Greenbrier resort buys historic W.Va. course
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Greenbrier resort is buying one of the nation's oldest golf courses after it failed to sell at auction over the summer, the resort's owner told The Associated Press on Friday.
Greenbrier owner Jim Justice confirmed the purchase of Oakhurst Links. The purchase price wasn't disclosed.
"To be perfectly honest, I don't know that it's going to be a great thing for the Greenbrier," Justice said. "But I know it's a great thing to do."
Oakhurst Links was built in 1884 and is a few miles north of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs. The 30-acre course, museum and clubhouse are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The clubhouse and museum are filled with photos of visits from golfers such as Sam Snead, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson.
For years, 89-year-old Lewis Keller had struggled to find a buyer.
Last year a Richmond, Va.-based group had planned to take over the course but couldn't raise the $2.5 million to close the deal.
Financing for a $410,000 winning bid from a July 28 auction fell through and a heartbroken Keller feared a Virginia bank would foreclose on the property and its history would fall apart _ until Justice came along.
Justice said he plans to keep the nine-hole course that was built in 1884 intact and even make some improvements if needed.
"Jim Justice has been absolutely wonderful to me," Keller said.
Keller said the purchase price was "less than $1 million, but a lot more than the price that was bid at auction."
The Greenbrier already has three 18-hole courses open for public play and has hosted the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic since 2010.
Conventional golf clubs aren't used at Oakhurst. Players _ often dressed in period clothes _ rent hickory-shafted clubs and hit gutta-percha balls off tees fashioned from sand and water the way it was done more than 130 years ago.
The Greenbrier dates to 1778 and is a former gathering place for presidents and royalty. It has a 721-room hotel, casino, spa, dozens of amenities and a once-secret underground bunker built for Congress in case of nuclear attack during the Cold War. Justice bought the resort out of bankruptcy in 2009.
Though he has owned Oakhurst since 1959, it wasn't until 1994 that Keller reopened the course after it had been dormant for more than 80 years. The National Hickory Championship has been played at Oakhurst since 1998.
Oakhurst was first owned by Russell Montague, who became enamored with golf while studying in Great Britain.
Montague and a small group of colleagues held the first competition at Oakhurst in 1888 in the Scottish match play tradition, predating by a few years the St. Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers, N.Y.