New owners bring The Cedars on Salmon Creek up to par

Two local investors purchased the course in the spring, proceed with ongoing improvements

As real estate prices climb higher, finding a good fixer-upper can prove valuable. And Greg Anderson and Gordy Jolma found a gem – 180 acres complete with 85 golf carts and some really big lawn mowers. The long-time friends and business partners purchased The Cedars on Salmon Creek golf course, formerly The Cedars Golf Course, in Brush Prairie this spring.

Under its previous owner course maintenance diminished over the years, a trend the new owners are working to reverse, one step at a time.

“Every day is a new challenge,” said Anderson. “Something breaks and we fix it.”

Included in the deal was a 22,000-square-foot clubhouse – which includes a pro shop, offices, banquet facilities, a restaurant and kitchen and two locker rooms – and all the operating and maintenance equipment.

Originally built as a private course by Gerry James, the first nine holes were built in the mid 70s, and the second nine holes and the clubhouse were added in 1979. By 1981, the private-course model failed and the property was foreclosed on in 1981 and subsequently purchased by National Golf Courses Inc., which also owns Colwood National and Meriweather National in Portland. The Hawaii-based owners were inattentive to course upkeep, said Anderson.

“The course was built correctly,” he said. “It’s just a matter of over the years the systems have failed. Our objective is to revitalize it. It is a gorgeous setting for a golf course.”

The biggest physical change made to the course has been improvements to the irrigation and drainage of the course. They performed a Verti-Drain procedure on the entire course, which entails punching deep holes into the turf without pulling a plug to create a drainage space. That was followed by regular heavy sanding and top dressing to improve the turf.

“We spent more money on sand in the first month than the previous owners did in the last five years,” said Anderson.

This spring it was necessary to convert a par 5 hole into a par 3 to redesign and re-irrigate the hole due to ongoing drainage problems that made it unplayable. The hole is expected to reopen as a par 5 in October. Anderson said the hole, which runs along Salmon Creek, “will go from our worst hole to our best hole.”

However, the biggest change has come in the operation of The Cedars. Ninety percent of the previous staff is gone, said Anderson.

The Cedars lured “a few key employees” from Royal Oaks Country Club to join the revamped staff. The private Vancouver-based course is consistently ranked among the top in the state. Craig Liddle is now superintendent at The Cedars, the new golf pro is Cory Pickeral, and Bridgette Roche is the food and beverage manager. Each of them hired their own staff to work under them. The Cedars has 31 full- and part-time employees.

“We have people in there who are really good at what they do and really care about the quality of their work,” said Anderson.

Anderson and Jolma have played golf for much of their lives. They both grew up in the Clark County and have partnered in real estate investments in the past.

“We are tuned into golf, this is more than just a real estate investment,” said Anderson. “We know what it takes to make a really good golf course.”

Anderson is also the CEO at Biggs Insurance Services in Vancouver, where he has worked for 30 years. Jolma has been involved in real estate and construction in Clark County and lived in Montana as a rancher for a short time.

Both are members of Royal Oaks, but that may change, said Anderson. And even though he owns a golf course, he said he has less time to play now.

Anderson said The Cedars has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of rounds played versus last year. He attributes that to word of mouth referrals from people who have returned to play the course and seen a difference.

Revenue is up 35 percent so far this year, 10 percent above initial projections for the first year. Golfing fees have increased about 10 percent.

They plan to keep the course public and they hope to build up banquet and event business utilizing their 200-person banquet room, large deck, restaurant and bar. Anderson expects close to 50 tournaments next year, and they will introduce some fall and winter packages soon. Additionally, they hope to construct an 8-stall, 50- to 60-foot covering at its existing golf range before winter.

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