Members buy prestigious Midlands country club, plan major family-friendly changes
ARTICLE BY JEFF WILKINSON published in The State Newspaper on November 15, 2019.
The Members Club at Wildewood, one of the Midlands premier tennis and golf clubs, has been purchased by its members.
They were joined by 940 Wildewood residents who agreed to pay $40 a month for a “social” membership, which doesn’t include unlimited golf or tennis.
Those memberships were attracted by fears that the venerable course would be snapped up by developers who would convert it into new homes — which recently happened at the former Golf Club of South Carolina at Crickentree near Blythewood.
“We thought if the whole community came together we could make the numbers work,” said Gail Bragg, president of Wildewood I-IV Homeowners Association. “And 81 percent (of homeowners) said ‘yes.’”
Many of those social members are younger families. To keep them active, the club is planning more children- and family-friendly amenities and events like a splash pad, secure playground and laser tag.
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The club was once a sister course to nearby Woodcreek, together called The Members Club at Woodcreek and Wildewood.
But both courses were struggling because of the aging of the golf community nationally and a glut of courses in the Columbia area, said Jim Landreth, vice chairman of the new ownership group.
Then 60 members of the Members Club ponied up $25,000 each to leverage a loan to both purchase Wildewood and do much-needed renovations and repairs.
The investors and Wildewood homeowners did their research based on the demise of an Edgefield County club that fell to the same Texas-based E Capital firm that snapped up Crickentree, Bragg said.
They found that the value of the homes around the course dropped from 10 percent to 45 percent when it closed. So homeowners were willing to pay $40 a month to offset that potential loss.
In addition to wooing homeowners, the Wildewood investors dropped membership fees for the two courses from $435 a month to $235 a month. (Non-Wildewood residents pay $280 a month.)
Those fees include both unlimited golf and tennis. The club has two indoor hard courts that are sometimes used for practice by the University of South Carolina tennis team and eight outdoor courts — four clay and four hard court.
The sale occurred in early November, and 367 of the 430 members of the joint club with Woodcreek are now members at Wildewood. The new operation is just getting off the ground.
The new investors have contracted with Charlotte’s Pinnacle Golf to manage the course.