Berkleigh Golf Club near Kutztown will get a $750,000 upgrade, according to its new management company.
“We’re going to treat it like we own it,” said Jeff Harper, chief operating officer for Byler Golf Management, a company based in Cornwall, Lebanon County, that manages and owns four other golf clubs in eastern Pennsylvania.
Byler signed a 10-year lease with two five-year renewal options in January with Berkleigh owner Lehigh Cement Co., Harper said. The club is on Kutztown Road in Richmond Township.
The company wants to restore Berkleigh, which opened in 1926, “back to its former glory,” he said.
A public course, Berkleigh was designed by Robert White in the classic parkland style of the 1920s. White also designed Water Gap Country Club and the course at Skytop Lodge, both in Monroe County.
BETSY KING CLASSIC
Berkleigh was the home of the LPGA Betsy King Golf Classic for many years, hosted by Berks native and Hall of Fame golfer King.
Byler plans to bring Berkleigh up to the same standard as its top public golf clubs, Iron Valley in Lebanon County and Broad Run in Chester County.
Some of the improvements include adding sand to all bunkers, tree and stump removal and adding a new fleet of golf carts and a couple thousand feet of new cart paths.
Byler hopes to have a new clubhouse, pro shop and snack bar open by mid-summer, Harper said. Green fees will remain the same, he said.
SAND FROM MARYLAND
Berkleigh intends to open March 17, weather permitting.
“All 66 bunkers on the golf course didn’t have enough sand for probably one bunker,” Harper said.
Byler will use sand from its sister company, Merrick Sand & Gravel Co. on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which has two sand quarries.
“We have a product called Merrick Select Bunker Sand, and our sister company already has 10 truckloads of bunker sand [ready] for the golf course, weather permitting,” he said.
BETTER PLAYING CONDITIONS
The upgrades will create “significantly better playing conditions,” Harper said.
“We are going to do a whole lot of tree maintenance, stump and dead tree removal, tree trimming,” he said.
“We are going to tackle the stump and trees from the center line out, the ones most in play,” he said.
Golf course maintenance proceeds from the center line out, with the green being the most important part.
Harper said the “turf is actually excellent, which is what people play on. If we fix the bunkers and do some of the tree work, we’ll be a B-plus by May 1. We’ll be an A-plus by the end of the year.”
Beth Reese, formerly of Fox Hollow Golf Club in Quakertown, will be returning to Berkleigh as general manager. Jason Doney is the new superintendent.
Harper said Byler would be interested in managing other golf courses in the region, “if the right situation comes along.”
BULLISH ON GOLF
Even as golf courses continue to close, the key is to have the right property, Harper said.
“There is way too much supply right now. The industry loses 200 to 250 golf courses every year,” he said. “As that continues to happen, we want to be one of the ones remaining.
“We are bullish on the golf business.”