By Bruce Meadows
Looking back, and ahead…
You can call it Oakmont (the old name, which some golfers still prefer to use) or Valley of the Moon (new name, which new management prefers you to use), but new head golf professional Chapman Dundas just wants you to call and come out and see what’s happening at the 36-hole facility in East Santa Rosa.
VOM (I’m gradually adjusting to the new name, not to mention Sugarloaf, the new tag for the East Course) went through some difficult times, especially for Oakmont residents, with one management group taking over,
then bailing out before CourseCo, a Petaluma-based firm operated by Tom Isaak took over.
Things are still not where CourseCo plans on them being in the near future, but there are obvious signs of progress.
“I sense a positive attitude,” says the 46-year-old Dundas, who previously spent five years as head pro at Santa Rosa G&CC and 10 years as an assistant at Mayacama . . . he came to VOM last summer and was named head pro last November. “We’re just starting and it takes time to build a business back up . . . it doesn’t change overnight.”
When CourseCo took over, there were a lot of projects but not completed projects. . . finishing that work will take time, but every indication is that Isaak’s group will take the facility to a good place.
“We have had to finish up a lot of things that were started, but not finished,” explains Dundas.
“I think CourseCo being a locally-based operation has helped,” said Dundas.
CourseCo operates Foxtail GC, a 36-hole layout in Rohnert Park, but that is just a small part of the company’s interests.
CourseCo’s properties can be found in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Montana, and Texas.
Some of California courses include Ancil Hoffman, Bidwell Park, Cherry Island, Boundary Oaks, Crystal Springs, Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, Las Positas, Napa GC and Pacific Grove, to name a few . . . so VOM and Sugarloaf find themselves in good company.
CourseCo’s reputation has been to come into an area – often taking over a facility in some degree of disrepair — and make much-needed improvements. The company didn’t end up operating 40 courses without some hard work and good results . . . and smart people running the show.
Significant improvements can be seen in the pro shop and restaurant and on the two courses, which had been pretty much neglected.
“Members had been burned by the previous company, and there has been some hesitancy by some of them,” said Dundas. “It’s taken some time to see and appreciate changes.”
He points out that annual memberships, which had disappeared, have now reached 200 and the list is growing.
The restaurant, food and beverage and the East (Sugarloaf) pro shop are all on the way back. “Tom Isaak is committed to putting our efforts into improving the course, the restaurants and the course itself . . . everything,” he stressed.
Buildings that formerly housed LPGA pro Jessica Reese’s teaching facility are also in for an upgrade, according to Chapman.
“Our long-range plan is to have a performance studio where we can teach, offer simulated golf,” he explained. “We want to make golf more easily available in the winter and create a winter-friendly site for golfers.”
Dundas also envisions junior camps, more tournaments, leagues, etc.
“People seem happy . . . they understand what we are trying to accomplish.”
“Oaks, vistas, strategic golf, and a true community of spirit,”notes Isaak “From my perspective, who could ask for more?”
Former board member Steve Spanier, tends to agree: “Not sure you want comments from me because I’m no longer on the board, but I think the condition of the courses have improved since CourseCo took over and I also look forward to the restaurant opening soon.”
As far as dealing with the pandemic, Chapman emphasized “come June 15, we will be monitoring where the county is and will continue to do that.”
Chapman, with a long history in private club operations, thinks what has happened so far is just a start on what will happen.
“People were starving for golf here,” he said, adding that about 60 percent of play, or more, comes from residents. “There was really nobody here to help golfers with their game, their tournaments.”
The plan for VOM and Sugarloaf “is all about winning back the trust of the people,” said Dundas.
VOM can be reached at 539-0415.
Who’s running the show?
General Manager, Hilary Gruendle
Director of Golf, John Theilade
Superintendent, Danny Fielder
Head Golf Professional, Chapman Dundas
What does it cost to play?
VALLEY OF THE MOON (West Course) RATES
Weekday: 7 a.m.-1 p.m., $39, 1-3 p.m., $29; 3 p.m. and later, $19.
Weekends: 7 a.m.-1 p.m. $59; 1-3 p.m. $44; 3 p.m. and later $29.
Seniors (60+ daily rates)
Weekday: 7 a.m.-1 p.m., $29; 1-3 p.m., $24; 3 p.m. and later, $19.
Weekends: 7 a.m.-1 p.m., $52; 1-3 p.m., $35; 3 p.m. and later, $25.
SUGARLOAF (East Course) RATES
Weekday: 7 a.m.-1 p.m., $29; 1-3 p.m. $22; 3 p.m. and later, $19.
Weekends:7 a.m.-1 p.m., $44; 1-3 p.m., $29; 3 p.m. and later, $27.
9-hole rate: $19.
Senior (60+) Daily fees
Weekday: 7 a.m.-1 p.m., $25; after 1 p.m., $19
Weekend: 7 a.m.-1 p.m. $35; after 1 p.m., $22.
9-hole rate $17.50
An inside look . . .
Michael Sharp is CEO for CourseCo, and was willing to provide the company’s version regarding some of the changes at Oakmont/Valley of the Moon. Thanks, Michael.
“There are several groups that include board members, Oakmont homeowners, the golfing public, CourseCo and the original company selected to lease Valley of the Moon, AGP, that would help fill in the gaps and provide a more thorough history of how we are here today.
“Originally, prior to the HOA acquiring the golf course, the HOA Board chose to find a partner to manage and operate the facility on their behalf. They reached out and asked several qualified management companies to provide a proposal on managing and leasing the property from the HOA once they acquired the property.
“During this process, CourseCo submitted a bid. Our bid took into account our 30+ year experience in the market and what our vision was for the facility, including a business plan outlining how we would optimize the performance of the facility and how we would enhance the experience and usage for the community–golf and non-golf activity. We emphasized our commitment to community, environment, local knowledge and headquarters, and our proven track record, including Foxtail Golf Club.
“However, our proposal, which was well-received, fell short of the winning proposal by AGP. Their proposal was much more lucrative for the HOA and included a sizeable investment into the property. The board chose to go with the better financial offer and promises from AGP.
“For reasons not completely known to me, AGP decided soon after signing the lease and taking over the property (after the HOA had acquired the property) that they were going to exit the property and lease agreement. I am sure several factors, including the high costs associated with the transition and construction along with the uncertainty of COVID to name a few, caused AGP to get out well before the first year of the lease and that left the HOA Board searching for a new partner.
“As the Board faced the challenge of finding a new partner we responded the day we found out that AGP was leaving, offering to manage on a short-term agreement and to help the club through the COVID challenges and give them time to find the right long-term partner. We fine-tuned our proposal and after careful analysis and due diligence, offered a proposal that was mutually beneficial with a financial commitment by CourseCo.
“We managed the facility on a short-term contract while the board vetted a couple of companies proposals to replace AGP. We worked really hard to ensure that our agreement would be favorable for all stakeholders. We wanted to make a difference, improve the facilities (including the golf courses and clubhouse), and provide more robust community programming and usage. In addition to a solid financial proposal, we also had experience with several issues facing the facility.
“After interviews with the board, and negotiating a final agreement that met the needs of the community/board, we were selected as the new partner on a long-term lease.
“After the first 6+ months, we have made significant progress including finishing the construction on the pro shop and restaurant, bringing in new maintenance equipment and hiring a management team.
“While still early days we are thrilled at the support we are receiving from both the HOA Board and Homeowners themselves. The restaurant should be opening any day (just waiting on final health permit) and banquets and events should start up this fall. We see a very bright future at Valley of the Moon and are very proud to be able to play our part.”
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