Fallbrook Golf Course on February 8, 2016
  • Fallbrook Golf Course on February 8, 2016
  • photo by Ken Seals
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On Tuesday morning (July 26) sheriff's deputies were on the greens at Fallbrook Golf Course just before 7 a.m. The cops were there because of veteran golf-course operator Harold Vaubel, who just a few weeks prior had been lauded as the savior of the struggling golf course. Longtime owners Jack and Bonnie Lamberson wanted out of the business, and Vaubel stepped up with a promise to run it after paying the Lambersons $825,000. He never did, say the Lambersons.

“We told him two weeks ago to get out when it was clear he couldn’t prove he had financial backing,” says Jack Lamberson. On July 25, the day before he called law enforcement, Lamberson claims Vaubel changed the locks on golf-course buildings.

Fallbrook sheriff's deputy Sgt. Dwain Watson says his report indicates that deputies were called to the course by the Lambersons because they claimed Vaubel was trespassing.

“The reporting party said it was all about someone who wanted to buy the course but couldn’t come up with the money and therefore they were trespassing. We told them this was a civil matter and that they would have to pursue a temporary restraining order,” says Watson.

“Jack threatened me,” Vaubel claimed in a phone conversation Tuesday morning as he was driving back to his home in Tucson. “Jack threw a chair on my legs. He opened up wounds on my legs. I will be calling the sheriff back to press charges.”

Jack Lamberson says the assault charge is ridiculous.

“If it was true, why did he leave when he knew the sheriffs were on their way? He could have pressed charges. I did point my finger and said, ‘You’re outta here.’ I did not throw a chair or do any of that."

The Lambersons have run the 116-acre course in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley for four years. For over a year they have made it clear they want to sell the course. It was reported four weeks ago that they would be out of the picture, yielding the course's operation to Vaubel and his HGM Golf Enterprises, which would take over the operation once he paid the Lambersons the agreed-upon amount of $825,000.

That Vaubel didn’t come up with the cash is a disappointment to nearby homeowners who fear the course could eventually be developed or turned into land-bank mitigation and ruin their homes' land value.

Grant Strobel, the head pro at Woods Valley Golf Club in Valley Center, wrote in an email that there were “plenty of former [Woods Valley] employees who were not paid” by Vaubel when he managed that course.

Similar stories about Vaubel arose from the now-closed Santa Rita Golf Club in Vail, Arizona.

“Harold Vaubel racks up expenses and doesn’t pay his employees,” says the Tucson real estate agent who oversaw the sale of the Santa Rita golf course property.

Vaubel denies that there are unpaid employees of Woods Valley. “All employees of Woods Valley have been paid to date.” Regarding the closed Santa Rita course in Arizona, “We looked at buying that course," says Vaubel. "We got stiffed by a law firm from Texas.”

Vaubel says that the reason he didn’t pay the Lambersons the $825,000 he promised was because of existing liens against the Lambersons.

“There are no liens,” counters Jack Lamberson. "There are no debts except to ourselves."

The Lambersons have now closed the Fallbrook Golf Course for the third time this year. Bonnie Lamberson says they hope to find someone who will buy the business and continue to operate it as a golf course. But Jack won’t rule out accepting “various options,” including development or land-bank mitigation.

“We’re getting pretty tired,” says Jack, who is in his 80s. “We can only take a beating for so long. We have put $1.9 million into improvements and we’re not putting in another dime. Everybody wants to buy a golf course but nobody seems to have money. They all want to stretch it out. If someone came to me and said, 'Here’s your $1.9 million and we want to make it a garbage dump,' I would hate to be faced with that decision.

"If we don’t find a buyer soon, we will be in default. No matter what, we are not putting another dollar in it.”

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Comments

SaveFallbrookGolfCourse July 28, 2016 @ 9:43 a.m.

Thanks for the detailed article. Unfortunately the current owner never listed the property for sale so many people did not know it was available. To complicate the matter, he overpaid originally, deferred maintenance and neglected the business operations in the hopes that he could develop the property. But the land is zoned Agricultural and located in a semi-rural area where development is severely restricted. It is also located within a community that is united in its support for maintaining open space/recreational values. Mitigation land banking under the Clean Water Act is an option for a very small part of the property but the owner did not subdivide so he can't sell that area to a mitigation land banker and he did not start the lengthy paperwork process to pursue that option himself. Now that negotiations with Mr. Vaubel are terminated, potential buyers are returning. They must recognize that they will have to overpay upfront for a much-loved course in need of TLC. But they must also realize that the key factor for success of a new owner is present in Fallbrook's Gird Valley: overwhelmingly strong community support. With a dedicated team of volunteers, a touch of community spirt and a bit of creative fundraising, we will ensure that a new owner is made whole and profitable very, very quickly! SaveFallbrookGolfCourse.com!

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Dusty Aug. 3, 2016 @ 12:50 p.m.

Sadly, when Jack said "we are not putting another dollar in it" he meant it. Just after evicting the man that was working to bring the course back (Harold), who was doing watering and maintenance, he put a padlock on the front door, stopped the watering, and fired the staff.

That was over a week ago. The course is dying, due to no water being applied, and the weeds are taking over. The holder of the loan has not intervened, unfortunately, so it is unclear whether they'll help to move a qualified golf course owner in there (or if it is even in their best interest).

This has been a catastrophe....4 years of a golf course/onsite payroll company, horribly mismanaged and then priced out of the market to ensure an inevitable bank takeover.

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SportsFan0000 Jan. 12, 2017 @ 8:07 a.m.

What a colossal mess. Is the FB GC viable as a business?! It does not appear to be. Otherwise, it would be thriving right now. I do not know what the solution is out there. But, Golf course patronage in general is way, way down. FBGC is in a very isolated area that does not appear to be conducive to regular play by enough patrons to keep it afloat. Readers with any ideas please share it and enlighten us..

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