Golf course operator skirts competition rules

CARY – The management company behind the Cary Park District’s publicly owned golf course, Foxford Hills Golf Club, took over a competing bank-owned golf course without first getting permission from the park board.

GolfVisions Management LCC, which has run Foxford Hills for the district for seven years, signed on to manage Chalet Hills Golf Club in late July.

The move violated a clause in the park district’s contract that prohibited GolfVisions from operating any other course within a 5-mile radius of Foxford Hills, according to a park board memo.

“Doing so without prior Park District approval has placed them in breach of their contract,” Cary Park District Executive Director Dan Jones wrote in a July 28 memo to the board.

Despite this conflict of interest, the Cary Park District recently voted, 4-0, to lift the non-compete clause.

The vote enabled GolfVisions to continue operating Chalet Hills Golf Club, which is about a mile away from Foxford Hills in Oakwood Hills.

Harris Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against Chalet Hills owner Golf Fore Life LLC in April, according to court documents. The course has since gone into receivership, according to the memo.

Court documents claim that Golf Fore Life LCC owed nearly $4 million, said Keith Sloan, an attorney for the company.

Since the two clubs have been direct competitors for years, the Cary Park Board was concerned that GolfVisions might slash prices at Chalet Hills, hurting Foxford Hills.

“For anyone to come in and drop rates [at Chalet Hills] would be detrimental to Foxford Hills,” Cary Park Board member Mike Renner said.

In a vote July 28, the board agreed to lift the clause for the remainder of the year. Before then, the board plans to check in with GolfVisions President Tim Miles to see whether the arrangement can continue, Renner said.

“At that time, we can see how the course has been operating and see if [Chalet Hills] has taken away any business from Foxford Hills,” Renner said.

Fellow Park Board member Bill Harvey said the decision was made “in the best interest of the golf community.” He added that he didn’t see Chalet Hills as “a threat” to the park district’s course.

“Management is of the opinion that having GolfVisions manage Chalet Hills as opposed to another management company presents the best opportunity to serve the best interests of Foxford Hills,” Jones wrote in the memo to the board.

Foxford Hills and Chalet Hills are similar courses. A round of 18 holes on a weekend morning at Foxford Hills costs $69 for Cary Park District residents. At Chalet Hills, the same round would cost $75.

Miles couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Park Board member Tom Emma recused himself from the discussion and vote on changes to the GolfVisions contract, said Katie Hughes, a spokeswoman for the Cary Park District.

Emma couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Park District’s three-year contract with GolfVisions is set to expire in January 2013.

Foxford Hills had operating revenue of $1.55 million on $1.22 million in operating expenses in the last fiscal year, according to an audit.

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