Concert Golf recapitalizes, acquires West Lake CC

Concert Golf Partners has recapitalized West Lake Country Club — a private club in Augusta, Ga. owned by members since 1977 — thus assuming the role as owner-operator. The deal subsequently liquidates long-standing club debt, freezes dues and bars future assessments on the membership.

“Members no longer have an ownership stake in the club, but it has an advisory board,” Concert Golf CEO Peter Nanula said. “We act as a steward for the members. In terms of real estate, we are the owner, but the club will always remain private. We try our best to make sure it remains very much the members’ club.”

Prior to the recapitalization, West Lake Country Club struggled to complete in an overcrowded, post-recession marketplace. The club incurred massive debts after taking out bank loans to fund a $6 million clubhouse renovation in 2006. Once the recession took hold, it lost members and raised dues. The club’s board and membership unanimously selected Concert Golf to help bring life back into the club. 

Concert Golf is immediately undertaking $1.5 million in capital improvements for its new property. It plans to expand the driving range and short game practice area; expand the banquet hall to seat more than 250 people; improve the tennis and pool complex; and add casual dining options. The club’s board has proposed several other capital projects, which Concert Golf will fund over the two years.

"These particular upgrades have been too long delayed, due to the club's financial issues," Nanula said. "With the debt retired, the club can move forward again, unburdened.”

West Lake Country Club is not alone in its financial woes. According to Concert Golf, at least 50 percent of the 2,500 member-owned private clubs operating in the U.S. have dangerous levels of debt.

It was the financial success of other nearby clubs during Masters Week that solidified the club’s need to take drastic measures. While other clubs saw revenues upwards of $1.5 million during a typical Masters Week, West Lake Country Club only realized a quarter of those revenues, as it had not yet invested in proper banquet and golf course facilities.

"If we had it to do over again, we would have partnered with Concert Golf back in 2006, when we first tried to self-fund all of this," prior Board President Michael Sommers said in a news release. "Our dues are frozen now, with a written guarantee of no more assessments ever again. We already have lots of former members — who left the club in the last few years due to the uncertainty — asking if they can come back to West Lake."

Nanula, the founder and CEO of Arnold Palmer Golf Management from 1993 to 2000, founded Concert Golf Partners in 2000. It is a boutique owner-operator of private clubs, and it has amassed $150 million to invest in and upgrade large-scale private clubs in major metro areas. It is an all-cash buyer with a golf fund, which, Nanula says, allows it to acquire or recapitalize clubs without incurring debt and subsequently invests in these properties for the long term. 

Concert Golf has recently acquired 11 clubs nationally, including the Golf Club of Amelia Island, Gaillardia Country Club and Hawthorns Golf & Country Club. West Lake Country Club members now have reciprocal privileges at these and Concert Golf's other clubs. 

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