The town of Harrison, New York, is preparing to start an eminent domain proceeding to acquire Willow Ridge Country Club.
The 121-acre private club known has been struggling financially for years and has recently been losing members, according to three sources familiar with the club’s operations and status.
A club spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call on October 30.
If it ultimately obtains the property, Harrison would become the third town in the area with a municipally-run club along with Rye Golf Club in neighboring Rye and Lake Isle Country Club in Eastchester.
Town officials weren’t available for comment Friday. The town board was holding a special meeting Friday and expected to hire law firm Bond Shoeneck & King to represent the town in the eminent domain proceeding.
The property is up for sale although it doesn’t appear to have been placed commercially on the market, sources said.
Alternate uses are unlikely, with developers wary because the property includes 25 acres of wetlands.
A club membership subcommittee formed recently to map out options for the future of the club, considering possibilities such as a merger, sources said.
Private investors have looked at the property, neighboring Apawamis is a potential suitor and at least one management company is interested in the property, sources said. An Apawamis spokesperson didn’t immediately return an email Friday.
According to its IRS 990 forms, the club ran in the red by at least $320,000 every year from 2012 to 2018, the last year the forms were available.
Sources said the club has recently lost several dozen members, although the exact number was not clear.
There has been a golf course on the property since a group of disenchanted Apawamis members left the club and established Green Meadow Country Club in 1917.
Green Meadow closed during the Great Depression but the course was reopened as a public facility in 1941 before it closed again during World War II. The club eventually reopened, changing hands three times.
Willow Ridge was founded in 1965 and was the subject of a previous takeover attempt by the town.
The original golf course was designed by Maurice McCarthy, a Scottish golf pro whose credits include a handful of courses in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It was redesigned in 1947 by Alfred Tull, who teamed with famed Golden Age architect Devereux Emmet to design or rework a number of local courses. Ken Dye handled a 1998 renovation.
By current standards, the par 71 layout is relatively short at 6,610 from the blue tees and 6,325 yards from the white tees.
The 2013 Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street” shot scenes at the Harrison club. A coming-of-age Amazon Prime series, “Red Oaks” also filmed on site for three seasons.
Until November 2013, the club was in the rare but not unique position of renting the property from a private owner.
It paid $100,000 a year before members purchased the underlying property for $5 million. There were more than 50 years still on the lease.
This is a developing story.
Mark Lungariello covers government and politics. Follow him on Facebook @lungariello and Twitter @marklungariello.