Public hearing set on potential golf course closure

Citizens have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the fate of the Front Royal Country Club Golf Course.

A 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Board of Supervisors public hearing will focus on the proposed closure of the county-owned course.

County Attorney Dan Whitten has explained that the county would like to lease the property to an unidentified party. Although that party or the specifics of how the land would be used cannot be revealed, he noted that it would be used for recreational purposes such as bike and hiking trails.

William and Agnes Carson donated the Front Royal Country Club in 1938 to the Front Royal Recreational Center Corporation to honor their son, who died in a car crash. 

The county assumed ownership in 2005, and County Administrator Doug Stanley said “it was our intention to be able to preserve one of the oldest and most historic golf courses in the state.”

The deed stipulates that the land be used as a golf course and for other recreational purposes for the benefit of citizens and students at Randolph Macon Academy, where the Agnes’ son attended.

Supervisor Chairman Tony Carter said it is a “tough decision” to close down the course due to its historic nature and encouraged citizens to attend the public hearing.

At the hearing, he said a presentation would cover a history of the course and the county’s efforts to keep it alive. 

Carter added that while the supervisors would like to close the course, the board wants it to remain a recreational facility that benefits more citizens. The club has 69 members, which includes those who just use the nearby boat landing.

Stanley noted challenges have included a nation-wide decline in golf play, which has been coupled with an increased amount competition in the form of 18-hole courses. He noted that it has operated at an average annual deficit of about $110,000 over the last five years.

Whether the county can forego the deed’s stipulations and close the golf course will be decided in Warren County Circuit Court.

Judge Clay Athey has noted that the deed was purposefully made difficult to overturn. He added that it is not unusual for a government-funded operation to lose money, and that is not a good reason to close the course.

Athey ordered that guardian ad litem lawyers be appointed to represent all possible interested parties. A court date is set for Sept. 20 with an October hearing likely to follow.