Area golfers may be losing an old friend.
It was announced last week that Berrien Hills Golf Club will close at the end of the season, and is up for sale.
Owner Chris Neuser of St. Joseph indicated it could possibly still remain a golf course, if purchased by a golf management company with the financial resources to maintain the 88-acre tract that borders the St. Joseph river in Fairplain.
Otherwise Neuser said he “hopes that a buyer would turn it into a multi-use development that would benefit the community, and surrounding area. It is truly a beautiful setting and the best use of the property may be something that could be enjoyed year-round, not just by golfers in the summer.”
The golf course opened in 1924 as a private club (Berrien Hills Country Club) and became a public course when purchased by the Neuser family in 2005.
I remember interviewing Neuser shortly after he purchased the property, and he told me he would keep it open as a golf course as long as it broke even financially each year.
In that regard, Neuser should be credited for keeping the course open as long as he did, as it never broke even and required additional funds each year.
“With skyrocketing costs involved in maintaining a golf course, Chris Neuser had to dip into his own wallet to keep this course open,” praised Dave Vonk, Berrien Hills Golf Club manager.
Berrien Hills was a second home to me and my family for more than 30 years (1971-2003). As an active family-type country club, it had at one time over 450 members. The club offered golf, tennis, great food and an outdoor pool where my children learned to swim.
The clubhouse offered a wide variety of activities, including a sauna and stag bar (remember when those were still in existence).
I really enjoyed all the golf tournaments the club offered each season, especially the season-ending Knight’s tournament, the club’s invitational, and crosstown tournament where a Berrien Hills and Point O’Woods member would join forces for a competitive round at each club.
But times change, and in an era where small-town country clubs across America were becoming passe, the board of directors of Berrien Hills Country Club put the property up for sale, when it was determined its declining membership (in the low 100s) could no longer support the operation.
“I really don’t know how many area public courses stay in business, there are so many of them,” Neuser said. “Green fees have generally stayed the same while the costs of maintaining any course have exploded in the 15 years I’ve been involved.”
An auction of the club’s equipment will be held on Oct. 26.
Chris, thanks for keeping the course open as long as you did. And, please save me a bar stool from the former stag bar.
Al Arend is a sports correspondent for The Herald-Palladium.