Historic Hotel And Golf Course Get Their Swing Back - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

06/03/04

Historic Hotel And Golf Course Get Their Swing Back

Notorious mobsters and the King of Rock and Roll are just some people who are said to have frequented Gulf Hills Golf Course and Hotel in Ocean Springs.

The golf course and hotel opened in 1927, but in 1998 it didn't look like either property stood a chance of staying in business. That's when nearby residents decided to take matters into their own hands.

"It appeared they were going to sell it to developers, and we didn't want that to happen, so we formed a corporation and bought stock and bought it from them," said Arnold Verhoeven, President of Gulf Hills Golf Club.

Since then, these properties have made an impressive comeback. The greens and sand traps have been replaced. The cart paths have been paved over, and a new clubhouse has been built. Last year, 27,000 rounds of golf were played at Gulf Hills Golf Course.

"It was known back when we bought it as a local goat ranch. Now it's getting reputation of being a real good golf course and it is," Verhoeven said.

Just as nearby residents were purchasing the golf course, two local families bought the hotel across the street. Major renovations to it were made in January of 2002.

"The hotel was actually condemned just a little less than 3 years ago, and local ownership stepped in, took it back, and they could have literally razed it, and they could have built a brand new hotel on it for everything they've done on it so far and we're only halfway there. We've redone the interior. We're working on the sleeping rooms, we've revamped the exterior," said Donna Brown, the manager of Gulf Hills Hotel and Convention Center.

The cosmetic changes may have changed the appearance, but not the rich history.

"Purportedly it was built as a hide out with laundered mob money from the infamous Al Capone," Brown said.

"Elvis Presley stayed here from 1951 to 1957."

As renovations continue and business swings upward, Gulf Hills visitors aren't likely to miss out on the hotel's colorful history or a memorable round of golf just across the street.

By: Toni Miles

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