- September 3, 2015
WINTER GARDEN — In a recent statement, Patrick Jones, former general manager of the West Orange Country Club, announced the club was under contract to be sold at an undisclosed price, closing July 15.
Within this agreement, the club’s board negotiated a clause for the facility to remain a golf course for two years and a recreational facility for three years thereafter, Jones said.
“So there will be no option for development for at least five years,” he said.
But that should be no concern, according to the veteran members of the 58-year-old private, member-owned club comprising most of the group that bought the club, because they are immediately investing in improvements to the club and hope to maintain it as a beloved casual golf and recreation space.
To ensure that, the community must do its part to support the course as members, said Jim Karr, who grew up in Windermere and is one of the new owners after more than 30 years as a member.
“I want to try and promote this club to all the former members in West Orange County,” Karr said. “If we all do not participate, a local jewel will someday be gone.”
Other buyers in the group include local members Jim Beck and Tony Huerta, the golfing expert among the group. They said even some of the closest of neighboring communities had only a few residents who had become members of the West Orange Country Club and that more would need to show their support by becoming members and taking advantage of all that membership offers.
Although other terms of the deal remained undisclosed, Karr said the investment the new ownership group would put into refreshing the country club would make the price irrelevant.
The group has hired Nick Slattery as the club’s general manager, and Slattery has plans to shift mindsets around the course as he helps to guide the club through this transition period, such as a foursome taking out four carts. He also plans to oversee renovations and landscaping to polish the entire club, from the course to the tennis courts and other aspects, such as the restaurant.
“If you look around, especially in Florida and this area, there are not too many golf courses like this left,” Slattery said. “The course was designed to be walked, with the green leading right up to the next tee, not like a lot of courses today that you have to have a cart to drive around from hole to hole. I saw one of our (elder) members play the course without a cart just this morning.”
Slattery also noted the unique art on the sixth hole, where, in 2013, artist Sam Knowles fashioned a tree struck by lightning into a carving of various animals called the West Orange Country Club Nature Tree.
The updates to the course and other areas of the club will require a week or two of construction, during which the club will be at least mostly — if not completely — closed, Slattery said. The necessary teams for construction should be in place to implement the changes before West Orange Country Club hosts a significant golf tournament in August, which could serve as a showcase of the refurbished facilities and amenities, Slattery said.
Throughout this process, though, the group said it wants to strive to maintain the traditional, laid-back feel of the course and the club’s other features, without trying anything too far outside the box, such as footgolf.
“We want to keep it a place where you can play in jeans, as long as they don’t have any holes in them,” Beck said. “The main focus is getting that membership support and participation, getting the word out that if people want this to stay as it is with all of its open green space instead of yet another development, they need to come out and support the club.”
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].