The most prolific landowner in the Lehigh Valley never owned a golf course, or even played the sport.
Now David Jaindl owns two golf courses – one each in Lehigh and Berks counties – seeing an opportunity in the game’s growth since the coronavirus pandemic to expand his sizable portfolio.
Turkey farmer and owner-operator of Jaindl brands said it took possession of Moselem Springs Golf Club in Berks County on Thursday, after buying Iron Lakes Golf Course off Shankweiler late last year. Drive to North Whitehall, near Jaindl headquarters.
“We just think they’re good investments,” he said in an interview Friday with his four sons in his North Whitehall township office: Luke, Josh, Adam and Jake, who along with their daughter Joanna Keichel, work alongside their father and his businesses.
Jaindl declined to disclose purchase prices. Steven Ekovich, executive managing director of Leisure Investment Properties Group of Tampa, Fla., which marketed the site, said Moselem Springs, a private club, sold above the list price of $2.35 million. A confidentiality agreement prevented him from disclosing the exact figure.
Jaindl said he acquired Iron Lakes, a public course, in December for a total price of $5 million that included the golf course, banquet facilities, an artificial turf pitch and 64 acres of farmland.
Jaindl said the golf course is reverting to its original name and will be known as the Club at Twin Lakes. He also said he would keep the two sites as golf courses (and farmland for farming), “as long as I’m here”.
“It was important for us, collectively, to keep [Twin Lakes] a golf course and hopefully do [capital] improvements,” he said.
Luke Jaindl said membership rates and costs for golf and other amenities have not been fixed. The Twin Lakes Club was about to host its first event under Jaindl’s ownership, he said: a breakfast in the small ballroom.
KemperSports in Northbrook, Illinois, a private golf course management and hospitality company, will manage operations for both facilities. Jon Cheshire, vice president of operations for KemperSports, said the family business runs more than 130 courses in 27 states.
The Jaindl courses would be the company’s first in Pennsylvania, Cheshire said. The nearest course operated by KemperSports is Heron Glen Golf Course & Restaurant outside of Flemington in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
The company manages some of the best golf courses in the country, including Chambers Bay in Washington State, site of the 2015 US Open, and the Bandon Dunes courses in Bandon, Oregon.
Golf has seen a resurgence over the past two years, said Jim Muschlitz, a longtime local golf professional and instructor at Southmoore Golf Course in Moore Township, whose future is uncertain after a developer bought it last year, with plans to build two large warehouses on the property.
As with just about everything else, the pandemic shuttered statewide classes in March and April 2020, but outdoor play flourished after the closures were lifted.
It rebounded later that year and in 2021, according to Muschlitz. “It was one of our best years in at least 10 years.”
Ekovich said participation has grown over the past two years to 25 million golfers nationwide. When the Great Recession hit in 2008-09, the number had fallen to 23.8 million. People returned to the fairways during COVID-19, he said, because individuals and families saw it as a safe way to exercise outdoors.
Yet even with the growth of golf, the real estate on which the game is played has also been in high demand in recent years.
The Locust Valley County Club, for example, which opened in 1954 in Upper Saucon Township in Lehigh County and Springfield Township in Bucks County, closed last year and is in being transformed into an age-appropriate housing estate managed by Traditions of America.
The fight to convert Southmoore into warehouses continues as neighbors complain about lorry traffic and the unsightly appearance of the huge warehouses.
Added to this is Jaindl, the largest landowner in the Lehigh Valley who owns properties in four Pennsylvania counties and has commercial development projects in Warren County, New Jersey. In addition to working in residential, commercial and industrial development, Jaindl said his business is in the hospitality business.
He recently opened a 205-room Hyatt hotel near the new Air Products headquarters in Upper Macungie Township and is working on a resort and spa at the former Mary Immaculate Seminary in Lehigh Township.
For the golf courses, he has every intention of keeping them as such, golf courses.
“What I got from Luke,” Ekovich said, “is that he sees it as a way to be able to take their guests and hang out [golfing] after a day of work and visiting the region.”
Clubs with long pedigrees
Both courses have a long history, but Moselem Springs has a particularly long resume in the annals of golf.
In addition to hosting major local and national tournaments, it was the site of the 1968 US Women’s Open. The course, located about 2 miles off Route 222 in Richmond Township, has also hosted celebrities and politicians seeking to distance themselves from the crowd, Ekovich said. At one point, it was listed as one of the top 100 courses in the United States by Golf Digest, he said.
The Twin Lakes property, which has an 18-hole golf course, banquet halls with two ballrooms, an artificial turf field and other buildings, was originally operated by John G. and Mary V. Simcoe under the name of Northampton Sanitary Dairy and Simcoe Farms. During the heyday of iron ore mining, mines were located on the property.
Joe Peters, an Allentown excavation contractor, bought 121 acres from Mary Simcoe for $45,000 after her husband died. Peters then designed his own golf course, although he was not really an avid golfer or had any experience as a golf course architect.
After operating the course as a total owner since its opening in 1957, Peters sold the course to businessman Bruce Young of Saylorsburg and professional golfer Tom Lynch. David Jaindl thanked the Young family for their work over the years and said the sale went smoothly.
Ekovich said Moselem Springs, owned by the Flippin family of Berks County, received eight offers, but the Jaindls’ plan called for more capital investment than other potential owners.
The family “made a conscious decision to choose a buyer who would be the best steward in the future,” he said of the Jaindls.
Morning Call reporter Anthony Salamone can be reached at [email protected]
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