Carolina Trail golf courses have new owner

A Canadian lender has taken ownership of four Charlotte-area golf courses that were part of the troubled Carolina Trail group, according to letters from the company.

After the foreclosure process, Toronto-based Romspen is the new owner of the Birkdale, Highland Creek, The Divide and The Tradition golf clubs, the letters say. The new ownership is effective as of Tuesday.

The Carolina Trail courses ran into financial and other troubles under Jeff Silverstein, who late last year announced that five of the Carolina Trail courses were headed into foreclosure.

In its letters, Romspen said it wants to return the courses to their “rightful place” as among “the best daily fee facilities in the Charlotte area.”

Romspen said in the letters that any annual passes, playing privileges, memberships and coupons for the four clubs will no longer be valid – news it acknowledged will be disappointing to the people affected. Some golfers paid thousands of dollars to purchase lifetime memberships to the Carolina Trail courses.

The company said those who had valid memberships at the four clubs will be offered a special membership program that includes discounted rates.

The company said it plans to make improvements at the four courses. A priority list will be devised to address “deferred maintenance, irrigation, capital improvements, clubhouse needs, customer service issues and other matters to improve current conditions,” the letters say.

Since November, Virginia-based Traditional Golf Properties has been managing the four courses and a fifth Carolina Trail course, Waterford, in Rock Hill. Traditional Golf Properties announced Tuesday that it has been retained to manage the four courses.

Paul Mauk, president of Traditional Golf Properties, said Romspen has also submitted a bid to take ownership of Waterford, but it’s unclear where the process stands.

“What I’ve been told is the foreclosure process is different than it is in North Carolina,” he said. “It’s just taking a little bit of extra time.”

Mauk said indications are that his company would also be retained to manage Waterford. He said his company’s management contract for the four courses is a “multiyear” deal, but he declined to provide details.

The financial woes of the Carolina Trail courses first came to light in July, when Birkdale Golf Club was briefly shuttered by authorities over an unpaid tax bill. Under Silverstein’s ownership, the clubs have also faced complaints from employees about unpaid wages.

Two other Carolina Trail courses, Skybrook and Charlotte Golf Links, were taken from Silverstein’s company and placed in receivership in August after they failed to repay millions of dollars’ worth of loans.

A Romspen official declined to comment for this story. Silverstein also could not be reached for comment.