Salem Golf Club Sold to Longtime Member

SALEM, Ohio – At the end of last year, it appeared the fate of the Salem Golf Club was sealed. With few options left, it was likely that the club would head to auction and the property used for an entirely different purpose.

Then at the last minute, one of its longtime members stepped up and purchased the landmark club. Instead of the auction block, Salem Golf Club is today poised for a major restoration – flush with new investments that preserves its beauty and splendor for future generations.

“I didn’t buy it for me. I bought it for the members and the community,” says John Buta, president of Butech-Bliss in Salem and a decades-long member. “The main thing is that we’re reconstituting. We’ve picked up a fair number of new members, and we’re looking for new members.”

Details of the entire sale were not disclosed. Data from the Columbiana County Auditor’s website show the land and building sold for $1.5 million. The sale was recorded May 8.

Salem Golf Club lists nearly 170 golf and social members – down from well over 300 at one time, he said. Buta’s objective is to restore that membership so the community can enjoy a first-rate experience of a private club.  

“It’s more than 100 years old and considered a top-notch golf course,” says Buta, a member since the 1960s.

Improvements planned for the club include a pickleball court, upgrades to the tennis courts, outside dining and the addition of a sports bar by the fall or next spring, Buta says. Next year, the club is looking to install a bar at the pool and golf simulators at a later date.

“Everything’s running very well – the staff is great,” Buta says. “I’m amazed at the enthusiasm I’ve been greeted with.”

It’s a reversal of fortune from the end of last year, when the club all but closed its doors.

By March, many of the members were concerned that the club would go to auction, the clubhouse would be demolished and the parcels sold off into separate developments, wiping out its historic charm and importance to the community, Buta added.

“Warren G. Harding, as president, played here,” Buta said. “We have his putter on display. He used to stay in Salem – he was a good friend of Louis Brush,” the former publisher of the Salem News.

The clubhouse is a large venue that can host approximately 300 people, says Tom Chagnot, head golf professional and general manager at Salem.

He says the club has already invested in new maintenance equipment and intends to make additional capital improvements to the clubhouse at 1967 South Lincoln Ave.

“The clubhouse was once a barn, and it dates to 1910,” Chagnot says. “It’s a beautiful, majestic building, but it does have its quirks.”

Chagnot, a Youngstown native, says he came to Salem as an assistant pro in 2001 and became head pro and general manager the following year. Salem Golf Club has been membership-owned since 1921.

However, membership has dwindled over the past several decades, Chagnot says, and he wants to encourage its growth through initiatives such as social media campaigns and nonmember events to introduce new faces to the club.

“We’re going to start a “member for a day” promotion on Facebook,” he says. “We’ll be posting these throughout the year.”

The goal is to bring in some younger members who love golf, recreation and dining, Chagnot says. “We’d love to see a younger crowd here.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.