Maple Dale CC experiences what others have already

March 22, 2013

Cape Region golfers with fond memories of playing Dover’s Maple Dale Country Club in years past may be wondering what has happened to the venerable golf course, based on the recent story appearing in the Wilmington News-Journal.

As reported in that paper’s March 19 edition, Maple Dale is seeking court approval for a prepackaged bankruptcy under Chapter 11. That section of the Bankruptcy Code controls most corporate bankruptcy proceedings.

In a prepackaged filing, the bankrupt estate and its creditors come to the court with an agreed-upon arrangement to close out past debts and move forward under a new arrangement.

Larry McAllister, a successful Smyrna businessman and former Maple Dale club president, would assume ownership of the club. Over the past several years, McAllister bought up shares of Maple Dale stock from other members. According to the newspaper story, he also loaned a significant amount to the club, and recently he bought out a loan to the club previously held by the First National Bank of Wyoming.

The story also notes that Maple Dale’s membership rolls diminished in recent years, and that a planned subdivision development of 12 townhouses on the property had only sold four of the properties thus far.

The current Maple Dale management is assuring those with bookings for the club’s facilities that the property will remain open for business. The planned restructuring should be completed in a few months. Except for a new golf pro and a few other staff changes, the place should be much the same for those visiting and playing the course.

Golf courses throughout the United States have struggled during the current recession and the glacier-like alleged economic recovery. Country clubs in the Cape Region and other parts of Delmarva have not been immune.

For example, this month marks the finish of the first full year in which the folks at The Rookery have operated Shawnee Country Club. The former Milford private country club is under a four-year lease with an option to buy held by the Milton public golf course operation.

Unlike Maple Dale, only single shares of Shawnee’s stock could be held by any person, which made loan or ownership consolidation by a financial “angel” a difficult proposition at best. Fortunately, Shawnee’s financial troubles were also not on the same scale. Nonetheless, Shawnee’s shareholders preferred the Rookery lease deal, instead of finding enough money among themselves to keep the club completely private.

More recently, Millsboro’s Peninsula resort and golf course was the subject of court litigation regarding a potential alternative to foreclosure. As reported here, Chancery Court turned down the proposed arrangement. The resort will now be facing some difficult financial and operational challenges.

While the recession certainly played a part in the economic troubles facing the golf industry, there are other factors. Based on the Delaware experiences, there no longer seem to be enough golfers willing to be part of a large enough membership roster to keep their country club costs within easy reach of the middle class.

There will always be golf clubs with members drawn from the higher end of the economic spectrum. For the rest of the golfing community, some form of public-access golf looks like the best available remaining option.

Double-checking never hurt, and might even help

A recent Ruling of the Day at the USGA website makes one wonder about the mental capacity of the golfer in question.

During a stroke-play event, a golfer plays the wrong ball to the green. At that point he discovers his error, and goes back to the spot where he played that ball. He finds another ball there, and hits it to the green. Then he discovers that this ball is also the wrong one.

The penalty for playing a wrong ball is two strokes. Since he screwed up twice, he earned a second two-stroke penalty for doubling up his mistake.

D’oh, as Homer Simpson would say.

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