Saving Saddlebrook: How neighbors stepped up to the tee

Saddlebrook Golf Course is overgrown with weeds now, but neighbors hope to get the course back in shape by spring.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - When a west Indianapolis community launched a fundraising drive to save Saddlebrook Golf Course last month, some thought, "lotsa luck." Raising $250,000 in 45 days would be harder than getting a hole-in-one.

Well, guess what? The Friends of Saddlebrook exceeded their goal. They raised $265,000 and are now driving for $300,000.

Lisa Cole, one of the campaign chairs said, "Really, to raise that kind of money in a month is pretty phenomenal."

But she said saving Saddlebrook isn't just about saving a golf course. It's about saving a community.

"And, it's bigger than us," she said. "It's not just our own neighborhood. We recognize this is an asset for Indianapolis."

Saddlebrook is an 18-hole privately owned, public golf course on West 56th Street that opened in the early 1990s. It's connected to the Saddlebrook community, which has 341 homes.

The golf course closed in the fall of 2015 after the owners defaulted on a bank loan. Since then, it's become overgrown with weeds, the bunkers have collapsed, the clubhouse is boarded up.

Dave Vanwye is not a golfer, but he's loved living on the golf course for "the view, the scenery."

His biggest fear has been developers buying the course.

"We didn't want to see condos or apartments in the neighborhood," he said, adding that the golf course makes Saddlebrook "a desirable neighborhood. It helps property values."

So when Green Golf Partners expressed interest in buying it, Vanwye and his neighbors stepped up to the tee to help drive the deal.

They offered to raise $250,000 to cover the cost of getting the course back in shape, then upping it to $300,000 to replace the fences surrounding it.

"I'm a little surprised," Vanwye said, "but also excited that so many people are behind this."

Cole said it's been "a great cross-neighborhood story."

She said nearly 100 people who live outside Saddlebrook have contributed to the campaign.

"They really consider Saddlebrook an anchor on 56th Street, so if something happens to Saddlebrook, it will have a ripple effect on their neighborhoods, too," Cole said.

Vanwye added that Saddlebrook is "not a private, exclusive club, anyone (has been able to) come in and play."

Cole said while Green Golf Partners has signed an agreement to buy the course, they're still "doing due diligence."

She said assuming all goes as planned, the driving range will open this fall with the course ready for play next spring.

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