A group of six investors has purchased the closed Indian Creek Golf Club and plan to invest $2 million in upgrading the course before reopening in August.
Business owners Neil Baines, Randy Dickerson and Eddie Miller, attorneys Philip Johnson and Brian Pulliam and former owner and golf pro Bryan Raines have partnered to purchase the golf course in the hopes of revitalizing a golf course many of them loved to play.
"I think (the partnership) started off because all these people love the course. They enjoyed playing the course and were very unhappy it was closed," Johnson said last week. "These guys are the ones (who), after looking at all the numbers and the structure of the deal, were willing to take a chance to make this work, but they all insisted that there be a significant and obvious difference in the way the club looks right now and how it will look on opening day."
The group plans to rename the 178-acre, 18-hole course Ashton Hills Golf Club, after Miller's son who plays golf at Peachtree Academy.
"We wanted to keep the course up and viable for the community," said Miller, who owns Miller Construction Service in Conyers. "I've got a big interest in seeing youth involved in golf in Newton County, and I see this venue as a better place for the community."
The group plans to invest about $2 million into the course, including:
• completely renovating the clubhouse, including a new color scheme
• renovating all of the accessory buildings
• making some design changes to the course to make it slightly easier to play and walk (by changing the location of some tees)
• changing the greens to Mini Verde Bermuda grass
• reworking some of the course's bunkers
• buying a new fleet of golf carts
The restaurant will also be reopened, and the group is looking for an outside restaurant operator to run it.
"We understand that the restaurant is one of the most important assets we have," Johnson said. "We are talking to several chefs about what we're looking for and weighing proposals."
The plan is for the restaurant to reopen in July, a month before the golf course opens.
In addition to the restaurant, Johnson said the course will have an outside grill and cabana area close to the course that will allow golfers to get a drink or something to eat without having to leave the course.
The golf course closed last November because the owners at the time were losing money, in part because of debt service payments, but this ownership group says it will pay for everything in cash, leaving the business debt free and on sure footing.
"We're in a much better financial position, with a much better debt structure position," said Raines, who was a previous co-owner.
Johnson said he also hopes the recent announcement of new industries, most notably Baxter, will continue Newton County on a path to more higher-paying jobs. Plus, there will be six local guys out in the community selling the course to their friends, neighbors and business associates.
"We won't make it if we don't get the participation of the community. We're hoping members will join and associate members and that people will eat at the restaurant," said Dickerson, who owns Covington Automotive Repair Service, known as CARS.
The group has hired Athens-based golf course architect Mike Young, who has designed more than 40 golf courses, including several in Georgia, according to his website.
"I think Mike is the key here to a lot of changes we hope to make," Miller said.
Some of the holes will be changed around, and while the course will not change dramatically, the group expects its playability to improve.
"This has always been a challenging course, and we're not going to take that challenge away from it, but we will make a lot of improvements, we think, to the course," Johnson said. The course is longer and more difficult than The Oaks, the other golf course in Newton County, according to the U.S. Golf Association.
The course will remain a semi-private club, allowing for both membership and public play. Raines will continue to emphasize lots of organized activities for male, female and youth golfers. As was the case previously, people will be able to call up and be placed into an organized game, such as a two-man best ball game or tournament.
"That was our bread and butter and where we very successful. It's very important to our community and members and people who play here regularly. We'll continue to have active men's and women's golf association," Raines said. "We just need some support from the community and neighborhoods."
The news that the property will remain a golf course was welcomed by local officials. The city of Covington had considered purchasing the course either to run as a course or convert into greenspace, but only entertained the idea to keep the property from falling into disrepair.
"I'm very close to the golf course. When I heard it might be turned into who knows what, I wanted to keep it as golf course," Dickerson said. "It's a great thing for the city, for tourists, for business - a lot of deals get done on golf courses. This is something the city really needs.
"It's almost downtown, it has a unique area and layout of the course; it would have really been a travesty to lose it. This is a group of people I have great respect for and together we can do a very good job of running this course."
The group has already started renovations and hopes to open Ashton Hills Golf Club Aug. 1.