The 9th hole of the Hopewell Valley Golf and Country Club golf course, September 2018. (Staff photo by Joe Emanski.)

{This article has been edited to add comments from Mike Attara, general manager and CEO of Spirit Golf Management, and to correct an error: the club was sold in 2016 to a group that included Attara, and not to Spirit Golf Management as originally reported.}

The Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted 7-0 on July 16 in favor of a resolution to purchase the shuttered Hopewell Valley Golf and Country Club for a maximum of $1.9 million.

MercerMe was the first to report the news.

HVGCC would become the fifth county owned and operated 18-hole golf course, joining Mercer Oaks Golf Club (East and West), Mountain View Golf Club and Princeton Country Club.

HVGCC was founded as a private club in 1927, with a course designed by Thomas Hinton. It was sold to a group of investors,  including Mike Attara, general manager and CEO of Spirit Golf Management, in 2016.

Spirit Golf Management ran day-to-day operations for the then newly formed Hopewell Valley Golf and Country Club LLC. The club became semi-private, offering limited rounds to the public, from 2017 to 2019, when it closed after failing a DEP water standards test.

“We of course have very mixed feelings, as we would have loved to have succeeded in being able to stabilize the club and continue to own and operate the facility for the community of Hopewell,” Attara said in a statement emailed to Community News regarding the resolution. “We enjoyed being a part of the community’s fabric, and look forward to continuing to see the club, with all its history, continue to thrive as a place for everyone to enjoy.

“As we needed to turn the page, we don’t think it could have worked out any better than to have the county continue to operate the club as a golf course and also preserve the land under a conservation purchase,” Attara said. “The future looks bright for the club and we are grateful for that, and for the community we had the pleasure to serve for our time at HVGC.”

Mercer County Park Commission executive director Aaron T. Watson told the Trentonian last year (paywall) that all the Mercer County courses are profitable, and said, “if it does not make financial sense and it looks like we are going to be losing money on this, we would not enter into an agreement to acquire that course.”

In October, when the Trentonian was reporting, the cost of acquisition was speculated to be $2.5 million.

LETTER: What not to do with the Hopewell Valley golf club

The Hopewell Township land on which the golf course sits is seen as highly desirable to residential developers, a sentiment Hopewell Township Committee member Kevin Kuchinski echoed in a statement he gave to MercerMe:

“We have been working since 2015 to ensure that the Hopewell Valley Golf Club remains a viable golf course and is not repurposed as a new mega-development in the heart of Hopewell Valley. Developers like Toll Brothers would have liked to have seen hundreds of new homes in this space.”

Committee member John Hart had also proposed that the township acquire the land and locate its proposed senior and community center on the property.

In its resolution, the Freeholder Board says the acquisition will be made using a grant from the Green Acres Planning Incentive as well as the Mercer County Open Space Preservation Trust Fund. The county also plans to take over maintenance of the property prior to formally taking ownership, presumably to make it possible to reopen the golf course sooner rather than later.

The resolution states that the property is in foreclosure and the current owners do not have the money to maintain it. A drive-by observation of the course is that is is being minimally maintained, with fairways and greens not in playing condition, but not gone wild either.

In addition to the golf course, HVGCC also has a clubhouse, tennis courts and a pool facility. None of the other Mercer County golf courses has a pool.

Hopewell Valley is one of three golf clubs to close in Mercer County in the past 5 years. The others are Stonybrook Golf Club, also in Hopewell, and Miry Run Golf Club in Robbinsville.

Robbinsville spokesperson John Nalbone told Community News in 2018 that Robbinsville had approached the county about acquiring Miry Run, but the county had shown no interest.

Robbinsville purchased that property in 2019 with some help from the county and is turning it into a public park. The township renamed it Spring Garden Country Club. Mercer County did provide some of the funds for the purchase.