Plans are being made for Washtenaw Community College to acquire the Washtenaw Country Club in exchange for assuming $1.9 million in debt. Like so many country clubs, Washtenaw is in dire straights in this economy. While it needs approximately 300 members to operate, it’s now down to 140. As the story goes, the large debt stems from a clubhouse remodeling that turned into an internal fight and ended with the half of the membership that wanted the redesign leaving for another club—and stiffing the rest with the bill.
(the photo at left is of the Clubs’ third green)
The Washtenaw Country Club is one of the oldest in Michigan, dating back to 1899. It’s a wonderful track that I played for years and consider my home course—though I haven’t been a full member for some time. In writing Michigan golf course reviews for this blog, I ended up playing so many different courses that it didn’t make financial sense to pay so much for the one.
Leaders at the Community College apparently envision the club as a teaching laboratory. Plans are to open the restaurant to the public and staff it with students from the College’s culinary arts program, and to have their landscaping and agronomy programs maintain the grounds. I’m not sure from published reports what changes will be in store for members: Will they maintain their lockers and tee times? Will the pool remain a private affair?
While I’m not sure that it’s a good use of taxpayer money, from a purely selfish point of view, I’m glad to see that the Washtenaw Country Club will survive. The course is wonderful and deserves to be played. Legend has it that Donald Ross visited the course in its early years and said “When God created this beautiful rolling land he must have intended it for a golf course.”
It also seems that the transfer to the college is the only solution the Club’s membership has considered. An inside source has told me that the leaderships’ primary goal is to preserve the course. The alternative surely was bank foreclosure, and that would inevitably lead to some developer gaining control and building houses—or worse, apartments.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one. Both the club’s membership and the Colleges’ Board of Regents have to approve this before it moves forward.