PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island – News that iconic Metacomet Country Club is closing has angered members and former members and has triggered an uproar in the Rhode Island golf community, with some of the rage directed at former PGA pro Brad Faxon who they claim engaged in deceitful negotiation tactics and false promises when he, along with four business investors, acquired the 18-hole Donald Ross-designed golf course spanning 105-acres overlooking Narraganset Bay, in May 2019 for about $2.7 million.
Metacomet Golf Club, established in 1901, holds a treasure-trove of Ocean State golf history, including most recently the 2017 New England Amateur and 2015 Rhode Island State Amateur. Other Donald Ross-designed courses in Rhode Island include Newport Country Club, Rhode Island Country Club, Wannamoisett Country Club.
Metacomet was once a meeting place for Providence’s leading industrialists particularly the once-flourishing jewelry business. Those days are long gone, but Metacomet’s bones remain intact and the course has always been revered as one of the best in New England.
With a reputation as a “men’s club,” membership peaked to about 250 in the late 80s and 90s, but the club never evolved with the times into a more family-friendly destination. Faced with substantial debt and sinking membership numbers, the club was put up for sale in the fall of 2018, with an asking price of $3.5 million.
In recent years some of Rhode Island’s most prominent golf courses have gone into bankruptcy or been sold at auction due to financial distress. In 2017, Agawam Hunt Country Club declared bankruptcy. Then, Rhode Island’s premier club and residential property – Carnegie Abbey – was forced into an auction and sold in December of 2018. Other golf properties that have barely survived with new ownership include Pawtucket Country Club, Ledgemont, and Crestwood Country Club.
According to the National Golf Foundation 215 courses closed in the United States in 2018 while 15 opened. There is no debate that there are too many golf courses for the number of people playing and that 60 percent of those courses have financial hindrances.
The investment group, Metacomet Property Company, signed a purchase and sale agreement April 4, 2019 and took ownership in May 2019. The terms of the transaction, which were presented to New England dot Golf, showed almost no money down and assumption of debt, including a pending tax lien from the city for eight quarters of unpaid taxes. The total debt assumed was about $2.7 million.
Metacomet Property Company, a group of five for-profit businessmen, promised to bring “stability to the Club for many years to come.” According to club executives who negotiated the sale, the group promised to keep and maintain the property as a golf course with a limited amount of real estate development. At the last minute, MPC demanded that clause be deleted from the contract, and due to the pending tax foreclosure, they reluctantly agreed.
When Ledgemont Country Club sold to new owners the contract included that it remain “as-is” for a minimum of 5 years, while the Pawtucket Country Club sale demanded 10 years.
The Metacomet Property Company purpose and mission statement to the membership states:
“To preserve and maintain the Metacomet Country Club (“MET”) as an original Donald Ross designed championship golf course for the benefit of its membership (both existing and new) and for the game of golf for generations to come.”
Brad Faxon Jr.
• Former Metacomet Club Champion
• Recipient of the Francis Ouimet Award for Lifetime Contributions to Golf
• Longtime member of the PGA Tour and Champions Tour
• 8-time winner on PGA Tour and 2-time winner on Champions Tour
• Founded Riparian Partners in 2003 and completed over 200 Merger & Acquisitions
• President of Wannamoisett Country Club (2011-2012)
• President of the University Club of Providence (2009-2010)
• Board of Directors, Newport Harbor Corp, Newport Restaurant Group
• President-Owner of StoneStreet Corp, real estate development company
• Projects include Stone Harbor Condos, Bay Pointe Golf Club
• Member at Wannamoisett GC, former member Kirkbrae CC
• Former Pro Pawtucket GC, Wannamoisett Carnegie Abbey, Liberty National
• Past President New England PGA
• Recipient of PGA of America Bill Strausburg Award
• Golf Coach Holy Cross College
• Manages Triggs Memorial Golf Course
• Former owner Firefly golf Course
• Real Estate Developer
Throughout the past 15 months and most recently this week when members received a letter dated February 21, 2020 that the golf course will close, New England dot Golf has received dozens of emails, texts and calls from individuals who want to respond. Many requested their last names not be used but wanted to state “on the record” their thoughts.
In a letter dated February 27, 2020, the members received another communication about the pending sale, which is attached.
“I am beyond angry that Metacomet is closing. We negotiated in good faith with Brad Faxon and his group and they made promises only to be broken nine months later. That’s bullshit. The members were hoodwinked and now they walk away with a profit on selling the property for real estate development.” – Former member who left in 2017 due to assessment of $1500.
“They (Metacomet Property Company) came to us with written and verbal promises to keep Metacomet a golf club for generations to come and, pure and simple, they lied. The primary reason we sold the club to them was because they would keep it as a golf club.” – Former executive committee member involved in the negotiations.
“What is hard to accept is that Brad Faxon is involved in this. His father, Brad Sr., has been an active member for 50 years. How can you pull the plug on your father’s club? Why did he make a promise to keep it open? He doesn’t need the money.” – Member since 1972
“I’ve heard numbers all over the place for what it’s selling for. From $4 million. $5 million. $7 million to $10 million. The property has many low-lying areas that reduces the potential development. I don’t think 2/3 of the land is developable. They are not going to get permits to build near the saturated areas. “- Member since 1985
“No one can be trusted anymore. When someone like Brad Faxon gives you his word, you’d think he’d be honest and trustworthy. I don’t like what happened. It’s disappointing.” – Member since 2005
“This sale is ripping the heart and soul out of our core membership who’ve been here for 30-plus years. Some of the guys have already joined other clubs. I wish they handled things differently. A lot of members feel we’ve been snookered. I’m sick over it.” – Member since 1980s.
“Is this about greed? You bet it is. The new ownership knew they weren’t going to make money in the first year. Now they turn around and sell for a profit. They misled us and demanded we pay our 2020 dues in January knowing full well they were selling. That is bullshit and a breach of contract. I’m shocked that Brad Faxon is involved. This is going to hurt his reputation.” – Former member who left in 2018.
“It’s a shock what they’re doing to us. We paid our dues and expected to be treated fairly. I wish we could do something to save the place but right now everybody is pissed off.” – Member who promises not to return.
One member offered an unsolicited compromise. Turn Metacomet into a 9-hole golf course and develop the rest into high-rise condos that will probably fetch $300,000 plus for each unit!
(Efforts to contact Mr. Faxon for a comment were not successful. Messages left at the club to other owners were not returned.)