Ever dream of saving an deserted golf course? A retired Alabama jail officer made it occur at Alpine Bay

ALPINE, Ala. – Ever seen an deserted golf course and questioned, is it nonetheless doable to play golf there? Is it salvageable? How a lot would it not take to reopen, at what value?

With lots of of programs having closed within the US after 2008’s market meltdown, there are many such overgrown properties – together with dozens of layouts by well-known designers. Nothing comes from many of those properties besides reminiscences and possibly a number of goals of golf renovation.

Hardly ever, these goals of resuscitating an deserted format turn out to be actuality. It simply takes the precise particular person.

Enter Tony Parton, a former federal corrections officer residing in rural Alabama. He had no plans to take over a failed course. However he liked golf – and one explicit format.

It was referred to as Alpine Bay. Nearly all of Alabama golfers by no means heard of it, and many of the minority who knew of it by no means bothered to play it. They could not inform you the best way to get there or even when it was nonetheless open.

Alpine Bay Golf Membership in Alpine, Alabama, after the course was salvaged and reopened (Golfweek)

Situated in east-central Alabama 44 miles east of downtown Birmingham close to the southern shore of Logan Martin Lake (a part of the broad Coosa River water basin), Alpine Bay Golf Membership initially was deliberate to have two 18-hole programs. However as funds for a serious resort improvement had been missing, solely one of many two programs opened in 1972.

That course had loads going for it: a par-72, 6,518-yard championship format designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., namesake of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Path that was constructed many years later. Furthermore, Jones constructed it with the help of his son Rees Jones, then in his early 30s, who grew to become a prizewinning course designer and model identify in his personal proper, in addition to younger Roger Rulewich, the architect who 20 years later would truly design many of the programs on the path.

Troubled financially from the beginning, Alpine Bay – with its one course and a sparse close by inhabitants – struggled 12 months after 12 months to remain in enterprise. Though a stupendous format in a superb pure setting, Alpine Bay was laborious to succeed in even from Birmingham, with a minimum of a part of the drive on winding, lonely two-lane roads. After barely managing to remain alive for many years, it was shuttered in 2014.

The closing of Alpine Bay brought about hardly a ripple within the golf world, even in Alabama. However the place had constructed a loyal following. Particularly, Tony Parton. And Alpine Bay’s closure didn’t finish Parton’s love affair with the format. One summer season night in 2016, he and his spouse, Jan, took a stroll alongside the deserted course.

Course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., left, with Alpine Bay Golf Membership proprietor Tony Parton (Jim Hansen/Golfweek)

“Once we received to what had been the eighth inexperienced [a par 3 over a small lake],” he remembers, “we had been shocked on the abysmal situation of the course. It was all grown over, simply horrible, with weeds and wild crops rising waist-high and the unique grass all however lifeless.”

The Partons dedicated themselves to pulling up the worst of the weeds on simply the one inexperienced. “We got here again a number of nights in a row, working to uncover what was left of the golf course we liked.”

Throughout considered one of their first journeys to the deserted format, Tony received a telephone name from his buddy Mark Calhoun, additionally a earlier common on the golf course. “Mark requested the place I used to be,” Parton remembers. “I mentioned, ‘You may by no means imagine me, however I am at Alpine.’ ”

Calhoun received in his pickup truck and drove proper out to the spot the place Tony was power-mowing weeds and grass. “Mark and I took an in depth take a look at what had been the inexperienced, attempting to determine what we may do about it,” Parton mentioned. When the tall grass on the previous inexperienced was mown to an inexpensive size, they realized, “There was hope for this course.”

Alpine Bay Golf Membership in Alpine, Alabama (Golf Week)

The 144-acre property that was the golf course, apply vary, placing inexperienced and small clubhouse had been on the market for months. Parton rapidly referred to as the realtor and made a suggestion. The value tag was $144,000. The method took only some months. By early 2017, Parton, then retired from the federal jail system, put collectively sufficient cash to take over the course.

Shopping for Alpine Bay was one factor, however getting it prepared for golfers was one thing else. The following step within the course of was to get extra folks on board. With Calhoun’s assist, Parton established Alpine Group LLC. A handful of buyers boosted the worth of the restricted legal responsibility firm to $520,000. Nonetheless not a lot to run a golf course.

It took 5 months of diligent restoration and backbreaking work to get the course prepared for play. “No phrases can describe the feelings of watching golfers tee off on the course for the primary time,” Parton mentioned.

Within the 12 months following its reopening in the summertime of 2017, the semi-private Alpine Bay Golf Membership acquired 60 members. Right this moment it’s residence to only greater than twice that many, just about all of them from the encircling communities of Lincoln, St. Clair, Vincent, Coosa Pines, Harpersville, Childersburg, and Talladega. Proper at 15,000 rounds have been performed on the course every of the previous two years, with peak inexperienced charges reaching simply $46 on weekends and holidays.

Nonetheless, Alpine Bay is the Rodney Dangerfield of Alabama golf—it will get no respect. Hardly ever does anybody from Birmingham, Montgomery or Huntsville make the drive to play. Most golfers within the state nonetheless have by no means heard of Alpine Bay, and people who have heard of it dismissing Alpine Bay as now not in enterprise or not value enjoying.

Alpine Bay Golf Membership in Alpine, Alabama (Golf Week)

To exhibit the long-forgotten and ignored virtues of the Alpine Bay golf course, golf week included a day at Alpine Bay in its 2021 Architectural Summit close to Birmingham honoring the legacy of Robert Trent Jones Sr. The summit was attended by 44 of Golfweek Finest’s course raters. By and huge, the raters, who got here from as distant as Northern Eire, discovered Alpine Bay greater than deserving of their go to. The course’s conditioning nonetheless wanted substantial work, however the bones of the course are excellent. In lots of respects, it’s a more true instance of a traditional Robert Trent Jones Sr. format than any of the programs on the Path.

Placing in a particular look that day was Robert Trent Jones Jr., the eldest son of Trent Sr., together with Jr.’s personal son, Trent, the chief working officer of Robert Trent Jones II, Inc. This was the primary time for both Jones Jr. or Trent to go to the course that Jones Sr. had designed a half-century earlier.

Alpine Bay Golf Membership in Alpine, Alabama (Golf Week)

As Jones Jr. went across the course with Parton, he was continuously reminded of the traits that had been typical of his father’s designs. In an impromptu discuss after the spherical, he mentioned that Alpine Bay “deserved a significantly better destiny than it has gotten, up to now.”

Fact is, if made part of the Robert Trent Jones Path – and up to date and refined accordingly – Alpine Bay may turn out to be one of many extra exceptional and distinctive {golfing} locations within the state of Alabama.

However maybe it’s higher to maintain it because the uncared for hidden treasure that it’s—the way in which Parton has liked it.

Story initially appeared on GolfWeek

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