DIABLO GRANDE - The remaining golf course at Diablo Grande will close in mid-October, homeowners and residents in the upscale community were recently advised.
A notice dated Sept. 20 announced what it termed a “temporary closure” of the ranch course effective Oct. 19.
The notice to residents cited financial challenges affiliated with operating the golf course. It did not reference future plans by owner World International, which purchased the Diablo Grande development about a decade ago after the original owners declared bankruptcy.
The development at one point had two acclaimed courses - the Ranch and the prestigious Legends Course, which was designed by golfing icons Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazen.
The Legends Course, opened in 1998, was closed in 2014, leaving only the Ranch Course in the Diablo Grande development.
The gated, upscale community nestled in the scenic Diablo Range was built with golf as a focal point, several residents told Mattos Newspapers.
While concerned about what the future may hold for Diablo Grande and worried that a course closure will bring property values down, residents also said they are holding out hope that a new owner will step forward and bring the course back.
But definitive information has been elusive, some residents said, adding to the uncertainty.
“We have not been told much of anything,” said Diablo Grande resident Janice Conforti. “There are a lot of rumors going around.”
The golf course is in many ways the identity of the community, she added.
“It is a very big selling point when people want to buy houses, even if they are not golfers. Many people up here don’t play golf, but they like living in a golf course community. They like the beauty of it,” Conforti remarked.
Conforti said her understanding is that World International will continue basic maintenance on the course during the closure - which would boost optimism that perhaps a buyer will emerge to take over the development.
“I can’t see it going under,” she commented. “Most of the people I talk to really like living here, and we are very confident that something will happen (to re-open the course).”
Lori Black, who moved to Diablo Grande eight years ago, said the golf courses were part of the draw for her and her husband Glenn.
“We live right on the course and are golfers. That was a big reason we picked the spot,” she commented.
“We heard rumors that the place was for sale, but we didn’t expect them to close it down,” Black added. “We’re very hopeful that there are new owners in the works and that everything will be back to normal soon.”
Randy Fillpot moved to Diablo Grande six years ago when he went to work for the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District.
“Pretty much everybody who bought up here, and I’m one of them, bought there because it is a golf course community,” Fillpot said. “I don’t know if I would have bought there if it wasn’t for the golf course.”
Fillpot said property values are among his concerns.
“I feel more sorry for people who recently purchased up there, thinking that they are on a golf course,” he stated.
Fillpot said he, too, is hopeful that a buyer for the development will emerge.
“I don’t know if I’m confident, but I’m hoping,” he stated.
The notice to residents states that “World International has worked hard to maintain the amenities, appearance and overall quality of the Diablo Grande Golf & Country Club over the past 10 years. The ownership even spent substantial capital to upgrade the clubhouse, improved the level of service and provided other amenities in recent years. Unfortunately, due to reasons beyond our control, we can no longer offer these services and amenities to the community.”
The Modesto Bee reported that World International has outstanding tax bills on about half of its 340 parcels at Diablo Grande, totaling more than $6 million.
A course closure has potential impacts on high school golf programs as well, including that at Orestimba.
Athletic Director John Labno said the Diablo Grande ownership has allowed Orestimba golf teams to play free of charge, a major financial help to the school.
In addition to the financial implications of potentially no longer being able to use the Diablo Grande course, Labno said, simply finding another course in the area that can accommodate an additional high school program would be challenging.
Orestimba golf course Mark May, however, said the girls’ schedule will conclude before the announced course closure and that he is optimistic that the Ranch course will be open again when the boys’ golf season rolls around next spring.
Despite the concerns surrounding the golf course, Conforti said, she still loves living in Diablo Grande.
“It is a little paradise,” she stated.
Black echoed the sentiment.
“The golf course is a big part of it, but it is still just a beautiful place to live,” she reflected. “It is a great community. You know everybody, and everybody watches out for each other.”