Castlewood members make one key decision; a second one looms

The future of the iconic Castlewood Country Club became a little bit clearer this month when the membership narrowly voted to proceed with remodeling the clubhouse and pool area.

The club has been under pressure to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards in both the 1970s-era clubhouse and its swimming pool area. The club’s board and a committee have spent the last couple of years exploring options, with the board demonstrating its commitment to meeting ADA standards by only offering the membership options with that included.

The members, by a 211-189 margin, approved the plan to upgrade both facilities instead of spending significantly less money to just meet the ADA requirements. A total of 400 members cast votes out of 558 eligible to vote — a strong turnout that was noted by the board.

The close vote likely reflects different priorities between older members who do not want to spend any more money than necessary and younger ones concerned with the long-term sustainability of the club.

The third option for the members is joining the Bay Club, which purchased the ClubSport properties in November, including the Pleasanton club on Johnson Drive. The Castlewood board decided to put the two ADA options to the members first. With the approval of the membership, the clubhouse committee will move ahead with plans for the remodeling while another committee continues to explore the Bay Club option.

The committee working with the Bay Club is scheduled to send a report to the board in late March that could include a non-binding letter of intent for the acquisition. That committee also will be determining how valuable the club and its properties are, as well as evaluating its sustainability, the water rights it holds and issues surrounding different land-uses on the Valley Course.

Last year, the club had entertained a conversation with Ponderosa Homes about a potential joint venture to develop the Valley Course into homes. That faced numerous hurdles, including the Arroyo de la Laguna that borders three holes, the railroad tracks, and the likely need to annex it into the city of Pleasanton and change the agricultural zoning to residential.

From a membership standpoint, the Valley Course is a critical offering for the club because it is walkable (it takes a well-conditioned person to walk the Hill Course with its elevation changes). The Valley Course gets about 60% of the play.

One key issue will be sustainability. Over the last 15 years, membership has fallen from about 800 to the 558 eligible to vote last month.

The split vote indicates differing priorities. The investment, should the club decide to continue independent, will about $200 a month in dues, about a 20% increase for 20 years. The ADA-only option would have been $100 per month for 10 years.

The Bay Club options, which would eliminate quarterly food-and-beverage minimums as well as cart fees, likely would save all members money, particularly if they currently are paying ClubSport monthly fees.

The Bay Club option currently would give all Castlewood members its top status ($30,000 list price) that also would include access to any of the Bay Area campuses. That would value the club at about $16.7 million, plus Bay Club has committed to investing at least $15 million into the clubhouse to meet ADA standards as well as make it competitive in the Tri-Valley country club market. After a waiting period, existing Castlewood members could put their Bay Club membership up for sale.

If members proceed with the merger, current plans call for the creation of a holding company that would hold title to the land for 30 years after which it would revert to the Bay Club. Any sale within the first 10 years will return 75% of the proceeds to club members.

One concern for some Castlewood members is the availability of tee times should the merger take place. Potentially, there would be lots more members striving for tee times, particularly on weekends.

For Bay Club, the addition of East Bay golf courses would greatly enhance its offerings.

Bottom line: Members have made one decision, but one more very big decision looms.