GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - A staple of the South Mississippi golf scene for decades could soon see its last round of golf.
“Well I am going to have to find a new heaven, I guess,” said golfer Fred B. Smith.
The owners of the golf course - who also own Shell Landing - said in a statement that “the market can’t support the amount of courses that are open.”
Another key factor in the decision to close was the expiration of the golf cart lease. The lease expires on November 30 and would cost $350,000 to renew. That’s an expense the ownership group was unwilling to take on while working towards selling the course.
As they await the right offer, homeowners in the Gautier community that surrounds the golf course are distraught.
“Hearing that news is breaking our hearts,” said Hickory Hills resident Troy Guillotte. “We love seeing the golfers out here, we love having it as part of the community. Most of my friends and family live in this community and they moved here for the golf amenity.”
It becomes even more heartbreaking when you realize what the closure could do to property values in the area.
“It is going to be pretty dramatic. There again, in the immediate neighborhood, I would say as much as 25 percent (devaluation),” said realtor Mark Cumbest.
Some city representatives are stressing that regardless of who buys the golf course, they will not support a zoning change and are confident the course could eventually re-open under new ownership.
“Under my watch, as long I am councilman, I am going to do my best to make sure there is not a single house built on this golf course,” said Ward 5 Councilman Adam Colledge. “It is going to remain where it is. This is nature’s playground and I would like to see it stay that way.”
Currently, the area is zoned as a PUD - or a Planned Urban Development - which Colledge says will require the eventual buyers to use the land for either a golf course or a green space.
The 18-hole semi-private golf course was originally known as the Mississippi National Golf Club when it opened in 1965. The 6,983 yard, par 72 course was designed by Earl Stone and features 10 holes on the water, challenging even the most advanced golfers. With a course rating of 73.1 and a slop of 128, Hickory Hills has hosted numerous high-profile events over the years, including the Mississippi Coast Classic Nike Tour.