Lloyd Nelson, the third generation of the family that founded the Greenville, S.C., property in 1938, bought the former Summersett Golf Course late last year, reinstating its original name and working to restore it to its original glory.
Lloyd Nelson is the third generation of a family that originally founded the course as Paris Mountain Country Club in 1938, and the Greenville, S.C., property is now back in the family, the Greenville (S.C.) Online reported.
Nelson discusses his family’s connection to the property in the video below.
The former Summersett Golf Course is back to its original name, original blood line and—if Nelson and his partners have their way—original glory, Greenville Online reported.
“There’s no part of the golf course I don’t know,” Nelson said. “I don’t know anything else. It’s just part of me, I guess.”
Paris Mountain Country Club was created by J.P. Traynham, a well known golf leader in the Upstate who built courses for, among others, Greenville Country Club, Lakeview Golf Club and Pickens Country Club. In the mid-1930s, Traynham spent $8,000 to buy land at the foot of Paris Mountain and began to carve a golf course out of the virtual wilderness, Greenville Online reported.
“I just don’t know how he did it back then,” said Nelson, his grandson. “He had an old Army tractor that he used to cut the course out with. He took an old A-model type truck to cut fairways with.”
Traynham’s nine children were part of the family force that built and ran the course until the 1960s. Nelson’s own childhood was spent riding tractors around the course with his grandfather and uncles and learning the game at their sides, Greenville Online reported.
“I was raised on the golf course and always drawn to it,” he said.
After Traynham sold the course, it passed through a few owners before being purchased by Dallah Forrest in 1979. Forrest is the one who changed the name to Summersett Golf Course. Nelson came to work for Forrest in 1981, starting out as a “cart boy” earning $10 a day and eventually rising to run the place by the mid-1980s. When Forrest was open to selling Summersett, Nelson jumped at the chance, Greenville Online reported.
“Over the years, I always would love to get it back in the family,” he said. “Nobody ever thought it would come back.”
After sealing the deal on Christmas Eve 2014, Nelson took over the 107-acre Paris Mountain Country Club on New Year’s Day, hosting a grand opening celebration and tournament. Announcements about the change on social media elicited praise and nostalgia from many who had played the course over the years, Greenville Online reported.
“As soon as word got on the street what we were doing, my phone doesn’t stop ringing,” Nelson said. The key to his future success, he said, is luring some of those players to the course, some who may have been away for the last several years, Greenville Online reported.
Nelson’s partner in the country club, Shane Birckbichler, knows the uphill battle they may face. “It’s been known, at least in the last couple years, as a pretty crappy golf course,” he said.
Birckbichler began golfing at Summersett as a young teen and remained a member himself up until 2012 when the deteriorating state of the greens and fairways compelled him to take his game elsewhere. But things are changing, he said, and former members and players are finding their way back, Greenville Online reported.
“I think they want to come back, but they want to come back with a little bit more confidence in how the course will be maintained and the decisions that will be made,” he said. “We want to gradually improve things back to the level we feel they should be.”
Nelson said the club’s long history and the family touch he brings will be a boon to the business, Greenville Online reported.
“There’s so many golf courses around that you have to somewhat separate yourself,” he said. “It does have a history here, a very rich history.”
Going back to the original name and even dredging up his grandfather’s original logo are part of that push to tap Paris Mountain Country Club’s long history to propel its future. Still, it’s not an easy time to be in the golf business, Greenville Online reported.
Things have been bleak for the last few years, the partners said, thanks to the recession’s hit on leisure spending and an oversaturation in the golf market. “You don’t have to go much farther than Myrtle Beach to see how that played out,” Birckbichler said. “If you had a spare 200 acres of land, why not build a golf course on it?”
But Nelson and Birckbichler are convinced their foothills course will weather the storm. “I’ve been around golfers all my life, and I just have a very good understanding of what the golfer wants and what it takes to retain that golfer,” Nelson said. “You’re not just a golfer when you come in here. We know everybody’s name. I believe if you’ve got passion for what you do, you’ll find a way to make it work.”