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Watermark promises ‘business as usual’

COO Craig Smith affirms newly purchased Thornapple Pointe will remain public golf course.

October 21, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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With an aging ownership group, The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe was at a crossroads.

The club, 7211 48th St. SE, has an ownership group of approximately 20 investors — many in or near their 70s — and wanted to ensure the club would continue as a public course, said Chris Sobieck, Thornapple Pointe general manager and Professional Golf Association professional.

Sobieck had been working with Watermark Properties, and when the opportunity came to Watermark COO Craig Smith, the deal to buy it came together quickly, Smith said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“It’s a great public golf course, and it’s incredibly successful,” Smith said. “It’s less about adding a fifth private course to our club and more about strengthening our position in the West Michigan golf community.”

Watermark Properties operates as a “one membership, four courses” private country club, allowing its members to golf at any of its four clubs: Sunnybrook Country Club, Watermark Country Club, StoneWater Country Club and Thousand Oaks Country Club.

Watermark also includes RedWater Restaurant Group, operating Gravity Taphouse Grille, Fire Rock Grille, Rush Creek Bistro, Cork Wine & Grille, Vintage Prime & Seafood and Reds at Thousand Oaks.

A separate company was created to operate Thornapple Pointe and continue the club as a public course for the golf community, Smith said. Sobieck will remain as manager of Thornapple Pointe. As with the RedWater restaurants — and the golf club — Thornapple Pointe’s banquet facility will continue to be available for public activities.

“It will be business as usual at both companies,” Smith said. “We’re excited to have Thornapple Pointe be a part of what we’re doing. It’s nice not to have to fix anything.”

Thornapple Pointe was designed by Bill Newcomb and built in 1997.

Sobieck has been in the golf industry for more than 30 years, beginning with a job at a driving range. He’s been with Thornapple Pointe for the past 16 years.

He said the position of the course in the public golf community was one the ownership group didn’t want to relinquish when it moved on. Last year was a record year for Thornapple Pointe, with this year on pace to surpass it, Sobieck said.

“We believe we have a reputation and high quality,” Sobieck said. “This was an opportunity that made sense for (the ownership) to exit where things could continue the way they were; a positive way for them to move on from the ownership.”

Sobieck’s involvement with Watermark will go beyond Thornapple Pointe, as Smith said his addition to the company will be vital to continue the growth of the golf operation within the overall company.

“He’ll be the conduit to improve operations at Watermark,” Smith said. “We want to have stronger golf operations, and Chris adds value to that mission.”

Smith agreed with Sobieck’s sentiments of a strong golf season, likely because of nice weather throughout most of the summer, along with a strong economy for recreation activities. Smith said the goal now will be to grow both businesses while further committing Watermark to West Michigan.

“It’s more about a message than anything,” Smith said. “We want to make sure Thornapple is in great condition and a great place to go for the public, while our other four courses are hitting on all cylinders.”

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