By Ken MacLeod
The chances have increased that White Hawk Golf Course in Bixby will remain a golf course.
An offer to purchase the course from Gerald Pope and his partners from an Oklahoma City-based real estate developer has been rescinded. Pope said he is now working with an area businessman and Bixby resident who is interested in purchasing the course and having it remain a golf course.
Pope did not want to identify the potential buyer while he is going through due diligence, but did confirm that the potential buyer’s intention was for White Hawk to remain a public golf course with perhaps some membership opportunities for the homeowners in the area who have been particularly vocal in opposition to the course being developed for real estate.
Pope has a 20-year lease with American Golf to manage White Hawk that is expiring at the end of 2018. He has said he would shut the course down at that point rather than operating it himself or signing a contract with a new management company to continue operating the course. The new offer is the first serious offer he has received since he listed the course from someone interested in keeping White Hawk as a golf course.
Pope said he has had discussions with American Golf about two scenarios in which he might ask the course be shut down prior to the end of 2018. One is if the sale with the current prospect works out and he wants to make his own improvements before reopening. The other is if the efforts at buying the course fail and Pope and other partners end up developing the course themselves.
The City of Bixby has looked into the possibility of purchasing and running the course as a municipal course. Jason Mohler, the development services director for the city, said all options are still under consideration if the new potential sale does not work out for any reason.
White Hawk is a 1993 design by Randy Heckenkemper on land that was previously intended to be the site of the Celebrity Golf Club designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. The lack of a bridge over the Arkansas River at Yale Avenue, which developers expected to be built long ago, has always hurt numbers at White Hawk, as golfers from Tulsa have to go out of the way to Highway 75 or fight traffic on Memorial Ave. then go back west.
It is known that the asking price for White Hawk was over $2 million. An owner would also have to invest in some course improvements and improved marketing in order for the course to begin breaking even or making money. Pope said previously that in recent years White Hawk was losing money annually on top of the lease payments to the ownership group, which were in excess of $400,000.