Twin Rivers (copy)

Golfers tee off on the 13th hole at Twin Rivers Golf Course as heavy machinery sits on a new street under construction in the background.

In a Monday meeting, an overflow gathering of Twin Rivers homeowners hatched out a tentative plan they hope will attract a new owner and greatly enhance the condition of their golf course.

The residents discussed their strategy at the Twin Rivers Home Owners Association's first meeting since the Tribune-Herald’s Aug. 26 story on the state of Waco golf, which in part highlighted the struggles of the Twin Rivers course.

“We don’t expect Augusta National (site of the Masters Golf Tournament), but we do expect a course that is playable and respectable,” said Baylor Vice Provost Wes Null, who is spearheading a new committee to bring the condition of one of Waco’s few semi-public golf courses up to a level which would attract members or outside play. Homeowners association officials said the committee is not formally connected to the association, though the committee members belong to the association.

“We all know what situation we are in now with this course,” said Waco banker Sam Brown, who is the president of the Twin Rivers HOA. 

Both Twin Rivers and the nearby Lake Waco Golf Course are owned by former Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards, who lives in Waco as does his son, Tom, who helps run the courses.

Both Bob and Tom Richards did not return messages seeking comment on the Monday meeting, which attracted more than 75 Twin Rivers homeowners. The group overflowed the club conference room, prompting some to stand out in the soggy Waco night.

Bob Richards told the Tribune Herald in August he was willing to sell the courses to help pay for the money he has lost since buying them several years ago.

He did not mention a price. But Monday night Brown told the HOA members that Richards wanted $3 million for the Twin Rivers course.

“Of course, the price is always what somebody is willing to pay for it, but I do not see in this business climate that he could get $3 million dollars for that course,” said retired Waco businessman Tommy Tompkins. “I know Bob Richards really well and he has told me more than once if not 20 times, he wants to make this a PGA Tour-quality course. If he truly wants to do that, than he needs to step up and do the things necessary to make that happen or we need somebody who will.

“When Bob Richards became one of the greatest pole vaulters of all time, he didn’t train at a worn-down, falling-apart facility. He trained at one of the best. That’s all we are asking for here, so members and guests can train to their highest level whatever that may be. We want a course in decent condition.”

The main thrust of the new committee, which will report to the Twin River HOA Board of Directors, will be to solicit any possible new owners with definite commitments of support and finances from the HOA.

“Our Task Force will be working on a document — we’ll call it a pledge — which Twin Rivers members can sign onto as part of an agreement with a new owner,” Null said. “I’m not sure of the specific numbers, but let’s say every member pledged $250 a month for the golf course in exchange for favorite rates or tee times.

“We are saying, this is what we could do for the new owners. If we had 75 or so pledgers, that would be attractive to potential buyers, whether that’s a private buyer or the City of Waco or someone else. Even if they are a non-golfer, they would be willing to come to a nice restaurant at the clubhouse if we had one of those things now.”

The Twin Rivers community has seen a home-building surge over the last several years, and the back nine holes of the Peter Jacobsen-designed course, which officially opened in October 2001, are currently lined with large six-figure houses in various stages of construction.

“There is widespread concern about the condition of the golf course. The concern is coming not just from golfers, but also from those who have concerns about property values,” Null said.

The Twin Rivers HOA also discovered that under the city’s Planned Unit Development document, which was signed and delivered in 2000, the course where the Twin Rivers layout currently sit prohibits Richards or any owner for turning any aspects of the golf course into home sites.

Despite the problems facing the Twin Rivers course, some residents are optimistic. Tompkins, who bought the second lot ever at Twin Rivers in early 2001 and is now in his third home there, said he still believes in the potential of the golf course.

“I believe something good will happen,” Tompkins said. “I believe a year from now we will be playing on a greatly improved golf course. I have been fortunate to play on a lot of nice courses and I think Twin Rivers has the potential to be one of the nicest in Texas.”

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