the golf course since its inception. Frank Todd Jr.'s grandfather, Bruce Drysdale, the brick company owner and civic and education leader, originally bought the land that became Etowah Valley Country Club. A recession that dragged on for five years hurt the club's revenue, Todd said in an interview last November when he filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11.
"People are not taking the golfing vacations like they used to," he said then. "We lost 25 percent of our membership last year and actually eliminated our initiation fee thinking we would pick those members up fairly quickly."
The bankruptcy filing reported assets of $5.75 million and debts of $4.7 million. Among the largest creditors were two family trusts, which were owed $992,000. The filing valued the golf course at $7.7 million, the clubhouse at $1.35 million and six two-story lodges at $540,800. The financial affairs statement showed revenue had dropped from $3.2 million in 2010 to $2.99 million in 2011. Owners of the corporation, at 25 percent each, were Frank Todd Jr., Barbara T. Weinland, Elizabeth D. Todd and John B. Todd.
Etowah Valley Country Club was established in 1967 by former Hendersonville mayor Frank Todd Sr. Over the years, Todd and his family developed the 240-acre property to include a 27-hole championship golf course, lodging, a restaurant, clubhouse, croquet field, a swimming pool and tennis courts.
"The Todd family worked extremely hard over the years to keep this scenic property an active part of the community," Griffin said. "Unfortunately, the recession nearly crippled the operation. It was just unforeseeable. We look forward though to continuing the family-owned tradition and building upon their hard work and perseverance."
A new sports bar including wide-screen TVs and a full bar in the clubhouse is now open to the public.
"With warmer weather just around the corner, we are ready to embark on a busy golfing and tennis season," says Griffin.
The Edmund Alt-designed course is located in heart of the Etowah community, just outside of Hendersonville, NC on Brickyard Road. The course and all amenities remain open to members and the general public.