The Heather Hills Golf Course is taking a mulligan.
After closing and sitting dormant for nearly five years, a new ownership group is breathing fresh life into the executive course that sits just off Ebert Road in Winston-Salem.
The course re-opened for play April 25, and the new owners are in the process of planning a grand opening sometime in early June.
“Because of the extremely cool spring, our growing season hasn’t kicked in like it’s supposed to,” said Calvin Harris, a consultant with the project and family friend of the new ownership group.” “So, before we brought a lot of people in and did a big grand opening and got traffic really up, we wanted to put our best foot forward and give everything a chance to really green up so everything would look really nice.”
Brandon Hagie is serving as the new general manager of a project he called “a family affair.”
The Hagies purchased the property from Gene Doub, who designed the original course in 1974 and operated it until its recent closing.
“My father David and I used to play out here a lot when it was open before,” Hagie said. “Mr. Doub and my father are old business partners. It used to be his hobby to run the place and give him something to do, but he just couldn’t keep up with it anymore and had to close it down. We wanted to bring it back to give the local community another place to play.”
There has been plenty of work done to make the course playable again. Hagie said they purchased the property in November 2011 and started working on the course in January 2012.
“The weeds were chest-high in most places,” Hagie said. “They were so bad that the city was throwing mosquito disks into them because they couldn’t get rid of them any other way. We had a lot of drainage issues to figure out.”
Dustin Jennings was hired as the course superintendent in February 2012 and immediately tried to tackle the irrigation and drainage issues.
“There was no blueprint for the irrigation and all we had was a map with some sharpie drawings on it for where the irrigation was,” Jennings said. “So, I literally had to find the irrigation system. It was over 30 years old, and it was definitely the hardest part to figure out.”
The irrigation system now has new sprinkler heads, new wiring and new control panels.
“Dustin deserves plenty of credit for getting this place back in playable condition,” Harris said. “He has worked his butt off to get us up and running under difficult circumstances.”
There wasn’t much for Hagie and company to work with when they got started.
“About the only thing we had when we started was a mower that didn’t work too good, and we ended up throwing that away,” Hagie said.
Once Hagie, Harris and Jennings had the weeds and brush cleared so they could actually see the course again, the changes began.
The greens, sprigged in May 2012, are diamond zoysia grass. Carts were purchased and a new cart shack was built. A new roof was placed on the equipment barn for the mowers. The 3,500 square foot clubhouse was redone with new carpet, new interior paint, and new heating and air conditioning systems. The parking lot was also repaved.
Residents of the condominium community the course meanders through would pop by from time-to-time to check and see how things were going.
“We had plenty of people stopping by and asking us when we were going to open” Hagie said. “You wouldn’t believe it. They were just as excited as we were. We had a bunch tell us that had bought their homes here so they could play golf more often, and then several months after they moved in, the course shut down on them.”
Once the new owners decided things were ready to re-open, a decision was made to do a “soft open” on April 25 so the staff and patrons could get the hang of daily operations.
“We had two women who live in the neighborhood come over pretty often who used to play here all the time,” Harris said. “They came by about a week before we decided to open and told us ‘We want the first tee time,’ so we told them ‘you’ve got it’ and we were happy to oblige them at 7 a.m. on the 25th. They told us after they were finished what a great time they had and they were happy we were back. We’ve been getting positive feedback from the local community so far, and that’s really encouraging.”
Those two ladies first round back at Heather Hills might not have even been the most memorable on opening day.
One player, Ray Little, made a hole-in-one on the par-3 11th hole with his 4-wood.
Hagie said the greens — with a little more sunshine — should be perfect in the next several weeks.
The course plays 3,494 yards from the tips and is a par-61. It has forward tees and back tees.
Harris believes the executive course will provide another quality outlet for local golfers.
“It should bring back something that’s been missing in the area for several years,” Harris said. “It’s a great place for beginners, a great place for older players, and a good place for good players who want to work on their short game. Plus, it’s not going to take you five hours to play here. You can get around here in about two.”
Jennings said that the early reviews have all been positive.
“I got a lot of compliments on opening day,” he said. “That makes me kind of proud.”