Fate of The Oaks golf course could be residential

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The fairways at The Oaks at Sherwood Golf Course were empty last week following the course's closure due to financial problems. With the property going to a lender and its fate unclear, other recent golf course closures point to a likely use involving residential development.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The fairways at The Oaks at Sherwood Golf Course were empty last week following the course's closure due to financial problems. With the property going to a lender and its fate unclear, other recent golf course closures point to a likely use involving residential development.

With the now-defunct Oaks at Sherwood golf course headed into the hands of a local lender and its fate unclear, other recent course closures point to a likely use involving some type of residential development.

As for the golf course’s last 175 members, at least one competitor, Livingston Parish’s Greystone Golf & Country Club, is actively targeting them for membership as owners there try to boost that course and its surrounding residential development.

The Oaks was shut down Wednesday, unable to overcome dwindling membership and competition from other courses. It closed owing about $2.7 million to American Gateway Bank.

The bank’s CEO would not comment Wednesday on the fate of the property, but it is expected to be sold to developers.

Four other area courses have closed in recent years and set the pattern. Shenandoah Country Club Golf Course is now a residential development. A portion of Fairwood Country Club, off Millerville Road, was developed with houses and the rest is set to become an apartment and retail/office development. Briarwood Golf Club at Airline and Pecue is now the site of the new Woman’s Hospital. A residential development is planned for the former site of the Gonzales Country Club.

Appraiser Tom Cook of Cook, Moore & Associates said The Oaks is not in a high-demand area for single-family housing, and the layout of the course isn’t as ideal for conversion as Shenandoah was.

However, The Oaks does have good access to the interstate and Sherwood Forest Boulevard, and is “a pretty piece of property,” he said.

“What I’d like to see happen, if it was left to me, is have an investor come and build a street down the middle of the course and build some nice homes,” said Ricky Shaffer, president of the Sherwood Forest Citizens’ Association.

In the interim, he hopes the property is kept up while the bank or a developer decides what to do. When properties remain vacant or are abandoned, bad things, like vandalism, happen, he said.

Cook said larger lots wouldn’t work on The Oaks property. Homes at the lower end of the price scale aimed toward first-time homebuyers are what’s moving in the local market anyway.

With the property soon to be bank-owned, it will likely be sold at a price that could make development more economically feasible.

Cook said a large-scale developer like DR Horton or DSLD Homes, which have been very active in the market in recent years, could end up developing the property.

One thing is certain, Greystone Golf & Country Club is trying to capture as many Oaks members and players as possible, developer Ron Menville Jr. said. When The Oaks’ predecessor, Sherwood Forest Country Club, closed four years ago, around 100 of its members joined Greystone.

“We’re pushing hard to get the rest of them,” Menville said Friday.

Last month, Livingston Parish businessman George Lockhart and his sons Derk and Hootie bought the majority interest in the Greystone golf course and development from Menville’s silent partner. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Lockhart sold his industrial and hazardous waste company, CEI Environmental Services, two years ago and was looking for an investment opportunity. With interest rates so low, he said, “you can’t make any money on your money,” and buying into Greystone was “a good deal for our family.”

Menville said the family’s timing was impeccable.

“The economy has recovered. Our Lady of the Lake (near Denham Springs) is complete. The Oaks at Sherwood closed. Activities have picked up at Greystone,” Menville said.

The development has built 198 lots and sold 155 of them. Around 95 homes have been built and are occupied, and plans call for 350 more homes. After a long dry spell, the development is fielding calls every week from prospective buyers, he said.

The number of rounds played at Greystone is up around 10 percent so far this year.

Lockhart said the group’s first objective is “to get the golf course back in the black.” Once they do, plans call for a new clubhouse. They’ve hired Greg Owens to manage the course.

“We only want to enhance the community out here,” Lockhart said of plans to develop Greystone further. “We’re not going to do anything to hurt the community.”

Lockhart said any development will be done in concert with Greystone’s homeowners’ association and architectural committees.