JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A country club that's been a fixture of East Arlington since Lyndon Johnson was president will close at the end of this month and be converted into a public golf course.
"Unfortunately we didn’t have as many members here as we would’ve liked," Hidden Hills Country Club owner Russ Libby said. "And to make sure we put Hidden Hills in the proper foundation for the future, we’ve made changes in the business model."
Longtime members are not pleased to hear the news, not only that the private club is shutting down, but that the pool and tennis courts will be not reopen.
"I’ve been playing out here over 20 years," tennis player Susie Paula said. "My husband played and he passed away around 4 years ago. He’d be rolling over in his grave if he knew what was happening out here right now."
"Having to find other places to go in the middle of our season," another tennis player said. "It’s very sad."
News4Jax was told changes in the national and local economy contributing to the transition, and the fact that younger people simply don’t want to pay to belong to country clubs. Other private golf courses have closed in recent years, both locally and around the nation.
"When Russ Libby bought the club, there (were) like 700 members, and now it’s down to like 400," member Darlene Hayes said. "The recession in 2007 caused it. We’re getting older and the number of people joining clubs, they don’t have the discretionary income. Clubs are closing all over."
While the rest of Arlington and Regency has struggled economically over the past two decades, certain neighborhoods, particularly those with homeowner associations, have retained their property values.
"Their values are going to go up," said David Elian, of Keller Williams Realty. "But houses in that area that are not in an HOA, their values may not go up as fast.
All current Hidden Hills memberships will be canceled on Jan. 31 and the golf course and dining facility will open to the public the next day. The Arnold Palmer Signature golf course will have tee times available seven days a week for daily rates of $39 per player and weekend rates of $49 per player. Frequent players can visit a HillsPass.