Crews began clearing land in Columbia County this week for a new 18-hole, public golf course flanked by a major new subdivision.
The par-72, 18-hole championship course is planned to be built with minimal earthwork and ecologically sensitive construction. Maintenance practices will ensure that the course is playable and complements the surrounding area, said Turner Simkins, vice president of Blanchard & Calhoun Real Estate Co.
The Bartram Trail Golf Club, to be on Columbia Road next to Patriots Park, is designed within a conservation-oriented, master-planned community to be developed by Euchee Creek Investors Inc., under the guidance of Blanchard & Calhoun.
Just over a year ago, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners approved the creation of a nonprofit corporation, Bartram Trail CDC Inc., to develop and operate the high-end daily-fee golf course.
Bartram Trail CDC has since been pursuing bond financing for the project with the assistance of Public Finance Consultants, of Harrisburg, Pa., which recently obtained contingent approval for a 90 percent loan guarantee through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Loan Guarantee Program.
Because of the project's location in central Columbia County and the long-term economic growth potential created by the project, it qualified for the federal program, which is intended to create economic opportunities and community improvement in qualified areas.
"As a centrally located golf course facility, we hope that the opportunity is really taken advantage of to promote this to the entire community," Simkins said.
With the USDA guarantee, the golf course and related amenities have been funded through a loan underwritten by Dolphin & Bradbury, of Philadelphia.
Dolphin & Bradbury's financing covers golf course construction and provides operating and debt service reserves for operations. The debt will be repaid only out of golf course revenues; Columbia County has no obligation to make payments.
The golf course could be ready to open by summer 2005, Simkins said.
"That's a conservative guess," he said. "If Mother Nature cooperates, it could be opening earlier."
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