New owner plans to remake Dismal River

February 6, 2017
By Jack Crittenden
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Dismal River Golf Club, one of Nebraska’s build-it-and-they-will-come golf venues, has been sold again. The 36-hole club, which opened in 2006, now belongs to a group of seven Omaha businessmen, led by Joel Jacobs, a former professional football player who’s become an investment advisor.

Jacobs grew up on a ranch near Dismal River, a club that features golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak. The club is in Mullen, Neb.

“I’ve always known what the place can be and should be,” he told the North Platte Telegraph. “We’ll build on what’s there and make it special. There’s never been any money spent on marketing and awareness. We’ll do that and bring life and energy to the place.”

Jacobs developed a business plan on how to bring Dismal River to the next level.  The buyers and their team plan on implementing skeet shooting, mountain biking, hunting tours and private shuttles to and from larger cities, in addition to many other changes and improvements. 

“The challenge in finding the right buyer was finding an investor for the community, course, and the seller was an investor with a vision who would change the operating model from exclusively private to a resort course with a private membership,” said said Steve Ekovich, Senior Vice President, National Managing Director and Director of the National Golf Division of The Leisure Investment Properties Group of Marcus & Millichap, which handled the sale for both the buyers and sellers.

Jacobs and his partners are reportedly Dismal River’s fourth owners. They bought the 3,000-acre spread, in the state’s sand hills, from Richard and Chris Johnston, who’d owned it since 2009. The Johnstons invested $40 million into the club.

Golf Digest ranks Dismal River as the #2 and #5 layouts in the state, but it’s hard to brag about those rankings when your next-door neighbor is Sand Hills Golf Club, which features a track that’s ranked #17 in the world.

“The asset was not a standard golf course sale, it was in the middle of the Sand Hills of Nebraska in a somewhat remote location, with resort cabins that were sold as a stock sale vs. an asset sale,” Ekovich said. “The buyer had the sophistication to pull it off. However, after months of negotiations, we successfully closed on the property last week and we look forward to watching the growth of Dismal River as it turns into a well-known vacation destination.”

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