Saved from the Recession, Black Bear Bounces Back

P.B. Dye-designed Black Bear Golf Club just north of OrlandoChristmas came early for local golfers and transients who routinely make Central Florida a stop on their "Stay and Play" calendar.

Tournament-tested Black Bear Golf Club, a P.B. Dye design in Eustis, just north of Orlando, was rescued from the recession by a group of European investors and is now flourishing. There’s never been a better time to “Dare the Bear.”

Not only did the new owners promise improvements, they completed them in advance of advertisement. Greens, tees and fairways were overseeded for the winter, and the entire course was fertilized not once but twice for the first time in four years. Once classified as a troubled asset, Black Bear is troubled no more.

Richard Horton, one of Black Bear's new owners, confidently deflected concerns about the overall golf economy. Horton said that the ownership group was able to quickly discern that this layout could thrive in any business climate.

"The competitive advantage is our course,” Horton said. “The pedigree is above average to exceptional. It's been around for 15 years and has a history of hosting a lot of mini tour events, Hooters events and USGA amateur qualifying rounds for Florida. We knew as a foundation the course worked. It was well-received by quality players and a number of tours have already called to book 2011 and 2012 tour events at Black Bear."

That foundation includes a quality layout that’s challenged top-flight players in seven U.S. public links events, Canadian Tour stops and several Hooters events. The links-style layout is augmented by a double-ended driving range that’s 400 yards long, an extensive short game area, a unique 19th shootout hole, a 6,000-square-foot practice green and multiple practice bunkers. The course is also committed to building up its golf academy and already has a Hank Haney-certified instructor on staff and is rumored to be in negotiations with a prominent European golf academy to establish their first North American base camp.

Black Bear Golf Club in Eustis

Black Bear’s main selling point is the value and tournament-caliber experience being offered to the public golfer.

“An ordinary guy or girl can come out and dare the bear; play a championship course and not empty his or her wallet,” Horton said.

Horton and his partners Peter Hall and Hans Weber have already opened their wallets to inject new life into Black Bear, and results were almost immediate. Twenty members were added during the first four weeks of operation, and a years’ worth of tournament rounds have already been booked.

“They wouldn’t be coming here if they didn’t see the results,” Horton stated.

More improvements are planned at Black Bear in the days, weeks and months to come. Management focus, investment and tender love and care should fully restore this layout by the spring season according to Horton. Even in a sluggish economy, ownership has already seen the results.

“If you have a quality asset with a quality team and proper focus you will make it work,” he said. “It [Black Bear] is above average now, it will be exceptional in 12 months. We took it from a mess to cash flow positive in one month.”

To celebrate their new venture into the golf industry, the owners of Black Bear want to buy you lunch. Book a foursome and lunch is on the house.

Black Bear Golf Club is located at 24505 Calusa Blvd. in Eustis. The course is 40 minutes from downtown Orlando, and 40 minutes from Daytona Beach. For rates, online tee times and more information on Black Bear, visit the course online at


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