Beaufort News

A once popular Beaufort Co. golf course is overgrown and closed. Will it come back?

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A green, battery-powered lawnmower hummed as a shirtless man cut the weeds in the fairway adjacent to his home on a once popular Beaufort County golf course.

It’s still evident there is a golf course in the Lady’s Island community of Cat Island. The holes that wind through the neighborhood and along the marsh are still there, signs direct golfers and identify each hole and electric carts are parked under roof steps from the clubhouse.

But the Sanctuary Club shows the neglect from being closed for months. Weeds grow throughout the fairways and greens and dot the driving range adjacent to the club’s shuttered swimming pool.

Owner Jeff Fischer, who also owns Lady’s Island Country Club on the north end of Lady’s Island, closed Sanctuary Club abruptly in January and said at the time the course was for sale while he consolidated operations to his other club.

Now the club’s creditors are moving to foreclose on the property and collect money owed from the sale of the club, Beaufort County court records show.

Grant Golf LLC filed foreclosure papers in April saying Fischer and his Cat Island Investors Inc. owe $191,340.35 as part of a $300,000 mortgage agreement in 2016, court records show.

Cat Island Investors, of which Fischer is president, and Lady’s Island LLC, of which he is managing member, also owe International Golf Maintenance $375,000 as part of a settlement related to contracted work for the upkeep of the golf courses, according to court records.

Grant Golf has asked a Beaufort County judge to direct the course’s sale and that the proceeds be applied to the debts.

Fischer did not respond in the court to the complaint within 30 days, and Grant Golf filed an affidavit of default May 23.

He said Wednesday he still plans to sell the course before it’s foreclosed and has two serious potential buyers.

“It certainly has value exceeding the amount of the foreclosures,” he said. “It’s in my best interest to sell it before the foreclosure sale happens.”

In January, Fischer cited a decline in play, competition from the golf course on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and extreme weather in recent years to the course’s struggles.

The loan agreement with Grant Golf was renegotiated to defer payments in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, court documents show.

A Chinese investment group was interested last year in buying the course and establishing a golf school on the property, but the deal didn’t work out, Fischer said earlier this year. He said he also offered to sell the course to Cat Island property owners and reiterated this week that they are still welcome to make a deal.

Another pair of potential investors are still interested in buying the course and are following the court proceedings.

Beaufort real estate agent Willie Mack Stansell and his partner Alan Ballew, with OBCC LLC, think a family-style country club with memberships and open to the public can work under the right management, Stansell said last week. He said the partners have plans to rebrand the course if they are able to buy it but declined to offer specific on those plans.

With tennis courts, a swimming pool and exercise facility, Stansell said he feels the club could still succeed and offer something different from the area’s other options. Golfers also have the Legends Golf Course at Parris Island, the Golf Club at Pleasant Point and Lady’s Island Country Club as public options in northern Beaufort County.

“I still think there’s a vibrant market for Cat Island to be successful,” Stansell said.

A potential deal now hinges on the willingness of the buyer to invest money needed to bring the course back from its current shape.

Fischer said he believes it’s possible.

“I’ve purchased places that are in a lot worse shape than that and have reconditoned them and put them back in fine working order,” he said.

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