Historic Hickory Hills golf course set to re-open with new owners, new vision
GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - The Hickory Hill Golf Course is now under new ownership and, while still months away from officially reopening, the excitement in the community is palpable. The deal was finalized late Monday evening,
Many were afraid the closure last year would mean the end of the north Gautier golf course. Now, thanks to the efforts of several golfers who love the game and love Hickory Hills, the historic course will reopen.
With the course closed since November, the effort to bring it back to life won’t be an easy one.
”Weeks, months and years of hard work, blood and sweat and tears to look forward to,” said Troy Guillotte, one of the partners who helped buy the course.
The new ownership group has roots in South Mississippi and grew up playing at the historic course, and their efforts to revive Hickory Hills are not going unnoticed. After the purchase was finalized, the owners showed up Tuesday morning ready to get to work on the course, but they weren’t alone.
”When we got here, there were people that had weedeaters and their personal lawn mowers to help,” said Guillotte. “They asked where we needed them, where they needed to cut grass.”
The new owners are now determined to give the community the opportunity to make more cherished memories there.
”This is something that has been apart of the community since 1972 and we hope it is here another 30 to 50 years,” said Guillotte.
The course reopening is a huge benefit to the city, but especially the Hickory Hills community, said Gautier Mayor Casey Vaughan, pointing out that the revitalization effort will help property values.
”A blighted golf course that shuts down normally means the home values go down, people start leaving the community and it’s just not good morale,” said Vaughan.
The morale is already improving for some. Richard Benton has missed golfing on the course and is already impressed by what he has seen while riding around.
”I just happened to come up to see what they have been doing. Of course, the clubhouse was overgrown, so to see them raking and cutting, it is already back to picture perfect,” said Benton.
For some of those working to whip the course in to shape, Hickory Hill is much more than a golf course.
”It absolutely is home. It is the oldest course in Gautier. It has so much tradition and history with it. It absolutely feels like home,” said Bragg Eplin.
With the hard work of Eplin, Guillotte, and all of those pitching in, there is hope that the course could reopen before the end of the year.
”We’re hoping by October 1, we have golfers playing golf on Hickory Hill Golf Course, a piece of history brought back from the dead,” said Guillotte.
The new owners want to add to the property, as well, with plans to open a restaurant by November. They are also hoping to use the scenic grounds and waterfront property as a place for events to be held.
The 18-hole 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.
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