Golf

How a grassroots effort to save a North Carolina country club appears to have failed


Carolina Pines resident Rick Dove — who has lived at the end of Boros Road near Nicklaus and Palmer drives in New Bern, North Carolina, since 1983 — put together a group called Carolina Pines United in 2016.

The group sought to “strive to re-open the CP clubhouse/golf course implementing a modern strategy which better represents the needs of the community,” according to the now-defunct group’s Facebook page.

The organization lost a bit of steam and never really got off the ground.

“It was a community effort to try to save the golf course. And, you know, the golf course added a lot to the community; and unfortunately, it was not successful,” said Dove.

However, the course itself is still visible and in relatively good shape at the former Carolina Pines Golf and Country Club, and nobody is really sure what the future holds. The track opened in 1965 by Navy Dentist Frank Marmarose, Joe Hughes, and Jim Stallings, a prominent local land developer.

Residents have been doing a bit of housekeeping since the course closed, mowing fairways that may happen to be in their backyard, removing hurricane debris and trimming bushes.

Eddie Ellis, a local historian, said his wife’s father was a former owner of Carolina Pines and he recalled that during the Masters Weekend of 1997 — the year Tiger Woods turned golf on its head when he set a whole slew of records — the course was abuzz.

A real estate listing for a townhome in Carolina Pines is shown. The housing market continues to be a sellers market early into 2021. [Keith Byers/Sun Journal]

“When I came home to Carolina Pines from a project in New Bern on the Monday afternoon after Tiger Woods’ big win, the entire driving range was full and people were waiting their turn. In retrospect, that was the peak of golf,” Ellis said.

The peak of golf indeed. Woods made golf popular across a wide range of social and economic classes. Then the Great Recession hit and took a lot of jobs in the region with it. Joe Mospaw, along with his wife Jeanette, finally decided to close the course, which had had various owners after 51 years. The decline in golf didn’t just happen to Carolina Pines, but to courses across the country.

“It was a beautiful golf course and it still could be. I think it was one of the gems of the coastal area. It was a small course. It was a challenge and people loved it and it added a great deal of charm to the neighborhood. We lost it not for any other reason except that the whole golfing industry has been on hard times,” Dove said.

Aside from some very thick vegetation, including new pine trees and scrub, Nos. 1 and 2 have been the worst affected. Beyond the tee box of No 1, you can’t see anything, including the green. Dove said at one point they tried to buy the golf course and came very close, but were unable to do so.

A decades-old walnut tree, which can still be seen on the signature hole No. 15, was always an obstacle but a welcome one. It was full of balls that got there on the fly. Hurricanes over the last 20 years have gradually reduced their original height.

Peter Mack, a former player at the course and chief public defender attorney who has lived on the backside of the course since 1990, said the last he heard was the course was up for sale. He described residents on their own trying to keep the area looking nice.

“The homeowners who live close by have chipped in and everybody has kept their grass mowed, and cleaned up,” Mack said.

He said that the course has been up for sale for $2 million and has had some concern for property values decreasing since it closed.

Joel Kendrick, a former member of the club and the Men’s Golf Association who now lives in Trent Woods and is now a member at The Emerald Golf Club in New Bern, remembers fondly the Flounder Jubilee, which was one of the biggest seasonal golf tournaments in the area held at Carolina Pines.

“(It was) a sell-out. One hundred and fifty golfers for the weekend approximately, unreal. The layout of the course is great. I wouldn’t change a thing,” Kendrick said in a Facebook message.



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