Golfing was one of the first activities to decline during the economic downturn. Four years later, Bryan Raines hasn't seen enough improvement.
The Indian Creek Golf Club will be closed indefinitely Nov. 28, as Raines and his father and co-owner Tom Raines continue to seek a buyer for the 178-acre, 18-hole golf course. With Indian Creek's closing, The Oaks will be left as Newton County's lone active course.
Tom Raines, Tony McCullar and Bob Rutland jointly purchased the course in November 2001 for $2.93 million. A decade later, the course is on the market again, and is being listed through Hilda W. Allen Real Estate at hilda-allen.com; the price is not publically listed.
Bryan said the course is being closed because the family can't afford to keep sinking money into it. A skeleton crew will be kept to maintain the course for the next buyer.
In addition to the 18-hole course, which is longer and more difficult than The Oaks according to the U.S. Golf Association, the course has a driving range, club house, maintenance barn, maintenance equipment, cart barn, pumping stations, other accessories and a full-service restaurant.
The goal from the very beginning had been to make Indian Creek a private, membership-only club, but it never grew to the 400-member level needed to become totally private. Even as a semi-private club, Raines focused on membership and members' interaction. Indian Creek prided itself on its variety of organized games: dogfights, individual stroke play, two man best ball games and tournaments.
"You didn't have to have your own foursome, you could just call up and say you wanted to get in a game. We always had something to do at Indian Creek; there was always activity going on," Bryan said.
Indian Creek reached a peak membership of 250 and a total of 25,000 rounds of 18-hole golf were played in 2007. Membership steadily declined as the recession deepened, and now sits at 160. That's about 40 shy of a level that would allow the golf course to break even.
"Obviously, it got to a point where it was very difficult. Eight months ago we made the decision that we needed to sell or bring in new partners," said Bryan.
Unfortunately, a proposed partnership fell through at the last minute, leaving the Raines out of options.
"The smartest business decision for us was to close it down. Golf in the winter months is not going to make money, and we'd just be putting in more money," Bryan said. "Hopefully we'll keep the golf course going in Covington, but it just doesn't look our group will be able to."
Members were contacted last week, and because they pay on a monthly basis, the closing of the course should be relatively smooth.
Raines hopes to go out on a high note. The course will hold its last men's golf association event on the 19th, and it's planning a large one or two-day tournament for the weekend of the 26th.
"This was a dream my father and I had, ever since I was a little kid. We were able to live that dream for 10 years," Bryan said. "Unfortunately, that dream will change and be something different. We always wanted to do this together and thankfully we got the opportunity."