The owner of Fallbrook Golf Club is contemplating change for the property. Options on the table involve selling parts of the property and refashioning the course to be nine holes instead of eighteen.
Meanwhile, as uncertainty fills the air, homeowners in the vicinity and golfers who patronize the course are anxious over the possibilities that could take place and a plethora of “worst-case” scenarios and incorrect information is flooding the Gird Valley.
In a group email to neighbors, Larry and Dolly Harty write, “A small group from our neighborhood met last night to brainstorm what we could do at such short notice to stop this travesty.”
Worry is particularly prevalent about mitigation companies or housing developers purchasing some or all of the property.
“People do not have the complete and accurate information,” says Jack Lamberson, corporate comptroller and chairman of the board of directors for Fallbrook Golf Course, Inc. “People are just blowing smoke and making exaggerated claims.”
Lamberson says he purchased the property containing 116 acres in a short sale in June of 2012 and has found the investment in the 18-hole course a losing proposition.
“I have been losing $250,000 per year since purchasing it,” says Lamberson. “The fortunate thing is that [the Lamberson Family Trust, the sole stockholder of Fallbrook Golf Course Inc.] owns three payroll companies which have backed us up.”
Lamberson says his company has “pumped $1.6 million into the course” and has a total investment of $4.5 million in it. He has been trying to sell it for the past three years.
“The appraisal of it as a golf course is between $1.8 and $2 million; as a home development site it appraises at $4.8 million, because the money is not in the golf course,” he says. “The County, I’m sure, would like to have houses on it for the tax revenue.”
However, Lamberson claims he does not want to see the golf course go away; he values it, he says.
He does confirm rumors that he has put the “back nine” (36 to 42 acres) in escrow, but will not say who the buyer is. He does say the escrow is “supposed” to close on Feb. 15, but seems uncertain about that. Some residents were spreading information that it was in escrow to a land conservancy, but it has been confirmed that Fallbrook Land Conservancy (FLC) is not involved in it. FLC did purchase a nearby property totaling 47.74 acres last year.
“I was planning on shutting down the back nine on Jan. 15, but I haven’t done it and am waiting to see if this escrow closes,” Lamberson says.
What he wants to do is convert it to a nine-hole course, using the front nine.
“I’m not trying to sell everyone down the stream,” says Lamberson. “I want what’s good for the area too. The way I am working, it’s going to be good, better than it’s ever been before – if golfers support it.”
“If the golfers don’t support it, that could lead to a sale to a developer or land mitigator,” says Lamberson.
Former Fallbrook Women Golfers president Dolly Harty says the group has provided support for the club for 54 years, since it opened in 1962.
“The course has gotten so bad that we have not be able to get new members to join,” says Harty. “We informed them that our club was considering playing half the time at Golf Club of California and half time at Fallbrook. You would have thought
[Lamberson] would have taken some time to talk with us, explain what was happening, etc.”
Harty says proof of impending change has been evident. “Our [ladies] restrooms on the back nine were severely damaged from a fallen tree about a year ago, give or take a month. To this day, it has not been repaired. And a golfer offered his services to repair it in exchange for golf.”
Nancy Buscemi, who has played golf at the course for the past 12 years, says she “would hate to see the golf course go away.”
“[The ladies golf group] has supported them, held tournaments, luncheons, and more; the men’s club has done the same thing,” says Buscemi.
Improvements the owners have made to the infrastructure are many, Lamberson says, but none of those are represented visually in a glamorous way.
“People don’t have a clue how much we’ve gone through to try and keep improving it,” he says.
“I replaced all the bridges, revamped the parking lot, repainted the building, replaced three air conditioning units, installed a new grease trap, and much, much more,” Lamberson says. Changing the watering system to well service was a significant improvement.
“Our bill with Rainbow Water used to run $30,000 per month, which amounted to 75 percent of the golf course income,” says Lamberson.
If the escrow on the back nine falls through, he says he has two other (non-golf operation) buyers interested in it. Again, no comment on what those buyers would have in mind for the property.
“It’s not a typical sale; it’s a fairly complicated situation and may or may not close escrow Feb. 15,” he says. “There are people spreading rumors that I am selling it for $58 million. If that were the case, I’d take the money and run like hell.”
The homeowners’ group says it does not like the idea of the back nine being sold to any type of land conservancy group. As a result, residents have been distributing a petition to object to the sale.
“We all realize the golf business is hard right now, with declining play and with high water cost, but many golf courses are thriving or at least doing well enough to pay their bills and be on-going concerns,” says Brad Jordan, who owns a home near the course.
“If the Lambersons are able to close the course and turn it into a mitigation bank, anyone who lives in the Gird Valley will be negatively affected. There will be weeds, boarded-up buildings covered with graffiti, and who knows what else. The people who live on the course will be affected the most. We have to stop this from happening. This will degrade our quality of life in our lovely town.”
Jordan has fond memories associated with Fallbrook Golf Club. “For years we would eat at the restaurant for breakfast, on Taco Tuesdays, and 2-for-1 burgers on Wednesday nights. I would pop down to have a beer with friends or just hang out. All that has changed over time since the current owners (Lamberson) bought the course. Before they bought it, the restaurant and bar were really busy. Now it is dark, as it is closed at night. And what they have done to the course should be criminal. It used to have lush, green fairways and be a joy to play. Now the fairways are dead and brown.”
Lamberson assures his intent is to see property transform into a nine-hole course with a new business plan. He says he wants a new owner to do that, however.
“I have three interested potential buyers for a nine-hole course,” he says. “They would do a better job than I. I have heard how they would deepen the driving range; build sheltered structures for summer, add lights for summer evenings, cart paths, and more.”
“Nine-hole courses are becoming the popular option because
many people don’t have time for four-and-a-half hours of golf; they just want to jump in for a couple of hours and play,” says Lamberson.
Area resident Teresa Platt favors positive change. “No one in gorgeous Gird Valley objects to the golf course being sold to new owners,” she says. “No one objected to the sale of 47 undeveloped acres behind the back nine to the Fallbrook Land Conservancy. It’s all good.”
“No one objects to an owner making informed decisions about what is the most profitable way to run a course (18 holes, 9 holes, restaurant, bar, weddings, events, etc). After all, he/she should know best!”
“But there are legitimate concerns about the possible sale of the back nine (and possibly the eventual sale of the front nine) to a mitigation bank under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act,” says Platt. “The only example of a developed golf course undergoing that mitigation transformation is the San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall, just a few miles south. I encourage people to go take a look. The San Luis Rey Downs mitigation project is an unmitigated disaster. Its neighbors, who once loved that course, now must endure garbage, weeds, lack of water resulting in loss of amphibians, insects, birds and wildlife, a growing fire hazard, plus graffiti and vandalism.”
“A repeat of the San Luis Rey Downs fiasco must never happen in Fallbrook or anywhere,” says Platt.
Resident Teri Callahan feels a sense of betrayal about the turn of events at Fallbrook Golf Club, “It is my belief that the owner of the property has deliberately misled the decades-long loyal customers of the course by saying that a water issue was the cause of the recent course deterioration. It is now obvious that he was deliberately ruining it to dissuade any potential buyers for the course as a whole.”
Callahan does hope for a positive outcome, however. “This course could make a good “come-back” with a caretaker who will improve it, and restore it to its past conditions. It would be great if the County of San Diego would step in and take it over as a Municipal Golf Course to complement the large county park being acquired in the San Luis Rey Valley.”
Residents say they want to communicate with Lamberson about the situation and have asked him to meet with them.
“What he hasn’t done is communicate with us at all,” says Buscemi (on Jan. 29). “He hasn’t come to any of the meetings we have invited him to.”
“Let’s just hope and pray that Jack attends [an upcoming meeting] and listens to appeals from the golfing public,” says Sue Thorne, a longtime golfer who owns a home on the second green.
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