“By the people, for the people” is the mentality adopted by the homeowners of the Salt Pond community, just outside of Bethany Beach. And early this year, the land, the homes and the golf course became just that. The Salt Pond Homeowners Association (HOA) became one of the few communities in the area to come into ownership of its golf course. And this spring, they plan on telling everyone.
“Until 2006,” explained HOA president Bill Kester, “Salt Pond grounds, recreational area, golf course and everything, were owned by a developer. In May 2007, the HOA exercised the idea of operating the Salt Pond common grounds, which includes some of the land out there and the residential area. At the conclusion of that, the board decided that the homeowner’s association was interested in purchasing the golf course, and that opportunity was made available by the developer.
“We embarked on an educational program for the homeowners, because we wanted to maintain the continuity of the community, and we didn’t want a developer to come in here and build townhomes on the second hole,” he said.
Salt Pond Associates previously held rights to the property since its construction in 1992.
The effort to acquire the golf course meant a combined $2.3 million from the 538 homeowners, and they replied back on the question of the purchase, at $5,000 each, by the hundreds.
“We had an overwhelming response,” said Kester, “over 90 percent, where they approved the assessment to buy the course. Between late October and January, we were in the process of negotiating with a developer and we settled on Jan. 3. The response on the assessment has been amazing, also. Most of the people have paid the full assessment.”
“One of the objectives,” said Salt Pond director Dick Crawford, “was that we contact everyone, all 578 homeowners. We had a call campaign, and those who were not reached by phone were contacted through e-mail.”
The drive behind this endeavor came because of the residents’ wish to preserve the land within the community and avoid future development there.
“This is really important,” said Kester. “The course is here for the public, and we want people to realize that we’re trying to keep this a part of the community. We just wanted to maintain what we had here.
“I believe this guarantees that there will be no more development in the community and we can preserve what is ours,” he said. “I feel that’s the feeling of most of, if not all of our homeowners, too. We have maintained continuity because we were able to convince our pro and superintendent to stay on board here.”
“One of the things we looked at from several different angles was how would we manage a golf course,” Crawford added, “and it finally came to us that we had the support from the general manager and superintendent of the golf course.”
Golf pro Art Willy also continues to spread his wealth of knowledge at the club.
“It’s a really unique scenario we have here,” said Charles Young, a member of the HOA and planning group. “We’re the first golf community in the region, if not the entire East Coast, where the homeowner’s association has completely taken over the grounds.
The HOA will present a grand opening of the Salt Pond golf course under the new ownership on May 17, kicking off with a golf tournament, starting at 8 a.m., and pending on sign-ups, may have additional one in the afternoon. A ribbon-cutting will be held and refreshments will be offered. State legislators George Bunting and Gerald Hocker, as well as County Council Member George Cole, have been invited to the ceremony, too.
Young, who heads the marketing campaign for the golf course, has had his hands full over the past year, recruiting new members and promoting continuing membership.
“One of the key things we push from a marketing standpoint is playing without devoting the day,” he said. “At most locations here at the beach, if dad goes off to play golf, the family can pretty much say goodbye to him for the whole day. Here, we have 18 holes, but you can play the whole thing in three to three-and-a-half hours. It’s a great course for seniors, new golfers and everyday golfers. There’s something for everyone.”
“Our active marketing group has evolved and has done a great job increasing membership and getting registrations in earlier,” noted Ketster, who said he is also pleased with the recent adjustments made at the club. “We definitely couldn’t have done this without the owners who have stepped up. Every discipline you can imagine, someone here has made a career in it, and they’re very knowledgeable and have really helped us.”
“It was amazing,” said Crawford. “We had all this talent among our homeowners, and we never really knew it until we needed it. Everybody who steps off tells us that they can’t believe how great condition the course is in.”
For additional information about the Salt Pond golf course, including details on the grand opening, visit www.saltpondgolf.com online or call (302) 539-7525.