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Little River Golf & Resort in Carthage. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

The future remains unclear for Little River Resort in Carthage after the 183-acre course and clubhouse garnered no prospective buyer at a courthouse foreclosure auction Thursday.

The golf course shuttered operations earlier this year. There were no bidders Thursday for the opening reserve price announced at $6.5 million.

Cameron Scott, an attorney with Locust-based Huneycutt Law, PLLC, said the sale will be held open for 10 days for upset bids, as required by law. The minimum bid must be 5 percent higher than the reserve, which typically includes what is owed on the mortgage and any interest or fees owed by the debtor.

According to the Moore County Register of Deeds, Little River Resort executed a $29 million promissory note to Anglo Irish Bank Corporation in December 2007. In addition, tax lien records published by The Pilot in March indicated there are 70 tax liens related to Little River Resorts totaling $92,017 that are unpaid.

However, business at the resort off U.S. 15-501is in full swing at the 64 golf rental condominiums and at Filly & Colts restaurant, which is owned and operated by Karen and Jon Littlefield.

Debbie Bureau of Little River Condo Rentals described the foreclosure auction as a procedural necessity and is looking forward to a brighter future.

“This is one of the prettiest properties in Moore County. I am hoping a new owner will come in really soon,” Bureau said. “They are trying to get it sold as quickly as possible.”

This weekend the condos are filled to capacity with golfers who will be staying on-site and having breakfast each day at Filly & Colts restaurant, which is also open daily for lunch and dinner.

Filly & Colts farm table

The giant 14-seat farm table is popular for large gatherings at Filly & Colts at Little River Golf and Resort in Carthage. Chef/owner Karen Littlefield serves a birthday cupcake to Jim Hicks as his wife, Gail, and friends enjoy the surprise. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

“The condos, the bar and restaurant are 100 percent open,” she said. "The condos are filled to the brim especially this time of year."

A Bumpy Course History

Little River has a unique history. A century ago it was an Ayrshire cattle farm and later an equestrian training facility with polo grounds and a harness racing track.

The town of Carthage, which annexed the property and bought it, transformed the rolling acreage from barn and pasture to clubhouse and links.

Renowned golf course architect Dan Maples was hired to design its 18-hole course. Maples was born only a few miles from the Little River and brought a dedication to the course that no other architect could bring. In fact, the course was chosen by The Washington Golf Monthly as “A Best New Course for 1996.”

After establishing the golf course, Carthage sold it at a profit to the resort’s first developer/owners, who constructed the clubhouse and several units of course-side condominiums.

Little River Partners subsequently bought Little River and announced plans for further on-site development, including neighborhoods, an anchoring hotel, even a shopping center with a big outdoor theater and entertainment complex. Those plans remained on the table when the partnership sold the property to Oceanico Group USA in 2007.

Oceanico invested in course improvements on the fairways and greens with assistance from Troon Golf. Troon departed in the latter part of 2009, and Oceanico has continued to manage its own resort.

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Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

The “crux” of the problem that led to the closing of the golf course goes back to the middle of last summer when the facility’s pump station failed. By the time funding was secured and the repairs were made, damage to the Crenshaw bentgrass greens had been done.

Marvin Waters, who has been general manager at the property for 14 years, estimated repairs to the greens alone could top $1 million.

“Because of the type of greens we had and the pump station being out for a while … it really got to the point of no return. The greens need to be redone. That is the real reason for closing the golf course,” he told The Pilot in an interview last February. “We did a tremendous amount of work in the summer and fall determining different options we had to redo or replace the greens. Everything we looked at pointed to an expenditure of $1 million-plus.”

Waters said the current owners, based in Fort Worth, Texas, decided rather than spend that kind of money, they would let a new owner decide what to do about the greens “knowing that the trend in this area is to go with a Bermuda grass.”

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