Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

A home at last: Cobblestone Park’s new ownership to complete clubhouse

Posted 2/13/2013 2:09:00 PM

For more than five years, Tom Graber, director of golf at Cobblestone Park Golf Club, has worked out of an office the size of a large broom closet while running his club, located off Interstate 77’s Exit 27, near Blythewood.

Meanwhile, a short distance away overlooking the course’s par-5 finishing hole, stood a huge incomplete structure that Graber and other club employees referred to – sometimes with a laugh, sometimes not – as the “haunted house.”

Originally planned as Cobblestone Park’s 28,000-square foot clubhouse with full amenities, the building has stood empty and largely untouched since the winter of 2007-08, a victim of the economic downturn and the club’s uncertain ownership future. As soon as a year and a half from now, though, Graber expects to be running one of the Midlands’ few 27-hole golf facilities (Garnet, Black and Gold nines) out of a state-of-the-art building that he once feared would never happen.

“Some days,” Graber says with a chuckle, “I felt like we were selling tickets to Stonehenge.”

Not, though, since Dec. 21, 2012, when national home builder D.R. Horton purchased the Cobblestone Park community, its real estate and the golf course. Not long after, Graber says, company representatives began work on the clubhouse in preparation for its rebirth.

“They had to take away the ‘bad stuff’ – old shingles, bad wood – under a demolition permit,” he says. “Within 30 days, they’ll submit plans to the Town of Blythewood and should get the (building) permits in place.” Company officials expect the work to be completed in about 18 months.

And then, Graber will have a pro shop, grill, locker rooms, banquet facilities, cart storage, even a restaurant – everything a golf course otherwise considered one of the area’s finest needs to be a full-service, semi-private operation. It has been, he says, a long wait.

Opening in the early 1990s, the then-University Club had a smaller but serviceable clubhouse until September 2007 when it was torn down to make way for the new, larger building. “They told us the one had to go down as the other went up,” due to electrical and water connections, says Graber, in his eighth year at Cobblestone Park.

“Unfortunately, things ground to a halt that winter.” The owners tried to restart the project but “then quit,” he says. A small temporary pro shop was built, portable toilets were set up next to the driving range and a large tent was erected for gatherings – none befitting a golf course that, especially since opening to public play, has become an area favorite.

Despite the eyesore of the clubhouse, “we’ve continued to increase our rounds played,” Graber says. Indeed, rounds have more than tripled since 2008, with the course available for public play, corporate outings and the like. The club has also been active via social media, offering special deals to its e-mail subscribers.

Cobblestone Park also has a sprawling amenities center, opened in 2007, with gym, pool and sports field. The University of South Carolina’s men’s and women’s golf teams maintain a practice area and team clubhouse adjacent to the driving range.

While its economic woes precipitated opening to the public, Graber concedes the club’s ultimate goal to “go back to a private club in the future.” With the new clubhouse, tourists and area players can enjoy a private club experience for daily fees until that future date; Graber also sees memberships, at lower-than-previous prices, as “a great value.”

“We don’t want to be seen as just another public course,” he says. “We want to be an elite country club in the Midlands.” Already, regulars include Blythewood mayor Mike Ross and South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier.

The new clubhouse will add to that, but its primary impact is “changing the mindset of our employees, then the public,” Graber says. The days of the “haunted house” are, finally, almost at an end.

For information regarding memberships, contact Anne Stumbo at (803) 714-2601. For tee times, call (803) 714-2620 or click here.