Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Bryan Raines is returning as co-owner and golf pro at the new Ashton Hills Golf Club, formerly Indian Creek Golf Club, which will reopen in August.
COVINGTON -- The former Indian Creek Golf Club has been purchased and is in the process of getting a makeover.
When the golf course on Bypass Road opens in early August, it will have a new name -- Ashton Hills Golf Club -- and a new look.
The new owners are investing $2 million in the course, which closed in November 2011. Bryan Raines, the golf pro at Indian Creek, is returning as co-owner and golf pro at the revamped course. The other owners are Eddie Miller, Randy Dickerson, Neal Baines and Bryan Pulliam. All but Baines are residents of Newton County and all enjoyed playing golf at Indian Creek.
"We got together because we really didn't want to see the golf course go away," said Dickerson. The men said they appreciated the customer service they received at Indian Creek, and they intend to keep that up when Ashton Hills opens.
The present bentgrass turf has been poisoned in preparation to replace it with Mini Verde Dwarf Bermuda grass that will be able to better withstand hot Georgia summers, Raines said. In addition, the contour of the course will be modified to better cope with the speed of the balls; Bermuda is a faster pulling surface than bentgrass, Raines said. The makeover also includes redoing bunkers, taking down trees to increase the "playability" of the course and provide access to sunlight the new turf will need; relocating tees so they are more accessible to older players -- presently, the tees are quite a hike uphill -- and potentially changing a couple of holes.
"We want to keep the integrity of the design but make it a little softer in some areas so there's a little more accessibility for those with higher handicaps," Raines said.
Indian Creek previously drew avid golfers with low handicaps; Raines said the course is "a good 10 shots harder than the Oaks," the county's other golf course in Porterdale.
"For us to be successful, we realize we've got to bring in the weekly golfers and make it so they can play and enjoy themselves," he said.
Golf course architect and designer Mike Young of Mike Young Designs in Athens will oversee the project. Young has designed more than 40 courses, including Lane Creek in Watkinsville and Long Shadow in Madison, as well as heading up various renovation and restoration projects.
Ashton Hills will boast new golf carts and the addition of an outside cabana, where golfers can pull up and grab a snack or drink.
Phil Johnson, the attorney representing the new owners, said there will be more changes apparent to even non-golfers, such as the remodeling of the existing clubhouse and restaurant. The owners are looking for an outside entity to operate the restaurant, which will feature a different menu, and are hoping to get that open in July.
The new owners said they've received positive feedback from the community about their plans for the course.
"Everybody is very excited to have the golf course open up," Raines said. "Even during tough times we had the largest membership in the area by two-fold. We expect our core members to come back quickly."
Homeowners in adjoining neighborhoods -- Covington Place, The Links at Covington and Coreydale -- are eager to have the golf course reopen as well, Raines said. Even those who had mixed feelings about the course now see it as an amenity that increases property values, he said.
Historically, only club members paid dues, but Raines said the new owners hope to get more support from homeowners, although he said there have been no detailed discussions about that.
"We would like to see the community support us in other ways besides playing golf," he said.
Raines said there are positive indicators that people are heading back to the golf course.
"With the drop in the unemployment rate we're starting to see more people getting out and playing golf. Maybe not as much as when construction was booming, and I don't know if the industry will ever be back to where it was in 1997 when we were building a golf course a day ... (but) the community can support two golf courses. We differentiate ourselves on so many different levels. I believe the community can be supportive and I think it will be," he said.