Charlie Sheldon and Reid Spice, the owners of the 1,300-acre Sierra Meadows Country Club, will be closing the 142-acre golf course on Oct. 31.
Although the days of golfing at Sierra Meadows are coming to an end, the owners will re-open next spring under a new name for conferences, retreats, and seminars with an updated bar and cafe area, adding a few cabins to the RV park, and a year-round calendar of live music, lectures, and other special events for the community.
Spice said they are investigating the feasibility of other uses for the golf course property including orchards or vineyards.
“We are going to make sure that the land remains beautiful, that much is certain,” Spice said.
The news of the golf course closure was announced last Thursday to employees and the membership.
“We wanted to see a crowded course with stacked tee times and vibrant activity so we reduced fees and introduced a variety of specials and free clinics, but instead of trending up, course play tailed off through our peak months,” Sheldon said in a prepared statement. “We simply don’t have enough golfers. The declining number of members and loss of associated revenue, combined with increased costs for water and staffing, made it impossible to keep the course open.”
There will be significant landscaping work done during the winter to enhance the beauty of the property using native plant species that will require significantly less water.
Ed Hart has served as president of the men’s club at Sierra Meadows, and called the announcement of the closure of the course a “sad day.”
“We (golfers) are all in a state of shock and anger,” Hart said. “Personally, I moved here from Mariposa for three things that Oakhurst had to offer. One was the golf course - so I bought a house here in Sierra Meadows. Second was the movie theater and third was the bowling facility. I helped in saving the movie theater ... we lost the bowling alley, and now the golf course.
“The Men’s Club gave three Yosemite High golfers $700 scholarships last year, and the students will suffer from the course closing,” Hart said.
Hart said River Creek is nine holes and will not be able to handle the additional load of golfers.
“As Yogi once said - ‘Nobody goes there any more because it’s too crowded,’” Hart said. “I am extremely disappointed in the ownership, but wish them well. They probably would have gotten the local support that they would need in the winter (to keep it open). Tourist locations need local participation to keep them solvent in the winter. I told them this prior to their announcement to no avail. I will wait a year and see if my mind and heart are still angry, and if they are I will move to a more golf-friendly community.”
Yosemite High School girls golf team coach Rusty Oetinger said although he was disappointed to hear the news of the golf course closing, he understands it was a business decision.
“My children have grown up at Sierra Meadows and our Yosemite High golf teams have excelled because of their generosity and help,” Oetinger said. “There just was not the community support for the golf course. The new owners have moved into our community and want to become a part of it. Even if they had mentioned that they might have to close early on, if the golf community in the mountains really cared about having two courses, they would have been out in droves regularly, unlike one day last week when the only people on the golf course in the afternoon were the 10 girls on the golf team and myself.”
Sheldon and Reid bought the property about three months ago from Robert H. Bard, Jr., who owned and operated the facility for about 13 years.
In recent years, Bard experienced a major water shortage resulting from the historically severe California drought, with insufficient water to maintain many of the grass areas on the course. Prior to the sale, Bard said he estimated that it would require an additional $300,000 to $500,000 to repair the drought damage to the course and to replace much of the aging maintenance equipment and cart fleet. He spent $2.1 million above revenue over the past six to seven years to maintain the 28-year-old facility.
At the time of purchase, Sheldon and Spice said they were in an “evaluation period” to see if it was financially feasible to keep the golf course open long-term.
River Creek offers special
Spice said River Creek Golf Course has generously extended a one-time offer to Sierra Meadows golfing members by waiving initiation fees for golfers who wish to transition their membership.
“Sierra Meadows will operate as usual through the end of October, hosting a variety of tournaments and weddings,” Spice said. “Starting today (Oct. 1), the course is reducing greens fees again for golfers who want to come play a few final rounds at the course with weekday 18-hole rates of $35 and weekday senior rates of $30. Junior rates have been reduced to only $25. All prices include cart fee.”