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Etowah Valley files Chapter 11 bankruptcy, still open for golf

ETOWAH — Etowah Valley Country Club, a popular course for local members and vacationing golfers for almost 50 years, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The course remains open, and owner Frank L. Todd Jr. said in an interview he hopes to come out on the other side of a frustratingly long economic downtown.
"The recession, five years of it, is getting the best of us," he said. "It's just the length of it. It's just lasting so long. If we had a normal six-month recession we could have breezed right through it."
The company filed for bankruptcy on Election Day.
"It's a new experience for me. I have never been in anything like this before," he said.
The club's dining room, the lodge and the "north 9" part of the course have closed, but those usually close in the wintertime. The company laid off people last year for the first time and has been forced to let more go this year to cut costs while keeping the course open for members and guests. "We had more layoffs than we've ever had," Todd said.
Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code shields companies from creditors while they try to reorganize, often by cutting costs and streamlining operations, and negotiate more favorable payment arrangements.
"We're still open," Todd said. "There's nothing unusual here at the club."
Todd said that the golf course's customers are like buyers of any other optional product.
"Members are looking for ways to conserve and control expenses and a golf course membership is not a necessity," he said. "When you've got gas and food prices going up and uncertainty in the economy, people are just cutting back. It seems like there's very little discretionary income anymore.
"People are not taking the golfing vacations like they used to. We lost 25 percent of our membership last year and actually eliminated our initiation fee thinking we would pick those members up fairly quickly," he said.
But because residential growth has stalled, new memberships even at a discount did not materialize.
"Without new people moving into your town, you're appealing to the same audience to join your club year after year," he said.
He said Etowah Valley has done a lot to promote golf among young people by hosting tournaments and offering discounts.
"We're actually seeing more young people play this golf course than we ever have," he said.
"We've got some really good winter rates and we'd like for people to come out and play golf," he said. "We're still open and we need the business. We've got a good supply of merchandise in the pro shop. Anybody looking for Christmas gifts — we've got 'em here."
The Todd family has a long history tied to the golf course and the property has many years of community service in the county. Todd's father, Frank Todd Sr., was a Hendersonville mayor and council member who supported the serpentine design of Main Street in the 1970s, a controversial decision at the time. His grandfather, Bruce Drysdale, was the brick company owner and civic and education leader who originally bought the land that became Etowah Valley Country Club.