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FINAL ROUND: Oaks golfers reminisce, bemoan loss of Newton’s historic course
Devin Herring
Devin Herring, of Covington, takes one of the last swings on the now-closed Oaks Golf Course in Porterdale. Herring first played the course at age 16 with his father and learned how to play the game there, he said. - photo by Tom Spigolon

PORTERDALE, Ga. — Some members of The Oaks golf course generally said they were sorry to see the 32-year-old facility go but understood why the owners were selling the historic site.

The Oaks golf course has closed after operating since 1989 on land on Brown Bridge Road continuously used as a golf course for more than 80 years. It will make way for a $215 million residential and retail development set for completion in 2025.

Course operators Richard “Dick” Schulz and Nancy Schulz — who are part of a partnership that sold the course — recently congratulated their final club champions, including Chad Clark, Justin Felix, Rick Rasmussen, Bryce Burton, Bob Creager, Steve Helm, Ken Munger and David Marshburn.

On Nov. 19, members Gary Hackney of Social Circle and Joe Casatelli of Covington teed off on the fourth hole near a pile of uprooted signs that formerly stood on each of the course’s 18 holes describing their layouts. 

Hackney called the closing “very depressing” and noted the historic link it has to famed golfer Bobby Jones, who reportedly was a designer of the course when it was built in the 1930s.

“Do you know what a loss this is?,” Hackney asked.

However, Hackney added he understood how rapidly increasing land values in the area affected the owners’ decision to sell.  

Casatelli said it was “crazy” how many golfers drive from Atlanta to Covington to play at The Oaks.

“One of the guys who come out here every Sunday has a membership at East Lake,” he said. “It’s just a great place to play.”

Conyers residents and Oaks members David Brisley and Doug Witham emerged from the clubhouse after playing the course for the final time.

Brisley, a retiree, said he played the course two to three times a week and participated in a senior league on Thursdays.

“I’m going to miss the camaraderie,” he said.

Another member, Devin Herring of Covington, was perfecting his swing with a bucket of balls on the practice course. 

Herring first played the course at age 16 with his father, longtime member Greg Herring, and learned how to play the game there.

“I’m definitely sad to see it go — a lot of good memories here,” he said.

“Unfortunately it’s a loss to the community but, at the same time, I defend capitalism and I understand the (owners’) decision. Ultimately, you have to take care of your family,” Herring said.

Covington-based Infinity Homes and Development LLC plans to include a golf course as an amenity in the mixed-use development it will build on the 270-acre site. 

Its plans call for construction of 142 single-family homes, 190 townhomes and 360 apartments. A 143,000-square-foot area for retail development is planned along the site’s southwest and west sides at the corner of Brown Bridge and Crowell roads.

About 60% of the site would be left both as open space and part of a planned nine-hole, par-3 golf course because of the existence of a 108-acre floodplain on its east side nearest Brown Bridge Road and the Yellow River, developers have said.

Porterdale Mills first developed the site in the 1930s as a golf course for its employees. Later owners continued to operate it as golf courses under the names Porterdale Golf Club, Pinewoods Golf Club, Silo Cay Country Club and Fox Run Golf Club.

However, subsequent owners did not operate a golf course on the site for many years before an investment group that included Richard Schulz redeveloped it in 1989 and later added new and upgraded clubhouse and restaurant facilities. 

Schulz, who is a general partner, and wife Nancy have operated the course since then.

He said the owners will be auctioning equipment from the restaurant, pro shop and other parts of the facility Dec. 4.

The Oaks is closed to the public and he and some employees — including one who has worked there for 23 years — played the course, had lunch and “swapped stories” Monday, Nov. 22, as they continued the process of closing down the facility.

Schulz said 15-20 former employees — some of whom had children who worked at the course — had visited. 

“It’s been a good vehicle for Nancy and me to give back to the community,” he said.

Retired judge Sam Ozburn said he first played on the course as a child and later as a member of the Newton County High School golf team when it was Porterdale Golf Club in the 1960s. 

He recalled it not being “always in the best shape” but it served as a home course for Newton County High School’s golf team. The team was among the top high school golf squads in the state, he said.

Ozburn said he only became a member in recent years because he was busy with his law practice and, later, work as a Superior Court judge.

However, he said he enjoyed playing it regularly with friends following his retirement.

“I’m happy for Dick and Nancy but we’re going to miss it,” Ozburn said.

He said he also will miss The Oaks’ role in hosting golf tournaments that benefited area charities, such as the recent T.J. Hailey memorial tournament that funded scholarships in honor of a young car wreck victim.

It also hosted tournaments that benefited the Almond Turner Foundation, which honored the longtime Covington Police administrator and school board member who died in 2019; the CURE Foundation, which benefits efforts to find a cure for childhood cancers; the Piedmont Newton Hospital Auxiliary’s Bill Taylor Classic tournament benefiting patient care at the hospital; and a Newton County Chamber of Commerce tournament, among others.

“I’ll miss it being a part of the community,” Ozburn said.