Sag Hollow Golf Course
Owsley County, Kentucky is a rural area with 4,000 residents and little industry. For that reason, community leaders in the town of Booneville thought economic development was needed to bring jobs to their town, giving the residents an opportunity to work in the town where they live. A group of citizens and business leaders united to plan the next steps, deciding that creating a golf course would be the wisest move. Despite some opposition to the project, the group formed a 501C nonprofit economic development corporation and began to search for a suitable property. In 2004, they chose a site that was a former strip mine and spent the next three years cleaning the land that would become Sag Hollow Golf Club. Two community-minded institutions in the county, Farmers State Bank and the Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative, subsidized the project.
Opened in 2007, the Sag Hollow community consists of 125 acres, 50 of which make up the nine-hole golf course, which has nine championship tees. When 20 home lots surrounding the course were offered for sale, they were all sold in 2.5 hours. More home lots will be offered for sale in the near future.
What was once the remains of a strip mine is now a golf community, a setting of natural beauty and peacefulness, bringing money, people and jobs into the county. Six homes have been built on the property, and two of the families moved in from other counties. Depending on the season, the club employs 4—7 people and has 50 members.
"The land was valued at $150,000 when we bought it," says Don Hughes, general manager of the course. "Now the estimated value of the golf course is $1 million, with the six homes having an estimated value of $1.2 million."
Thousands of volunteer hours were donated to clear brush, move rocks and cover the shale with dirt for the grass to grow and to allow irrigation. Two ponds were excavated to create a water source, and a few trees had to be cut.
"The golf course is an ongoing project," says Hughes. "We are in a constant state of improving or maintaining the property. We could have saved a lot of money by spending money at the beginning to do more research about the proper design of the course to minimize the maintenance."
Green #3 had to be rebuilt, which cost $20,000. Some sand traps had to be redone, and it was necessary to watch the runoff when it rained and sent water running down the hill onto the greens. These are things that will be taken into consideration before construction begins on the next nine holes.
"Sag Hollow Golf Club has had a very positive impact on the community," says Hughes."“It has created extra jobs for local people to build houses and work at the club. They have grabbed the opportunity to work here and stay in their home county."
During construction, there were a few citizens who had doubts about a golf course being an asset to Booneville, but the golf community was built for economic development, and as time wore on, a real appreciation for Sag Hollow developed. The gravel county road was paved, and people use the clubhouse for fundraisers, reunions, showers and other events. The community is delighted to have Sag Hollow Golf Club in its midst.
"This is another form of recreation and exercise,"says Eric Mason, a native of Owsley County, who once was a Kentucky State Amateur Golf Champion and is the director of Golf at Sag Hollow. "We also get a lot of beginners, including 30 kids that we once had in the youth league. The local high school uses the course, and the regional Class A golf tournament is held here. In June 2012, 62 people from around the state came for the tournament. Our weekly golf scramble usually brings 40 people here."
Sag Hollow Golf Club continues to grow. The land that once was unusable now has ponds stocked with fish; a golf course to teach the sport to local youth and provide recreation to residents and visitors; and landscaping with shrubs, flowers, trees and native grasses to add beauty and provide a habitat for a variety of wildlife.
Golf Course image via Kentucky DEP.