ORANGE PARK, Fla. – A golf and country club that's been open since 1990 in Orange Park has abruptly closed some of its amenities.
Now more than 600 residents of the Orange Park Country Club who bought into the golf community lifestyle are wondering about the future of their private gated neighborhood.
The News4Jax I-TEAM started receiving emails and phone calls last week from people who were surprised to find out that the golf course, the range and tennis courts have all been closed.
Tom Raffo doesn’t have to worry about hitting anyone with his golf balls on the range, or any of the 18 holes at the Orange Park Country Club for that matter. He said the clubhouse shuttered its doors with little warning last week. He said golf is one of the reasons why he purchased a house in Orange Park Country Club.
"It's sad. It's really sad," Raffo said. "We don't know what will happen."
Locals said the sudden closure is surprising because the course, the tennis courts and the clubhouse used to be the center of the thriving neighborhood. But according to John McCormack, president of the homeowners association, former owner James Price had a hard time making ends meet and decided to just walk away.
"There was a change in ownership April last year. We had a lot of rain. And golf is a competitive business and there are a lot of options out there," McCormack said. "We had inklings that he wasn’t having a lot of success."
According to property records, Price purchased the golf course and country club for $2 million in April 2018. Locals said they witnessed a decline in the conditions of the course, such as the green seen on the fifth hole, which is now overrun now with weeds and dirt. Residents said they worry with warmer temperatures on the way, all 400 acres will soon be overgrown.
"Hopefully, there’s buyers out there that will come out quickly before it's damaged beyond repair," McCormack said.
Homeowners are scared that their property values are going to plummet as a result. This is not what Raffo said he paid for when he purchased his house.
"It's never the same when you have to get in your car, load your clubs," Raffo said.
Unfortunately, golf courses in private communities across the country continue to close at an alarming rate. Approximately 200 golf courses closed last year, according to the National Golf Foundation.
They have been hard businesses to sustain because of competition, a lack of interest in golfing in general and increasing fees to maintain the courses.