By MICHAEL BURWELL
There is a chance that Red Hawk Run Golf Course in Findlay will officially be closing for good. But a local group of potential investors and the new owners of the links-style layout are working to make sure the last shot on the course hasn’t already been hit.
Red Hawk, which was sold to two buyers late last year after it was scheduled to shut down in mid-October with no plans of reopening, will need support in the form of golf memberships and shares of stock in order to remain a golf course. If a monetary commitment of $700,000 isn’t met by Tuesday, the course will not reopen, according to Gene Fernandez, treasurer of the Red Hawk Run Community Association board.
“Is it doable? I think it is. But is it challenging? Absolutely,” Fernandez said. “But this is really the last hope to keep the course alive, and we’re going to do everything we can.”
Red Hawk, located about two miles east of Findlay on U.S. 224, opened in 1999. The 18-hole, par 72 course has received several accolades during its existence, including being named the sixth Best New Affordable Golf Course in America by Golf Digest Magazine in late 2000.
The RHRCA, one of two buyers of the course a few months ago, isn’t necessarily looking for the money by Tuesday, but instead is looking for that amount in commitment.
The RHRCA and its board members are working to sell 100 shares of stock (200 are available) at $5,000 per share for ownership for a new corporation, Red Hawk Run Co-op LLC. Every share will come with a lifetime family walking membership for the course. Owners would also have voting rights and the potential for future dividends.
A dozen different annual golf memberships, from a $400 walking or driving range membership to a $2,000 full family or a $10,000 corporate membership, are also available.
The goal of $700,000 — $500,000 worth of stock shares and $200,000 worth of memberships — is the minimum commitment needed to get the course going, according to Fernandez.
“We’re hitting it with Facebook, we’re hitting it with all social media that we know and try to get people to really understand that they have these opportunities,” Fernandez said. “Memberships, we’ve got all kinds of memberships. It’ll be very competitive to the rates around here, but we’ve got to have that…that combined will give us the $700,000 that will allow us to buy the equipment that we need, will allow us to pay for the operating expenses that we’re going to have out here.”
The course would operate on a tight budget in 2020, with portions of the $700,000 going toward operating expenses (fertilizer and groundskeeping); start-up costs (mowing equipment, golf cart rental and one-time purchase items including ball washers, tee markers, etc.); and clubhouse staffing, property taxes and insurance.
“The clock that’s ticking is the mowing. We’ve got to do it now or never; that’s why we’ve got this short window (until) March 31 because after that, you lose things,” Fernandez said. “So you lose the greens, you lose the fairways and they’ll grow up just like some of these other natural places are around here that used to be golf courses. So this is our one last chance.”
Throughout the winter, the RHRCA and investors discussed business plans and worked to figure out ways to keep the course open. Fernandez said that a head groundskeeper and assistant groundskeeper are lined up to operate the course if it opens. Discussions are ongoing with a former golf course owner to come in and manage Red Hawk.
“We’re talking to an individual who has run a very successful golf course in the past, and he and his family sold it quite a few years ago, and he does not want this to die either,” Fernandez said. “So he’s willing to come in here as an employee and help us manage and try to get more leagues, get more tournaments and make it the fun place that we need it to be.”
Fernandez said people have not only expressed interest in stock shares and memberships, but area residents are also interested in helping to maintain the course.
“We’ve got neighbors stepping up saying, ‘I want to help with the sand traps, I want to help with the tee boxes, we’ll adopt a tee box, we’ll keep it nice, we’ll plant flowers,'” he said. “So we’ve got a tremendous community spirit and everybody wants to jump in and help wherever they can.”
Fernandez also said he talked to numerous people during the winter about leasing the land to operate the course, but could not reach a deal with potential operators. After an operator couldn’t be secured, the team of investors worked hard to gather firm costs and business plans going forward.
“We looked at all the numbers for the past three years, really put together what we think is a very realistic business plan,” Fernandez said. “We stepped back, we said OK, what is it going to take to do that? So if we’ve got this one last shot, what do we have to have to try to guarantee the success of Red Hawk?
“So with that business plan, we said, ‘well. we need owners, investors and we need members.’ One thing that’s happened out here in all of our reviews is that Red Hawk has not had the utilization or the actual play that it really needs to get going…So the only way to guarantee play, especially in rainy weather and the environment we’re in now, is to have membership.”
In the past two years, Red Hawk has been through several ownership changes.
The RHRCA, representing about 90 residential lots around the course, purchased 137 acres and three commercial structures from Nick Reinhart, who owned the course from May 2018 to December. That land amounted to 12 holes on the course’s east side, and the deal closed on Dec. 31, according to Fernandez.
“Last year, the course obviously closed down. So we as homeowners out here got together and we said hey, we need to look at this because one, if it’s closed down, we don’t know if it would be mowed, if it would be maintained or whatever, and since all of our properties are out here, we felt it was important for us to own at least the part that’s running around the houses,” Fernandez said. “So we stepped up, sold it to all of the homeowners and the homeowners got together as a homeowners association and we purchased 137 acres…everything that kind of surrounds and winds through the houses.”
Paul Kalmbach, owner of Kalmbach Feeds in Upper Sandusky, purchased the remaining 90 acres (six holes) on the west side along with the clubhouse and pavilion. That deal closed on Jan. 10, with the sales prices in the transaction for both buyers totaling around $1.5 million, according to Fernandez.
The future of the course was uncertain in the fall. In September, property owners around the course received a memo stating the course would be closed on Oct. 15 with no plans to reopen next year.
At that moment, the homeowners association put a plan together to buy the golf course. Discussions on what to do to keep the course operating began in November, according to Fernandez.
“We all got together as trustees and said we need to really try to make this happen that we need to buy it so we can control it,” said Fernandez. “… We had to sell it to everybody in the neighborhood. We had 94 percent say yes (to support purchasing the course)…it’s been an amazing response by the neighborhood.”
For more information regarding Red Hawk, including commitment letters as well as membership and ownership opportunities, visit redhawkruncommunity.com. Those interested can also contact Fernandez by phone (419-656-1789) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Roxie Neumeister by phone (313-969-1813) or email (email@example.com).