Last year, some potential buyers of the Scotch Plains, N.J. club wanted to turn the property into more suburban sprawl. But the winning bidder, RDC Group, is giving the Tillinghast course a new lease on life.
When RDC Golf Group bought Shackamaxon Golf and Country Club in Scotch Plains, N.J., in December 2011, few other prospective buyers wanted to keep the property as a club, the (New Jersey) Star-Ledger reports.
Christopher Schiavone, President and CEO of RDC, wanted to be certain the 100-year-old property would not be turned into a housing development.
“It seemed like the information we got about the other bidders, we were the only bidder that had the preservation of the golf course as the main component,” Schiavone said. “The other bidders were all talking about probably putting homes where the golf course is. It looked, if it wasn’t for us, that the golf course might be gone—so I think we saved the course.”
Shackamaxon’s 18-hole A. W. Tillinghast course, expansive clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts and suburban setting once made the club a popular destination. As with most clubs, though, Shackamaxon experienced financial troubles in 2010 because of a lack of new members and poor economic conditions. Private golf club ownership group Troon Golf attempted to save the club then, but to no avail.
“The area where it was worst was morale,” Schiavone said. “There was a complete level of uncertainty, people abandoning ship. When we came in, the staff was basically gone. They weren’t booking any events or taking deposits. So there was negative momentum that had to be turned around even more than we initially thought.”
RDC has hired architect Stephen Kay to re-route parts of the golf course and restore the bunker. Condos will be built in the middle of the golf course, but none of the layout will be compromised. RDC is also looking to change the dining room.
“I think the turnaround, in one sense, has been quick,” he said. “I think members that have been there a really long time will say they’ve seen a very marked and rapid turnaround.”
The club still has a long road of rebuilding ahead of it, but Schiavone sees his company’s restoration as a means of preserving what he believes is a work of art.
“You have a Monet in golf course architects in Tillinghast, and there are only a certain number of those in existence—he ain’t building anymore,” Schiavone said. “Seeing those lost—if a Picasso was burned or written on, it would be painful. If you’re in the golf business and you love the game and golf course architecture as I do, we feel that saving and preserving and bringing back a gem like this, it’s something we’re proud of.”