Anatomy of a golf-club revival: How this Nevada facility turned around its fortunes
The Club at ArrowCreek, a private facility in Reno, Nev., is thriving, but that wasn’t always the case.
The club, which has two courses — the Challenge Course (designed by Fuzzy Zoeller with John Harbottle) and the Legend Course (designed by Arnold Palmer) — has endured its share of financial troubles, filing for Chapter 11 on one occasion, and being roughly a month from insolvency on another. In 2014, a group of about 50 local investors took over the club, but they didn’t fare much better.
Finally, in 2018, Ray Conrad and his wife, Jeanne, members themselves since 2014, bought the property.
Conrad, who for more than two decades ran the nation’s second-largest employment background check company, quickly put his business acumen to work, and things have been heading in the right direction ever since.
“Prior to us doing that, you didn’t want to take another couple there for dinner, because you never knew how it was going to be,” Conrad said. “Now, it’s a place I can walk in and be very proud of.”
Turning around a struggling golf club is never easy work and no two turnarounds are the same, but ArrowCreek’s revival offers a lens into the investment and commitment that is required.
“The philosophy from our owners,” said Jim Cleary, the general manager, “was to elevate the member experience to be best in class in the Reno market but not just on the golf side.”
The club, which is in a community of more than 1,000 homes, recently completed a $60-million expansion/upgrade encompassing the two courses, the clubhouse and a host of amenities.
Among the new attractions: a fitness center, pool, additional dining outlets, a game room for kids and a 40,000-square-foot meeting area. In a couple of weeks, construction will be finished on indoor pickleball facilities — four climate-controlled, indoor courts.
As for the golf courses themselves, the Conrads have invested roughly $5 million that included replacing thousands of sprinkler heads, and purchasing new fairway mowers and other maintenance equipment.
Plans are also in the works, Cleary said, to hire a course designer to do a complete assessment and reimagining of the layouts.
Improving its golf offerings is one of ArrowCreek’s primary goals. With the guidance of the Troon company, which helps maintain the facility, Conrad is bullish that the courses soon will be nationally recognized.
“They are evaluating the courses right now,” Conrad said of Troon. “They’re going to work on the greens and the fairways.”
Conrad was one of the investors in 2014 who hoped to help the club rebound from its initial difficulties.
“This place was in shambles,” he recalled. “Nothing worked. Nothing was being repaired.”
There was talk, he said, of closing one of the courses to lower expenses.
Conrad soon realized that the money the local investors had put in — about $5 million — wasn’t going to be nearly enough, and that golf alone wasn’t going to keep the place running.
The only way Conrad could see the club surviving, he said, was to add a banquet room for weddings and other events, and improve the restaurants to generate additional income. The club recruited chefs from Washington, D.C., Orlando and California.
“Probably nothing else in Reno compares to it,” Conrad said.
Another of Conrad’s priorities: ensuring that every one of the investors got their money back.
“My purpose in doing that,” he said, “is that I knew I would turn it around — I had turned around businesses all my life — and I didn’t want people saying that I stole the place.”
At one point, the club was down to 300 members. Today, it has more than 800. The tee sheets have filled up, and so have the club’s coffers.
“We are at the point where it’s about breaking even,” Conrad said, “and as we continue to grow the membership, we will be in the black.”
In the black, and back on track.