After Dick Zadick and Mark Liggett bought the Emerald Greens Golf Course in a sheriff’s sale in 2010, they hired General Manager Billy Thompson, who renamed the executive course. Updates all over the Great Falls, Mont., property have resulted in a 50 percent increase in revenue in 2012, and the course is now ahead of last year in season pass sales.
When rebuilding an executive course in Great Falls, Mont., three years ago, General Manager Billy Thompson chose the name “Hickory Swing,” which harkened back to the early days when golf was played with hickory shafted clubs, the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune reported.
“We were brainstorming possible names and went back to the beginning of golf when courses were shorter like ours,” Thompson said. “So we called it Hickory Swing and decorated the clubhouse with older clubs that people gave us.”
Businessmen Dick Zadick and Mark Liggett purchased the Emerald Greens course in a sheriff’s sale in late 2010. The new owners wanted somebody with golfing and greenskeeper experience to bring the course into top shape, the Tribune reported.
They picked Thompson, a local golfer with several years of course management experience. Thompson had worked three years on the greens crew at the city’s Eagle Falls course and learned from greenskeeper Bill Korst, leading to a job supervising the private Gannon Ranch Golf Course for three years, the Tribune reported.
Thompson, 32, qualified for and played in two U.S. Amateur Championships and won a regional qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open against some professional players, the Tribune reported.
“I have no time to practice enough to be competitive in tournament golf now, but play some for fun,” Thompson said.
At the course, Thompson “does a little bit of everything,” working as many as 80 hours per week during peak summer weeks, helping mow, sharpening equipment, setting up tournaments, keeping books, hiring and other roles, the Tribune reported.
During winter he keeps busy servicing all the equipment and overseeing building projects, such as the course’s new irrigation pump station. The course has three other outside employees who do course maintenance and seven indoor workers who serve food and drinks and take fees, the Tribune reported.
Hickory Swing is a par 60 course that has lower fees and takes less time to play than full-sized courses. Fees are $12 for nine holes, $20 for 18 holes and $325 for a single membership. It also features a $125 student pass good for students from grade school through college, the Tribune reported.
“It’s a little easier, making it fun for young players and beginning golfers,” Thompson said. “But we think golfers at any level, from beginner to expert, can enjoy it, with better players working on their short game. I use nearly every club in my bag playing here.”
Upon taking over management of the property, the crew seeded, sodded and patched the greens to get them back into good shape. The new owners invested in an automated pump station, improved and extended the irrigation system, and added tee boxes and a practice green, the Tribune reported.
The course experienced a 50 percent increase in revenue during the second season under new ownership and is now ahead of last year in season pass sales, Thompson said.
In the future, the owners will continue making improvements, such as adding sprinklers to more areas and rebuilding some tee boxes, the Tribune reported.
“One personal dream I have is to expand the clubhouse and add two or three computer simulators, in which equipment gauges how straight and far a golfer’s swing would take the ball on holes at famous golf courses,” Thompson said. “There also would be room for players to hit practice shots into nets in the winter. And the extra space would help us seat all the players inside during our busy summer league nights.”
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