New Management Seeks Stability at CCWP
While casual observers may not have even noticed, bankruptcy proceedings have been settled and it’s business as usual at the Country Club of Whispering Pines.
Members and residents of Whispering Pines are playing golf and utilizing clubhouse facilities and employees are receiving paychecks again.
Rodney Russell, the director of golf at the club, which consists of two excellent Ellis Maples-designed golf courses and a large clubhouse, is enjoying the stability brought by the management of Heritage Golf Group.
“The situation is very positive now,” Russell said. “Our members feel much better because they see progress being made, both on the golf courses and in the building structures. They’ve been very patient and receptive to the changes.”
Heritage, which operates 14 golf courses, has taken over management of CCWP under the direction of Hillcrest Bank, which acquired the property from financially troubled Avestra Golf.
Both Whispering Pines and Foxfire Resort were taken over from Avestra May 23 and are being managed by Heritage. Avestra is still operating Southern Pines Golf Club, owned by the Elks Club.
“Heritage is an acquisition company that’s acquiring and managing stressed properties,” said General Manager Sam Renfro. Renfro points out that the staff at Whispering Pines was retained.
“We didn’t feel we could have found a better, more dedicated staff than the one here,” he said. “These employees were so loyal that they worked for eight weeks without pay. How can you find better people than that?”
There are approximately 700 homes on the two golf courses with around 2,000 residents and 254 full memberships, according to Russell.
“Membership has stayed very strong,” Russell said, “and they’re appreciative that Heritage is doing things now that are visible and attractive. The golf courses are in the best shape they’ve been in for a while.”
Before Avestra’s financial problems evolved, there were plans to replace the greens on the East Course, but that has been put on hold.
“The way things are set up now, that isn’t going to take place,” Renfro said. “Our priority is to stabilize personnel issues and assess where we are financially. We will continue to operate the golf courses to their market values.
“We’re not going to tell people that everything is perfect. But there are a lot of changes and we’re going to work hard to make it the best we can. We’re doing a lot of things, especially when you consider that we only have 12 maintenance people for two courses.”
Heading up the maintenance crew is Course Superintendent Mike Leonard, a much appreciated fixture.
“Mike is as good as they come,” Russell praised.
Justin Walters is the membership and events coordinator, who keeps things at the club moving smoothly.
“Justin attended Pinecrest High School, where he played golf, and has worked at both Foxfire and Southern Pines Golf Club,” Russell said.
“When we learned he had left his job at Southern Pines, we called him and said, ‘Come on over. We need you.’”
“My priority right now is membership,” Walters said. “I want to get it as high as it can go. A lot of people were worried about events being dropped, but we haven’t dropped any.”
Russell points out that the cost line is being held by the new operators.
“We haven’t raised the dues during the turnover,” he said, “and I’m more excited about local memberships. We’re letting members bring their kids out and play a few holes in the afternoons with no fee.
“Our dues for a full family membership are only $165 and we’re letting members come out after 5 p.m. in the summer or 3 p.m. in the winter and play with no cart fees. We want to be aggressive in getting our members active.”
Renfro wants members to feel they can trust management.
“We’re bringing honesty,” he said. “There are still some growing pains and we understand that a lot of people are hurting financially.
“But we’re going to use every asset we have to make Whispering Pines one of the top places to come for golf. And I want our members to know that if they want to talk about anything, they can just open my door and sit down.”
The golf staff includes Barry Matey, a PGA professional who was the head professional at CCWP for years, Paula Brzostowski and Charlaine Hirst, an LPGA instructor.
Michael Howell is the head chef, Lacey Hughes is food and beverage manager, and Linda Spencer is the villa manager.
Whispering Pines is a semi-private facility that accepts open and package play. Daily rates are $40-$45 but are lower late in the day. Tee times may be made as far as seven days in advance by calling (910) 949-3000.
Contact Howard Ward at email@example.com.
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