ELKHART — Old Orchard Golf Course operators plan to close at the course at end of the golfing weather season.
It’s not something former owner Coleman Davis wanted for his relatively new business venture, but he and business partner Brad Beer said they didn’t see any other choice.
“Last year, with all the rain that everybody had, Christiana Creek had nine holes closed, and we’re the ones on a flood plain,” he said.
Last Thursday, Davis and Beer, co-partners at BNC Capital, signed over the remainder of the golf course to Beer, with uncertain plans for the future of the property.
“I’m not saying it’s done,” Davis said. “I don’t think anything out back will change. The greens and fairways won’t be manicured. It’ll probably look like it did when I bought it, when it was closed and up for auction.”
Growing up near a golf course, the child of golfing fans, Davis purchased the course to avoid yet another golf course falling into disarray.
“Young people are not getting into golf and old people are slowly dying off so the golf courses are closing all over the place,” Old Orchard member Ronald Streby, of Goshen, said.
In Michiana, Sprig-O-Mint in Bremen and McCarthy’s North 40 in Paw Paw have both closed in recent years, as did Stonehenge Golf in Winona Lake– although that one reopened under new management.
“There’s more golf courses closing around the country than opening,” Old Orchard building supervisor Steve Gruza said. “It’s a shame. It’s a great game. It’s the only game, really, that you can play by yourself.”
With about 50 members, the public golf course has relied on outside attendance to keep it running.
In the past, operators expected nearly 200 guests per day, but in recent years, the numbers have dwindled so much that they can’t stay open.
“I never raised any of the prices during the time I owned it,” Davis said. “I got a liquor license and sold it cheaper than you could buy at a liquor store. I didn’t do it to make money. I started a bar and grill down in the basement and back patio. I tried so much.”
Members have become close friends at the course, many golfing there for nearly 25 years. Bristol resident Pearl Siciliano even held birthday parties there, but unless the course finds a way to remain open, she and her friends will have to move on.
“It is heartbreaking,” her friend and women’s league partner Doris Siatkowski, of Granger, said. “It’s kind of like having a family member move away for good.”
When the golf course was purchased after going into auction, it’s former members chipped in their time and money to help get the place going again, and they kept doing it in recent years.
Siatkowski pulled weeds this season in the hopes it would help the golf course save some money and remain open, but it hasn’t been enough.
“We’re basically grass farmers,” Gruza said. “If the weather’s not nice, people don’t come play golf.”
Still, despite selling, Davis said he has hope that the course will find a way to keep running regardless of him selling the business.
“There is always hope for the future,” he said.
Plans for this year are to close down at first frost and not open again in Spring 2020.