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Russ and Tracy Libby, owners of Hidden Hills Country Club.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jan. 10, 201712:00 PM EST

Hidden Hills opening golf course, clubhouse and dining facilities to go public

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Ownership notified members last week that Hidden Hills Country Club in the Fort Caroline area will cease to be a private country club and that its golf course will become public Feb. 1.

Dining facilities and the clubhouse also will open to the public.

However, the tennis facility, pool, fitness center and club-sponsored events will no longer operate, wrote owner-manager Russ Libby to members in a letter dated Jan. 3.

Memberships will end Jan. 31.

Libby and his wife, Tracy, own the club at 1301 Monument Road in East Arlington. He said Tuesday they’ve observed trends where there is less demand for private memberships at golf country clubs.

“We want to be more proactive,” he said, adding that golf remains popular at Hidden Hills.

His letter said it has been their desire to manage the club as a private facility.

“However we feel that this new business model is the best one for the future of Hidden Hills,” he said.

The decision was made after almost 14 years of serving members, who can continue to use the club.

“There is emotion that is tied in with changes like this,” said Libby, who added the couple is “bullish” on the future for the club and the course.

He said the membership averages about 450. He declined to provide the breakdown by percentage of how many live in the adjacent Hidden Hills gated residential community and how many live elsewhere.

He said the bulk of the club members live within five miles and they have targeted prospective members within 10 miles over the years.

In a news release Tuesday, Libby said starting Feb. 1, the dining facilities will be open to the public for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, with bar service until 7 p.m. The pub menu will be offered Friday until 9 p.m.

He said the club will continue hosting banquets, weddings, business meetings and private parties and hopes to continue working with area civic clubs that meet there.

The release said Hidden Hills, founded in 1966, operated as a private country club for most of its years. From 1970-72, it hosted the Greater Jacksonville Open, the precursor for The Players Championship.

The Hidden Hills Country Club Estates community website says most of the homes were built from the late 1970s to the mid-2000s.

The club opened to the public on a limited basis in August 2015.

Hidden Hills originally was a private club, he wrote in the letter, and then developed to be an exclusive community.

“It was designed to promote value, lifestyle, and exclusivity associated with living in a private Country Club community,” he wrote in the letter to members.

However, he wrote the community “has continued to receive added value because of the existence of Hidden Hills Country Club while Hidden Hills Country Club has not experienced the same added value from the Hidden Hills Estate community.”

He said the only reason it continued as a private club “was because of our gratitude, appreciation and loyalty to you, our members.”

In addition to daily public pricing, Hidden Hills is introducing an individual annual golf pass for $2,950 to include unlimited greens fees and golf cart fees for 2017. They will first be made available to current members who subscribe by Jan. 20.

HillsPass holders can make tee times up to eight days in advance. Only 200 will be available.

Depending on availability, it will be offered to the general public.

In the release, Libby said the Arnold Palmer Signature golf course will have tee times seven days a week for daily rates of $39 per player and weekend rates of $49 per player.

The practice facility — with a driving range, short game area and two putting greens — also will be open to the public at $5 per bag of balls, he said.

“We believe we can bring more players into the game of golf by offering affordable golf and creative programming, clinics, leagues and events which will be open to everyone,” Libby said in the release.

He said Tuesday the pool and tennis courts will be closing down and secured for safety, but he is considering options for them.

“It wouldn’t be good for anyone to have it sit there and deteriorate,” he said.

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@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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