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Par for the course? Yet another golf club to close as owner shutters the Links in Hudson

HUDSON - The Links Golf Club needs a facelift. Instead, it will be getting a funeral.

Owner Matthew Lowman announced he is shuttering the course, pro shop, restaurant and driving range on June 10 after failing to entice surrounding neighbors to invest in club memberships.

The 6,256-yard, par 72 course needs substantial renovations, including improved greens and tee-boxes, cart paths, a pump station and maintenance equipment, Lowman said in an April 22 letter announcing the closing. It comes six years after Lowman's unsuccessful pitch to residents in the five neighborhoods near or bordering the course for a mandatory membership fee to help finance the upgrades.

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"Due to the financial considerations and the lack of homeowner associations support, we have not been able to make it work,'' Loman said.

The Links is now the fourth west Pasco golf course to close since the mid-2000s, following Gulf Harbors, Magnolia Valley and Timber Oaks. Separately, the owners of the Quail Hollow Golf and Country Club in Wesley Chapel closed a year ago to redevelop the land into residential housing.

Lowman said "what's in store for the property is not known as this time.'' Neighbors are fearful of more development or, worse, neglect.

"We have a concern about what would happen to the golf course if it closes and, if it closes, what would happen if it weren't maintained property,'' said Dave Nelson of the Beacon Point neighborhood.

He and others pointed to the abandoned Timber Oaks course that became an overgrown eyesore before Pasco County acquired the land to build storm water drainage ponds.

"I just don't want to see the health of the community go down,'' said Commissioner Jack Mariano, an avid golfer, whose district includes the Links Golf Club. "I just hate to see the people suffer.''

The Links opened 30 years ago amid a late-1980s building boom fueled in the Hudson vicinity by the extension of Hudson Avenue to Hicks Road. At the time, plans called for 3,000 homes including 1,700 to be known as the Links. Currently, there are 1,200 homes in the course's five neighborhoods: the Estates, Beacon Point, Barrington Woods, Millwood Village and Fairway Oaks.

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The course cost $2 million to build, developers said during the construction stage, and its current website boasts of its style, layout, drainage and affordability.

"Instead of a flat, swampy green, we pride ourselves on our rolling hills and challenging fairways,'' it states.

Over the years, it became a favorite of old and young alike, attracting Hudson retirees while also becoming the home course to the Ridgewood High School golf teams and playing host to the high schools' Sunshine Athletic Conference end-of-the-season tournament.

Lowman and his wife, Beverly, purchased the course under the company name of Lowman Links in 2001 for $1.9 million. Seven years later, they completed a $220,000 renovation that redid 10 tee boxes, added a 1,600-square-foot practice putting green and remodeled the driving range. At the time, the manager said the course's busy winter season meant more than 300 golfers a day. Separately, Lowman acquired the nearby Beacon Woods Golf Club in 2009.

FROM 2017: Abandoned golf course near Zephyrhills targeted for homes

Five years later, however, Lowman asked surrounding homeowners of the Links for help, saying the club's income covered operations but left little or no return on investment and provided no dollars for capital improvements. He proposed $16.66 a month for properties adjacent to the course and half that amount for properties not on the course. Only board members for the Fairway Oaks residents were receptive.

With the announced closing, Mariano said he is hopeful that an idea could be resurrected similar to the scenario at the Plantation Palms Golf Club in Land O' Lakes. There, homeowners agreed to a $15 monthly assessment in exchange for a social membership at the golf club that provided discounts and other perks. The agreement three years ago helped pave the way for a new owner to acquire the closed course and invest up to $1.5 million to reopen it.

Beverly Lowman said they have not closed the door on that notion.

"Absolutely, we are open to discussing options that would allow us to keep the course open,'' she said in an email.

Mariano told fellow commissioners last week he would try to aid the effort.

"It's a great community out there,'' he said. "It should be a golf course.''

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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