Country Club Neighborhood Association

Subtitle

History of the Las Cruces Country Club

     In the summer of 1924, Las Cruceans formed a golf group and cleared some land in the sand hills  northeast of the city.  El Paso banker Winchester Cooley donated 117 acres of an isolated parcel where the old Organ Road ascended the northeast mesa toward Alamogordo.  The Las Cruces Country Club (LCCC) was formally organized by October 1927.  The original subscribers in LCCC included well-known Las Cruceans Campbell, Freudenthal, Klein and Stull.  In February 1928, 10 people invested in the purchase of approximately 177.77 acres of land on the same site.  Al Valestino, a golf pro from El Paso, came and laid out the first 6 holes.  There was no grass.  To make a playable surface, they mixed sand with oil in a cement mixer.  Players had to use a sweeper to smooth out the "greens" before putting.


     In November 1928, LCCC formally incorporated with 46 members.  Officers were elected and the plans were made to raise $15,000 to build  a pueblo-style clubhouse.  That same month, LCCC purchased an additional 69.82 acres, for a total of 247.59 acres. 

  

     Mesilla Valley Preservation only recently uncovered a full set of plans for the original clubhouse building designed by Trost & Trost, the most noted architects in the southwest in the early 1900s.  The plans include a lounge, a ladies parlor, caretaker's office and grill on the first floor and men's lockers, kitchen and lunchroom in the basement.  The fireplace in the parlor is still intact today.  The dedication in November 1929 occurred within days of the Stock Market crash that sent the country into the Great Depression.  


     By September 1931, the club was heavily in debt.  In 1932, there were only 31 members, paying $5 per month.  In 1933, a social membership of $2 per month entitled members to all the privileges of the Club House, one free dance a month and golf for a green fee of 50 cents per day.


     In 1937, LCCC hired its first pro, Art Ashton, who took charge of the Clubhouse and golf course.  In 1938, Ashton was followed by H.T. “Shorty” Hornbuckle.  Wallace Bostwas hired in 1941 and Morris E. Morton in 1948.


     The first sale of land occurred in 1937.  14.25 acres were sold to Fay Sperry for $750.  After expenses, $611.54 was applied to LCCC’S outstanding debt.  A rock house was built on the land across Highway 70 at hole #3.  The remainder was later sold for the shopping center.


     LCCC continued to experience financial difficulties.  H.B. Holt was very active in preserving the club.  LCCC owed Gus Menassee $2,300 at one point.


     In 1949, 10 years after a pool was proposed, approval was given to proceed, at a cost not to exceed $2,500.  The pool was later donated.


     In the late 1940s and most of the 1950s, the biggest social event in town was the “Covered Dish Supper” at the LCCC every Thursday night.


     In February of 1953, LCCC had to borrow $8,000 at 6% interest to provide adequate water for the golf course.  In July 1953, LCCC sold 30 acres to the City of Las Cruces for $8,250, which became Apodaca Park.


     In 1956, 50 acres were sold to Seaborn Collins of the Seaborn Collins Agency for $65,000.  The money was used to build a lounge, rest rooms and a ballroom.  Dues were raised to $9 per month. The ballroom hosted numerous events, including wedding receptions and parties.  LCCC also served as a polling place.


     In 1958, LCCC had 195 members.  The tennis courts were paved in that year.  In 1959 an underground water system was installed and construction started on the Golf Shop.


     The Las Cruces LPGA tournament in the mid-1960s may have been the club’s crowning achievement.


     In 1969, nine new holes were built.  In 1971, LCCC bought 4 rental golf cars.  In 1976, bar prices were raised to 60 cents for beer and $1 for mixed drinks.  In 1977 greens fees were $6 week days and $8 Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.


     In 1978, a special stockholders’ meeting was called for consideration of selling the Madrid property and the possibility of selling the entire country club.  The group from Picacho Hills was talking about a merger.


     LCCC held its 50th Anniversary Party on July 26, 1979.  Members totaled 202, 126 golf and 76 social.

   

     On March 25, 1980, a stockholders’ meeting was held.  “It was resolved on a vote of 28 for and 13 against that the four pieces of property – Madrid, Highway 70 East, Camino Del Rex, and the triangle be sold for the offer of $237,500 and the monies applied to the mortgages against the property.”


     In September 1985, LCCC rejected a proposal to swap LCCC for Picacho Club.  The same proposal had been rejected in 1978.  A 50 ft by 50 ft piece of land was sold to Mountain Bell Telephone for switching purposes on the east side of fairway #16 for $13,500. 


     In March 1986, the ban on sales of club stock, which had been prohibited in response to the danger of an “unfriendly” takeover, was lifted for 30 days to allow members in good standing to buy club stock.


     In September 1986, the City of Las Cruces completed the “Three Crosses” corner rock retainer at the corner of North Mesquite Street and Highway 70 East.


     In December 1986, LCCC once again rejected an outside proposal to sell or trade out the Club.  LCCC applied for and received approval for a greater water allotment.  In 1987, they needed a new sprinkler system to use the new water supply.  To prepare for the sprinkler system, the level of the two ponds was equalized by digging “Bogard’s Big Ditch” to join the ponds and have the capacity to water both nines even if one pump went out.  Other needs were for Club House maintenance, including re-roofing the entire Clubhouse.  A wrought iron entrance to the Club was built.  It was 29 ft wide with colored rock base and 18” high letters “LAS CRUCES COUNTRY CLUB” with the inscription of the donors on the left side of the entrance.


     In March 1988, continuing to experience expenses that exceeded their income, LCCC examined the feasibility and implications of remaining at the present site or trading the site for a turnkey operation of a new clubhouse and golf course, without any debt and money in the bank.  In October 1988, a petition signed by over 60 stockholders directed the board” to cease and desist in all efforts to relocate the LCCC.”  Committees continued to evaluate the options of remaining at the site and trading the site for a turnkey operation in 1989.  One of the options for keeping the site was to sell 15.3 acres on the west side of the property for a proposed strip shopping center for $2,332,000 ($3.5 a net square foot).  Albuquerque developers were willing to develop a turnkey golf course as the focal point of a development in High Range where they were going to build a hospital.  A group out of Houston, Texas also submitted a proposal to provide a turnkey operation.  At a special stockholders meeting held in October 1989, 52 stockholders voted to increase debt service; 45 voted to sell 15 acres and keep the rest; and 11 voted for the turnkey operation.  The second ballot was 58 stockholders in favor of increasing debt service and 45 to sell 15 acres and keep the rest.  In 1990, to increase income to cover repayment of financing for the new watering system, dues were raised $10 for golf and $5 for social.  Greens fees for walk-ons were also raised.  The water system was completed in March 1991.  Membership at the time was 243, including 167 seniors, 13 snowbirds, 5 corporate and 38 young executives.


     In 2001, shares at LCCC were $150.


     Several years before they closed, there was a plan to clean out and enlarge the ponds for the irrigation system for $70,000.  The cost was to be paid for with an assessment of $300 per year, per member.  40 members left after the assessment.  Two years later dues were raised by $25, but it was too late to cover the cost of the improvements to the irrigation system.


     In June 2006, the members of LCCC voted to approve a land swap with developer Philip Philippou.  Philippou would build the Las Cruces Country Club a new golf course and facilities at the Sierra Norte subdivision on the East Mesa and pay $1.1 million to erase $1,082,000 in Las Cruces Country Club debt in exchange for the 110 acre Las Cruces Country Club site located on North Main Street.[1]


     In 2009, Philippou transferred his interest in Sierra Norte to developer John Moscato.  Moscato offered to sell the Las Cruces Country Club property to the City of Las Cruces or donate 55 acres of the parcel to the City if the City agreed not to use it as a golf course and approved a planned unit development (PUD) for the remaining 55 acres.[2]  The City of Las Cruces did not accept either of the options Moscato offered, citing the high costs of conversion (estimated at $12.4 to $18.7 million) and maintenance ($55 to 85 million over 30 years).


     Moscato went on to open the Red Hawk Golf Club in October of 2011, ignoring the arrangement with the Las Cruces Country Club.  A settlement was reached between Moscato and the Las Cruces Country Club, which ended the original agreement.


     In November 2011, the Las Cruces Country Club closed the golf course on North Main Street.  The club itself didn’t dissolve.  LCCC’s 175 members were given the option to move with LCCC to the Sonoma Ranch Golf Course, which LCCC hopes to buy after it sells the Las Cruces Country Club property.[3] 


     On April 25, 2012, the City of Las Cruces made an offer to purchase the property for $1 million.  The emailed “letter” from City Legal Council gave five (5) days for the requisite members to achieve a unanimous vote and the offer did not come close to the appraised value of the property at that time.  The Las Cruces Country Club turned down the offer.[4] 


     In November 2012, brokers for NAI 1st Valley sold the property to “a group of local and regional businessmen and investors” for $7.1 million.[5]  The purchase was contingent upon rezoning of the property for high intensity commercial and high density residential development. [6]


     Currently, LCCC has less than 100 certificate holders.


[1] Ramirez, Steve “Country club gives OK for land swap Las Cruces Sun-News (June 17, 2006)

[2] Ramirez, Steve “Las Cruces council hears country club offersLas Cruces Sun-News (October 29, 2009)

[3] Alba, Diana M. “Country Club closes its doors Las Cruces Sun-News (November 19, 2011)

[4] Ramirez, Steve “City officials say ball is now in court of Country Club for proposed sale Ruidoso News (April 28, 2012)

[5] Ramirez, Steve “Sale of country club seen by some as community loss El Paso Sun-News (November 23, 2012)

[6] Ramirez, Steve “Ambitious plan for former country club envisions many uses Las Cruces Sun-News (March 16, 2013)