Golf Course Foreclosures Disappoint Residents

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The lawn is unkempt. Notices litter the doors of the facility. What was once a symbol of pride in Prince George’s County is now nothing more than an eyesore. “The parking lot over there hasn’t been maintained in months,” said disgruntled Upper Marlboro resident Weldon Brown, whose townhome sits across the street from the Marlborough Country Club. “There are weeds growing everywhere over there.”

The foreclosures of Marlborough Country Club and Lake Arbor Golf Club have seemingly hurt the self-esteem of long-time Prince George’s residents, who wanted to paint the county in a different light.

“I look at Lake Arbor and P.G. County as home,” Hercules O. Pitts told the {Washington Post} in 2006. “I don’t want to have to go to Montgomery County to get what should be and is in Prince George’s County. I don’t want to have to go to Anne Arundel County to get what should be at Lake Arbor.

"I’m used to going into projects and putting a little sweat equity into it. I felt that all it needed was a little love and care, a little sweat equity and this place could actually turn out to be the kind of golf course that we all would want to be a part of.”

Four years later, however, a trip to the courses tells a completely different tale. The greens at both courses are in sore need of landscaping. Extensive maintenance needs to be done to repair signs, and the parking lots are being treated as landfills.

“When one of our attractions suffers, we all suffer,” James Dula, Ph.D., chairman of the Maryland branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said in an e-mail. “When our Black-owned businesses close doors, we all lose something. When our collective community image suffers such great defeat, we all feel the blow.”

Pitts and his wife, Rhonda, filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 21, party due to the economic downturn. Prince George’s is still trying to recover from the foreclosure crisis which has ravaged the hopes of so many families. So it’s only natural that when people can’t pay their mortgages, they’re not going to pay to play golf either.

“People just don’t have the resources as they once did,” said Arthur Turner, former three-term chair of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee and candidate for the county’s District 6 council seat. “As folks are struggling to pay their mortgage, car note and day care for their children, they too are struggling to pay their dues to the golf clubs that they’re members of.”

However, Turner, who lives in Kettering – only miles from Lake Arbor –, said this situation may have been avoidable and there’s more to what happened at both clubs than just the economic downturn.

“It is unfortunate that these two golf clubs have faced the financial challenges that they’ve faced and this has been devastating to the community,” he said. “When the grass is not cut and there’s no one to answer questions about who’s in charge or who runs things or who one should talk to about resolving matters that really serves to break away of the fabric of what the community stands for. It’s unfortunate, sad and shameful.”

Turner’s strong feelings are shared by Dula. He has expressed deep concern on how the close of such businesses affects the perception and bottom line of Prince George’s County.

“Think about it: Businesses close, families relocate outside the county, leaving vacant property, lack of support for our veterans and seniors, unemployment, and all this during an election year,” Dula said. “The time has come to open our eyes, stand tall, and make wise choices that will affect our future as a majority-minority community.”