A course for all seasons
By Parish Howard
For the last 20 years, golf has been a hobby for Rick Hopper of Wrens. But for the last few months it has become a whole lot more.
In early August he and his stepfather Bill Litchfield attended the public auction of the former Wrens Brushy Creek Golf Course. The 18-hole course had been closed for more than a year. In that time it had grown up in weeds. The tornado that wreaked havoc in north Jefferson County in March of 2008 had taken down trees and left debris scattered over several holes.
Still, Hopper had fond memories of playing the course and was interested in what was to become of it.
“We wanted to see what it sold for,” Hopper said. “But when we saw it was going for so cheap, he (Litchfield) couldn’t not buy it.”
There were three bidders he said, but Litchfield was the only one bidding on the entire course’s three parcels.
Since then Hopper, Litchfield and their family have worked on getting the course cleaned up, poured new cart paths, rebuilt greens and reopened the course under a derivation of its original name, Four Seasons Golf Club, in early December.
“I’ve learned a lot over the last few months,” Hopper said. “I’ve joined the Golf Course Superintendants Association of America and took a four-day class in Stone Mountain where I learned about turf grasses, verticutting, watering and caring for greens.”
Four Seasons hired Ted Shirling, formerly of Belle Meade in Thomson, to be the course’s superintendent.
“He does an excellent job,” Hopper said. “He has taken over and really knows what he’s doing.”
The current nine holes that are open are what was one and two, then players move to what was the back nine to finish out at what was holes 12 through 18.
“We’re planning to have all 18 holes reopened by mid-March,” Hopper said. “Then the course is going back to more like it was with what people are more familiar with as the front and back nine.”
Shirling said that he is excited about working on the course and seeing it come back to life. The potential for it, he said, is unlimited.
“It’s a nice layout that needs some taking care of. It’s really going to depend on the support of the community,” Shirling said. “This is a thinking man’s course. It’s a tight course. You can’t go out there and try to overpower it. You have to think your way around it. At so many of the new courses you go out there and hit the ball as hard as you can, drive to it and hit it again as hard as you can. This course has more classic architecture. It’s a course that you can enjoy that offers a real challenge.”
After acquiring the course, the first order of business was several weeks of cleanup of both overgrowth and the debris from the tornado.
“Some of the trees had been cut up, but between the storm and how everything had grown up in just a year of sitting without care, things were pretty terrible when we got it,” Hopper said. “The greens were grown up with weeds. The wife and kids and I got out there every chance we could pulling weeds and working on cleaning it up.”
“Most of the damage from the tornado was on what used to be the front nine,” Shirling added. “There is still some debris we’re working on cleaning up.
“We’re not just trying to make it what it used to be, we’re working to make it better. Courses like these are important for their communities. It’s a big investment on the owners’ part, but it’s not just for themselves. It’s for the community. When businesses like factories start looking for places to locate, one of the things they look at is if there is a golf course close by. It’s one more thing this community can offer. Hopefully we’re giving Wrens something it can really be proud of.”
The Litchfields, Bill who serves as managing partner, and Dianne, who serves as president, as well as Hopper, who is the club manager, have invested a lot of money and energy in the course.
“We’ve done a lot of work on irrigation,” Hopper said. “A lot of the sprinkler heads didn’t work. We’ve replaced those and added sprinklers not just to the greens but to the fairways as well. The entire course is fully automated now. We added a 6-inch well and so now we don’t have to rely on the ponds anymore. We caught it at the end of the growing season, but this spring especially, we hope the public will be able to see the difference.”
They have bought all new carts, new specialty mowers and other equipment.
Dianne said that the family’s investment in the club came largely from the many stories they heard from the community about how much the course used to mean to people.
“People kept coming to us talking about how they used to life-guard there, all the fun they had had at the country club years and years ago,” she said. “They had so many fond memories and wanted it reopened.”
Hopper himself has a lot of memories of playing the course over the last 10 years.
His best score on the course was 67.
In the summer before it closed, he hit a hole in one on 18, which is a par 4.
Robbie Rooks was his witness.
Hopper himself witnessed Rooks hit a double eagle on number two and Carlos Santos get a hole in one on number 15.
He remembers playing a great tournament for the Relay for Life with teammates Rooks, Santos and Doug Strakotsh.
“We were 21 under and tied with Chad McDowell and Cleve Lamb’s team,” Hopper said. “We lost in the playoff on number 10, when Chad hit a 20-foot putt to birdie. We lost, but it was really great day. We had a lot of fun.
“I have a lot of great memories of playing this course, everybody getting together on a Saturday or Sunday, picking teams and going out to play.”
As much fun as he had there, he said he still looks forward to making it even better.
“I like bigger greens and we are lengthening some of the tee boxes,” Hopper said.
Hopper plans to have at least two tournaments a month with at least one big club tournament a year.
“We also want to offer a lot of stuff for kids and women, junior tournaments and stuff like that,” Hopper said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t compete with other courses in the counties around us. We want to be the best golf course around.
“The course has a great layout. It’s a good course, but it’s going to take the community support to make it go. It’s right here in our own backyard. I invite everyone to come out and play and if you’re not happy, I’ll give you your money back.”
The course has 15 members so far, but had around 40 paying customers came out opening weekend.
“The weather was been nasty, but we had a good turnout,” Hopper said.
Greens fees are $20 during the week and $25 on the weekend for 18 holes. Wednesdays is $25 for all you can play. Thursday is senior’s day at $15 with a cart for senior citizens.
The course will soon be adding a full service kitchen and serving food and drinks.
Dianne said the family has lots of other plans for the 150-acre course if things continue to work out.
In the meantime, they invite the community out to play a round or two and see what all they have accomplished so far.
“We all have things we need to forget about for three or four hours,” Shirling said. “I can’t think of any better way to get something off your mind than to get outside in the open air with a few friends and play a round or two.”
Don't throw out your rabbit ears, just add box
By Faye Ellison
We’ve all seen the commercials. We have even seen the scrolling boxes at the bottom of the television screen announcing the switch, the digital switch for television. Many consumers are wondering if they will be affected and what will be the difference from what they have now?
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) we live in a digital world, from the way we get our music to cell phones. We are touched digitally in just about every aspect of our lives. Now one of the primary medium in which we get our news and entertainment is headed in the same direction.
“Digital television (DTV) is an advanced broadcasting technology that will transform your television viewing experience,” according to an FCC representative. “DTV enables broadcasters to offer television with better picture and sound quality. It can also offer multiple programming choices, called multicasting and interactive capabilities.”
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Before March 1, 2007, most televisions were made with an analog tuner, which is what most of the first cell phones used as well, now they are all digital. After that date, the FCC ruled that all televisions must include a digital tuner.
“This rule prohibits the manufacture, import or interstate shipment of any device containing an analog tuner, unless it also contains a digital tuner.”
The switch from analog to digital will not only lead to a clearer picture, it will free up part of the scarce and valuable broadcast spectrum. The FCC said that these spectrums may be used for other important services, such as public and safety services like police and fire departments and emergency rescue, and advanced wireless services.
Consumers who rely on antennas, including outside antennas and rabbit ears, to receive over-the-air broadcast signals on television sets having only analog tuners will need to obtain separate digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes to watch over-the-air television. The boxes receive digital signals and convert them into analog format for display on analog televisions. Analog sets connected to such converter boxes will display digital broadcasts, but not necessarily in the full, original digital quality.
Between now and March 31, 2009, all United States households are eligible to request up to two coupons, worth $40 each to be used toward the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes. Coupons will expire 90 days after mailing. More information can be found at www.DTV2009.gov or call 1-888-388-2009.
A Comcast representative said that customers who have cable will not need a converter box to watch programming. A representative with Klip, which services Wrens, said their customers will not need a box as well. Both Dish Network and DirecTV have stated that their customers will not need a box either.