The Pebble Creek Golf Club has been a part of the landscape in New Tampa for more than 50 years, but it appears that the golf course will be sold and replaced with more residential units. (Photo: John C. Cotey)

The rumored sale of the Pebble Creek Golf Club (PCGC) is, to use golfing vernacular, like a perfect approach to the green that stops a few inches short of the cup.

Now, interested developers are deciding whether or not they want to tap the ball into the cup.

Bill Place, the owner of PCGC since 2005, has confirmed that a purchaser for his 149-acre property has been identified, but says that there has been no sale yet.

“Completely wrong,” Place says of the rumors that the club had been sold.

But, it now appears the sale of New Tampa’s first golf course (it opened in 1967) may be just a matter of time.

The interested party, who offered the highest price among what Place says were eight interested developers, is currently going through a 90-day inspection process to help evaluate whether or not it wants to finalize its purchase.

That included meeting with Pebble Creek residents last week, as well as studying zoning issues and exactly how many units — whether apartments, condos or homes — can be built on the property.

“As I understand it, the company we chose has done this in a lot of places and works with the community,” Place says. “It’s not a company that comes in and just blasts away.”

Even if the sale is finalized, Place says that the rezoning process and securing government approval and permits likely will be an 18- to 24-month process.

“It’s safe to say we won’t be going away before then,” says Place, who along with wife Su Lee, owns the company, Ace Golf, that owns PCGC and three other Tampa Bay-area golf courses.

Place did not identify the potential buyers, or how much the offer was on the property. 

As For The Community…

Mike Jacobson, the president of the Pebble Creek Homeowners Association, says he has been fielding questions about the potential sale since the rumors began swirling late last year. 

“I put something on our web page that basically says Bill Place told me he has multiple bids and is actively planning on selling it,” he says. “Right now, we don’t know who the company is.”

Jacobson says not a single resident he has talked to is happy about the impending sale. He expected residents to make their voices heard when the rezoning comes before the Hillsborough County Commission.

“There’s so many great lakes on that property, there’s no way we’re going to allow those to go away,” Jacobson said. “The other thing I’m concerned about is lacking the infrastructure to handle more homes. Nobody is really looking at this as a positive.”

According to Place, the property already has underlying zoning permitting 600 new units, but he adds that, “there is no way they are going to put that many units on it.”

In September, the PCGC property was listed on the website of land brokers Cushman & Wakefield. The listing boosted the property by heralding its 12 existing lakes, homes in Pebble Creek that are selling “in the mid-$200,000s to upper-$300,000s,” an average household income within a three-mile radius of $106,179 and the 3,189,266 square feet of retail within a three-mile radius of the semi-private golf course.

The detailed listing, which Place denied ever approving, included a marketing flyer, water and sewage map, a zoning site plan, Pebble Creek’s declaration of covenants and restrictions (dated Sept. 2, 1986) and a unit count calculation that said 840 apartment and townhome units were potentially feasible to replace the golf course.

That’s about when Jacobson began hearing from residents, and he called Place for an explanation.

“What he told me was that someone reached out to him about selling it,” Jacobson says. “But, if bids come in and offers come in, he said, ‘I’m going to take it.’ I guess the company took that as an initiative to (list).”

Place has acknowledged that business has not been good at the golf course, which was designed by Bill Amick and offers 6,436 yards of play from the blue tees. He said revenues at the club were down in 2018 by a third, and profits were down by 50 percent.

The construction on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. certainly didn’t help, but many golf courses in general are in an economic slump.

Pebble Creek Golf Club owner Bill Place says that Mulligans Irish Pub inside the golf course’s recently renovated clubhouse is the club’s only money-maker.

Place also said that although Pebble Creek boasts more than 1,000 homes, there are only 20 Pebble Creek homeowners who currently are members of the golf club. Place says the club has tried various specials to lure new members, with cheaper membership dues, to no avail.

Mulligans Irish Pub, the clubhouse restaurant and bar, continues to be successful, however. “Sad to say, but Mulligans is really the only area where we make money,” Place says.

For now, he is letting the transaction unfold as the golf course remains open for business as usual.

“We’re prepared for it to go either way,” Place says of the possible sale. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, we’ll continue to operate as long as it’s feasible. Unfortunately, that’s why we’re here in the first place (because it may not be feasible).”

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