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Wednesday, 14 February 2007 00:00

New golf course owner promises major upgrades

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Following several years of decline and neglect, Smoky Mountain Golf Course in Whittier has been wrested away from its out-of-state owners by a local developer pledging a major overhaul of the course.

 

“People are finally going to have an outstanding golf course and facility that is maintained to the highest standards. Folks in the area will go from the outhouse to the penthouse as far as golfing is concerned,” said Mike Cornblum, the owner of the adjacent Smoky Mountain Country Club who now owns the golf course as well. “We will at long last be able to provide stability to a golf course with a tumultuous history.”

The course was previously owned by group of investors from Pennsylvania under the name Woodville Associates. Country club residents and golfers claimed the course was being held hostage by the owners who neglected it for several years before shutting it down completely last May.

The sudden move left golfers in Swain County and homeowners of the adjacent Smoky Mountain Country Club in the lurch. The course was already plagued by crumbling cart paths, soggy fairways, shoddy sand traps and eroded tee boxes, not to mention a few poorly designed holes that were impossibly difficult for average golfers. But it was better than nothing for those after-work outings or Saturday morning games.

The course closure meant golfers in the Whittier area had to drive at least 45 minutes to reach the next closest course. And homeowners at the country club were threatened by a view of an overgrown pasture instead of golf greens.

The closure added fuel to the fire of a pending lawsuit by Cornblum against the out-of-state owners — a lawsuit that eventually forced the recent sale of the course.

The owners of Smoky Mountain Golf Course were supposed to maintain the course in exchange for various right-of-ways over country club property for cart paths and even some fairway greens. Cornblum filed suit against the owners in late 2003 for failure to comply with the agreement, which was further violated by closure of the course altogether.

The court ordered Woodville to get the course back in shape under the terms of the agreement or, if they didn’t want it any more, their option was to sell it to Cornblum. They decided to sell to Cornblum. The deal closed on the 133-acre course last week for $700,000.

“We want to provide the golfers in Swain and Jackson counties with a home course they can be proud of,” said Cornblum. “The golf course was put in to benefit the people of Jackson and Swain counties years ago. To be able to finally deliver the type of course people thought they would be getting in 1994 when the project first started is very exciting.”

The sale is good news for development of the Smoky Mountain Country Club. Cornblum said the country club has lost a tremendous number of sales due to instability of the course and general disrepair of the facility.

“We’ll be able to sell our property with the benefit of the golf course, rather than selling property despite the golf course,” Cornblum said.

News of Cornblum’s ownership will increase everyone’s property values around the course immediately.

“All of our residents are extremely excited about us taking over the golf course,” Cornblum said.

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