Whispering Woods Has New Owner
Stuart Taylor is relieved. Bob Leidigh is excited. And they're both that way for the same reason.
Whispering Woods Golf Club, which has struggled financially for nine years under the ownership of Fairways Golf Management, has been obtained by Leidigh under the auspices of Club Management, LLC, of which Leidigh is the sole owner.
That's a relief for Taylor, who was a partner with FGM, and exciting for Leidigh, who has always wanted to operate a golf course of his own.
The deal was consummated on Wednesday, Feb. 10, and Leidigh immediately took control of the Ellis Maples-designed golf course and facilities under a lease with an option to purchase agreement.
Leidigh, who has worked with course architect Dan Maples for 12 years as CEO of management operations, is leaving his job there effective immediately.
A Pennsylvania native and a former CPA, he came to this area almost 20 years ago and operated National Golf Club for a time before joining Maples.
"Because of changes in the company with fewer courses to manage, Dan doesn't need me anymore," Leidigh said. "We wanted Whispering Woods 10 years ago, but Stuart's group outbid us for it."
Taylor has managed Whispering Woods for the past nine years and has experienced some tough times financially with the property.
"We've had some bad breaks over the years," Taylor said, "that have kept us from having a chance to be successful. Our manager, Martha Tattersall, died in 2004, we had a clubhouse fire in 2005 and had to work out of a trailer for over a year, then we had the drought in 2007 that hurt us, and we had a dam washed out that has really created problems."
The Village of Whispering Pines has assumed ownership of the dam, and that problem seems to have been worked out. "Bids have been let for the repairs, and it should be done sometime this year," Taylor said.
Despite the past problems with the course and the weak economy, which has many courses struggling for survival, Leidigh is optimistic that he can turn the club into a -profitable property.
"I've never been able to understand the four-season system for charging golfers," he said. "I figure that if we have one season, one price, golfers will know what to expect and appreciate it. They won't have to come out and pay $80 for a round of golf that they could have played last month for $25.
"Our prices are going to be $25 for 18 holes and cart, or $15 for nine holes. That's not going to change, whether it's April or December. We figure we'll get the golfers who don't want to pay and arm and a leg for a round of golf."
Membership at Whispering Woods is affordable at $2,400 annually, which includes unlimited golf with electric carts. A family membership is just $3,000. These fees may be paid annually or quarterly.
Taylor is remaining at Whispering Woods with a new title, Director of Operations. Assistant professionals Gary Crabb and Andy Page are also remaining.
"Bob has a very good track record," Taylor said. "We're a low income course, and we've learned how to operate on a lean budget, so I think we can make this work. This arrangement makes sense if we can make enough to operate until things get turned around. I don't think golf has had a worse winter than this since I've been in the business."
Plans are to make the club golfer-friendly, to the extent of offering a round of golf with a cart and a steak dinner afterward for $49.
"That's golf, dinner, drinks and camaraderie on the porch overlooking the lake," Taylor said. "It's hard to beat for that price.
"Another thing we want to do is attract fundraiser tournaments where churches and organizations can get the course for just $25 per player. They can clear a lot more money for that price."
"The cost of the operation is our biggest concern," Leidigh admitted, "but I have no reservations about it. I'm committed 100 percent to making this work. I'll be here full-time."
Taylor is as happy for the club's members as he is for himself. "The members are to be applauded for hanging with us," he said. "They have never given up on seeing the course come back to its glory days. At least now we have hope and the means of getting the job done. Our superintendent, Randy Hillburn, is really excited about having the equipment and chemicals to get things done.
"Right now, the course is not as good as it's going to be. I'd say, on a scale of 1 to 10, it's about a six."
For information on becoming a member or for tee times, call (910) 949-4653.
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