Golf returns today at the troubled Diablo Grande resort in western Stanislaus County.
Sierra Golf Management announced Wednesday it has signed a multiyear deal with Diablo Grande Ltd. to lease, manage and operate the resort facilities, including the two golf courses and the clubhouse.
The Ranch course will be open for public play starting this morning after being closed since December. The Legends course, which closed in late January, will be open to the public starting Friday, said Jeff Christensen, chief executive officer of the Chowchilla-based firm.
The resort's clubhouse will open its doors with limited food service this weekend. Sierra said it will ramp up the staff to start serving lunch and dinner in two weeks.
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The private company operates golf courses such as Pheasant Run in Chowchilla, Forest Meadows in Murphys, Meadowmont in Arnold and Salinas Fairways in Salinas.
"We are extremely honored to be associated with such a marquee facility and look forward to the re-opening of the golf courses for the benefit of the members and golfing public," Christensen said in a statement.
Developers of the Diablo Grande resort managed the golf facilities until running into financial troubles in recent months. Citing a downturn in residential real estate and golf play, the owners closed the clubhouse and the courses while they restructured the project.
Christensen did not discuss the specifics of the lease agreement. The company is reducing the green fees as part of an effort to market the courses to a broader range of players in the Central Valley and Bay Area.
"There has always been a stigma that the courses were unapproachable for the average player," he said.
The Ranch course fees will be $49 weekdays, down from $55, including golf cart and practice balls, and $65 on the weekends. The Legends course will cost $59 weekdays and $79 on weekends. The management firm is running specials discounting the rates further to entice players this weekend.
Diablo Grande resident Chuck Seefeldt plans to break out his clubs as soon as he recovers from an injury. "I am glad they will reopen," he said. "I love the courses. That is why I moved out here."
Diablo Grande, first proposed in the early 1990s, is in the first phase of a project that is to include 2,300 homes, a hotel and conference center, an upscale winery and commercial development. The owners built the two golf courses before starting construction of homes in 2003. About 400 homes have been completed.
The owners, including pharmaceutical entrepreneur Donald Panoz, have been trying to sell Diablo Grande for about a year. Potential buyers recently toured the site, but it likely would take months to put together a sale agreement, a broker said.
The deal with Sierra restores the golf amenities promised to residents when they purchased homes at the resort.
Dwain Sanders, vice president of development for Diablo Grande, struck a conciliatory note in a letter to residents this week: "Even though the last two months have been difficult, we are moving forward in a positive direction."
The letter also said the Western Hills Water District is working with its treatment plant contractor to improve the drinking water at Diablo Grande. A state order in February determined that the water exceeded accepted limits for trihalomethanes, a compound believed to raise cancer risks, and failed to meet standards for appearance and odors.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.