Many years of declining membership and neglect has left the Middlesboro Country Club deeply in debt and the course in poor condition.
According to a letter to the editor by Bob Vaughn concerning the country club; the state and federal bank examiners are likely to force foreclosure on approximately 80-plus acres of property including the clubhouse. The club’s directors have not found a place to turn for a rescue.
“The creditors, primarily the bank, have been very patient,” said Vaughn. “But that patience can’t last much longer.”
Representatives of the club brought the issue to Mayor Bill Kelley and the city council asking that the city takeover the property and save it.
“We are hoping the city will take it over,” said vice president of the Club’s board of directors JC McDaniels. “This could be one of the gems for the city when it comes to tourism. It’s a big asset for the city. In the condition it should be in it will survive. I believe with day to day play the course will support itself. The big issue is getting it back into competitive condition and it needs a lot of work.”
The course requires greens-keeping, regular maintenance and some irrigation repairs, though it is playable and in use as is. The club’s board of directors hope that with the city taking control they would be able to get the course up to par.
“It is a community treasure — part of our heritage,” said Vaughn. “It is a vital part of our history. Moreover, the course is an important recreational outlet and tourism draw. Tourists like to say that they played here and shared history. But that is over without an extraordinary effort to save it.”
Dated to 1889 the course is credited by the United States Golf Association as the second oldest course in America. Starting as a full 18 holes, it was established for English settlers coming to Yellow Creek to capitalize on the iron and coal resources in the area. The course has diminished in size over the years starting in the 1920s, and is now nine holes.
“It would be short sighted of us to give up on this historical course and community asset during this tough period when it has so much potential and value for future generations here in Middlesboro,” said city councilman Blake Bowling. “The Middlesboro Country Club is of great historical value to this community and hopefully, if restored and brought up to standard as a new public course, can regain its importance in attracting visitors and promoting local tourism.”
Back in the club’s heyday membership was required to use the course but today anyone can play. Greens fees for an entire day of use is $15. The club is also offering a free day of golf to local businesses to bring attention to the course.
“If the city takes the course over, as a public course, everyone will have a hand in the renewal and reviving of a valuable asset to this community,” said Bowling. “I think both Middlesboro and the golf course have brighter days in the very near future.”
The future of the Middlesboro Country Club remains uncertain at this time but leasing the property is under review by Kelley and city council.
For more information on the Middlesboro Country Club and the golf course, visit their website at middlesborocountryclub.com.
Reach William Tribell at (606) 302-9100 or on Twitter @wtribellmdn