Long Island National golf course up for sale

02/03/2013 1:00 PM |
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  The driving range at Long Isalnd National Golf Course in Northville.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The driving range at Long Island National Golf Course in Northville.

The listing offers the potential for residential development next to an 18-hole course on 150 scenic acres, designed by one of golf’s most noted architects. Riverhead’s Long Island National Golf Club is on the market.

The Northville Turnpike property is being offered as part of a bankruptcy proceeding involving the course’s owner, Gatz Properties LLC. The company’s managing partner, William Gatz of Cutchogue, began the Chapter 11 process last July, listing more than $8.8 million in debt.

“It does come off as bad news, and I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not,” Mr. Gatz said. “It’s a sign of the economic times. I do think there’s a niche here for the product and we need to get over these unfortunate hurdles, which I’m optimistic we will.”

In the meantime, it would take someone with deep pockets to take over the course. While Mr. Gatz still hopes to save the business, the broker handling any potential deal says he believes it can sell.

“There is an asking price of $10 million,” said Matthew Bordwin, co-president of GA Keen Realty Advisors, the court-appointed broker. “I’m optimistic about the process. It is a beautiful course.”

Mr. Bordwin said his company, which is based in Manhattan, began marketing and advertising the property earlier this month. He said the ads have received attention from a variety of potential buyers.

“We have interest from golf course operators, developers, maybe those who do a little bit of both, as well as high-net-worth individuals who are looking into it,” Mr. Bordwin said.

One reason potential buyers are lining up is the property’s existing zoning, which allows for residential development, Mr. Bordwin said. So while some might be interested in the course itself, others may want to alter the design or build on the surrounding land.

“I’ve even heard some folks express interest in getting rid of nine holes and adding more residential development,” Mr. Bordwin said.

That could be a concern for residents of The Highlands, a high-density residential community adjacent to Long Island National, where many residents bought their homes because of its close proximity to the 18-hole course.

“We’re not going to be happy if that’s what’s proposed,” said Highlands resident Tom Cruso. “I think most of us would be concerned housing would go up. We’re very protective, but at the same time we’re here because of developers.”

Mr. Cruso said he believes the course would lose its appeal if it were redesigned to nine holes.

“It’s a nice golf course,” he said. “As a golfer you can play nine, but 18 holes is really the game.”

The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., son of legendary golf course designer Robert Trent Jones. In an interview Mr. Jones Jr. said that unless he designs the new course, his brand would no longer be associated with Long Island National.

The 6,800-yard public course is known as for its “park and links-like style,” said Mr. Jones, who designed the course in 1999 on what was originally a potato farm.

“It is known as a golfer’s retreat,” he said. “The turf grass grows well and it is open to the sea breezes, and that’s what golf is all about.

“It has three different ambiances: rolling firm terrain, tree areas, as well as lakes, so you have a great deal of variety in the links.”

Mr. Jones called the course “a community asset.”

Long Island National had been run by an outside operator for 11 years before Mr. Gatz, whose family maintains 100 percent ownership of the property, took over as managing partner in August 2010. The company experienced nine straight years of declining business, but this past year saw a double-digit upswing, he said.

As of now, Long Island National remains open and expects to continue to operate throughout the upcoming season, said Mr. Bordwin, who added that most prospective buyers have expressed interest in keeping the course open.

“Even someone who is interested in development will probably run it as a golf course as they develop their plans,” he said. “It’s likely the golf will continue, at a minimum, for awhile.”

Should the golf course close, Mr. Gatz said, it would “break my heart.”

“The property is on the market until I get everything buttoned up here,” he said. “I can’t rule out a sale to a developer, but I put that at a slim-to-none chance.

“I’ve never been through this before and I never want to go through it again, mentally and emotionally.”

cmiller@timesreview.com