The 54-year-old Pebble Creek Golf Club, once the centerpiece of a burgeoning New Tampa community, is closing next month.
The shutdown is in anticipation of the 150-acre property being converted to residential development. It comes six months after owner Bill Place of Ace Golf unsuccessfully sought a Hillsborough County brownfield designation to help with the cost of cleaning chemical contaminants from the soil.
Place, who purchased the club in 2005, announced the closing, effective July 31, in a letter to club members over the weekend.
In it, he repeated much of the same information he shared with Pebble Creek residents and Hillsborough County officials last year during his brownfield application.
Notably, the 1,300 Pebble Creek homeowners account for just 20 club memberships.
“The club cannot survive on this,” said Place.
There are other financial considerations, as well. The course, clubhouse and restaurant need $1.1 million worth of capital investments including a new irrigation system and clubhouse roof, he said. The planned environmental cleanup carries a $1 million price tag. The club hasn’t been profitable since 2018 and even a pandemic-induced spike in golf rounds didn’t make it worthwhile to remain open.
Fred Pearce, 70, is one of the 20 members residing in Pebble Creek and said he plays three rounds a week.
“I think it’s a death knell to the community — it was built around a golf course that’s been here for 50 years — so it’s a sad day for the community,” said Pearce.
Pearce said he anticipated neighbors’ vocal opposition to the brownfield application would be duplicated when Place applied to rezone the land for residential use.
In December, commissioners rejected Place’s brownfield application after numerous residents objected. They said labeling the land as environmentally damaged would stigmatize the neighborhood and hurt property values.
Place, however, said the remediation work would proceed under state jurisdiction, minus the hoped-for tax credits that would have accompanied the county’s brownfield designation. At the time, the plan called for building up to 300 homes on the property.
Place said then the club had just 73 members down from a high of 300 in the 1990s. It mirrors troubles at other community golf courses facing dwindling interest in the sport decades after developers used golf courses as the prime amenity to sell home lots in new neighborhoods.
Place told the Tampa Bay Times he has not finalized a contract with a home builder but expects to do so within a month. The rezoning process likely would start 90 days later, he said.