Homeowners around Plantation Country Club in Garden City fear a new owner will redevelop the golf course into housing
Will Gustafson has heard all of the rumors.
That the new owner of Plantation Country Club plans to shut down the 101-year-old golf course, the oldest in Southern Idaho and second-oldest in the state. Or the 116-acre course will get pared down to 9 holes from 18. That way he can tear out fairways and build 500 houses.
And the day the sale closes, he’ll rush down to Garden City’s City Hall with plans for new commercial development.
Nonsense, Gustafson says. He told the Statesman that the sale closed Friday afternoon, and he said Boise and Garden City residents can ignore the scuttlebutt.
“To the rumor mill, there’s no truth to any of that,” said Gustafson, a Santa Barbara, California developer who heads Glass Creek LLC. “We don’t have any plans. We think this is a fabulous piece of real estate. It demands special attention. We understand that.”
Gustafson sat down last week with the Statesman in his first interview about the purchase of the course, on agreement that a story would not be published until the sale closed.
First off, he said he intends to continue to run the golf course at 6515 W. State St. as an 18-hole operation. He said he also wants to make improvements to attract new members and make existing members proud of the operation. He said he plans to meet with members and homeowners in the area to talk about his vision and help calm their fears.
Already, Gustafson has committed to spending more than $100,000 on clubhouse improvements, he said.
“We think they are really needed to enhance the guest experience,” he said. “I think that speaks to the fact we wouldn’t be doing that if we were tearing the golf course down.”
Kate Taylor, a Garden City resident who lives along the course, said she’s pleased to hear that it will remain.
“That would be wonderful,” she said.
Rumors about what might happen with the course have spread over the past few months, she said, and she hopes that Gustafson and his group keep their promise.
Plantation opened as a six-hole course on July 18, 1917. Then known as the Boise Country Club, it opened five years after the state’s oldest golf course, the Hayden Lake Country Club in North Idaho.
The country club is located where Pierce Park sat from 1907 to 1928. The park and the Pierce Park neighborhood were named for W.E. Pierce, a land developer and president of the Boise and Interurban Railway, which passed by the development. The park included a lake with rowboats, tennis courts, croquet wickets, a bandstand and a picnic area.
The Plantation course was designed by H. Chandler Egan, who won a team gold medal and a silver individual medal at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis and was a member of the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame. Egan designed a number of courses in Oregon and Washington.
Plantation had 110 members in 1922 but later suffered from declining membership. There were two consecutive years in that decade when flooding from the Boise River made parts of the course unplayable, according to a history of Plantation Country Club.
American Golf, through its parent company, AGC Realty of Los Angeles, has owned it since 2016. It was previously owned by National Golf Properties, which merged with American Golf Corp. in 2002. The country club facilities, including the golf course, clubhouse, pro shop and pool, are assessed at $2.6 million, according to Ada County tax records.
Gustafson had looked to buy Plantation once before, in 2008. Although the course wasn’t listed for sale, Gustafson struck a deal with American Golf.
“I was in escrow for several months and then about that time the economy just went into a tailspin,” Gustafson said, so he backed out.
Earlier this year, Gustafson received a call from a commercial real estate broker in Los Angeles. The broker, who knew about Gustafson’s earlier interest in Plantation, told him that he received a list of 12 courses American Golf was looking to sell in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and that Plantation was on the list.
“I told him I would be very interested” in Plantation, Gustafson said. He ended up arranging to buy the course before the listing was publicly available.
The buyers plan to spend six months or more evaluating the course and deciding on other improvements, said Bob Taunton, Gustafson’s project manager. Tauton, who was involved in the Avimor housing project, said the course operates an antiquated irrigation system, another item that needs attention.
American Golf will continue to run the course for at least five years, and Jayson Petersen, the club’s general manager, will remain in that position. The existing staff will remain and the course will continue to employ 70 workers during the peak season, Gustafson said.
Dues will not increase in 2019, Gustafson said. Family memberships are $295 per month, while individuals pay $250 and junior executives pay $215. Fitness memberships cost $75 and social memberships are $30, also per month.
“I believe having the new owners sign a management agreement with American Golf shows their commitment to the club,” Petersen said. “We are excited to continue to be a part of the Plantation Country Club and I look forward to working with them as they assess what improvements need to be made.”
The country club will eventually have to configure the No. 10 hole against State Street. The Ada County Highway District is widening the road during work that will begin in January 2021, and the country club will lose up to 24 feet.
It will also force the club to create a new entrance on State Street. A median to be installed at the existing entrance at Plantation Drive will prevent westbound vehicles from turning left. The new entrance will be located farther east, near North Pierce Park Lane, which heads north off State Street.
Gustafson acknowledged that there could be commercial development added eventually along State Street, but he said that won’t prevent the golf course from operating as an 18-hole setup. And he said he doesn’t have any plans yet for such development.
Gustafson said he understands that given the rumor mill, Treasure Valley residents will be skeptical about his plans. But he said over time, they will realize he’s committed to enhancing the country club, not tearing it down.
Gustafson’s previous projects in Sparks, Nevada, and Chula Vista, California, caused hard feelings. D’Andrea Golf Course in Sparks closed in 2012 following years of financial losses and accusations of mismanagement, the Reno Gazette Journal reported. In Chula Vista, Synergy bought a foreclosed course that operated for five years before filing for bankruptcy in 2011. Bad market conditions caused problems for both courses, Gustafson said.
Gustafson said he is confident of a different outcome with Plantation.
“This can be a legacy project, if we do it right,” Gustafson said. “I really believe that.”