Members of a local country club will have to find somewhere else to play for about six months. Belle Meade closed on Monday for extensive course renovations and repairs, the first time that has happened since the course opened in the 1960s.
Several area courses have privately offered Belle Meade members discounted green fees while the renovations take place. But once complete, President of the Board of Directors Frank Locklear said club members will be able to play on one of the premier courses along I-20.
Course Crafters worker Gustavo Alvarez tosses dirt from the ninth tee box into a trailer Tuesday.
"When we're finished with it, it's going to bring Belle Meade back into a league of courses that will get people traveling from Augusta to Atlanta," Mr. Locklear said. "This is going to bring the main Thomson country club up to levels with some of those courses in those areas."
The renovations to the course -- done by Course Crafters, a group known for its work on the Augusta Country Club and the Augusta National Golf Club -- include restructuring of all greens and tee boxes. Also, some trees will be removed to promote grass growth, and extensive work to the irrigation system will be done.
The course length will remain the same because of a lack of space, Mr. Locklear said. Most of the greens will be expanded because grass cutting practices caused them to shrink over the years.
"It was just time to do it," Mr. Locklear said. "The greens they just keep getting packed and packed and packed until you get to a point where the grass doesn't grow well."
Lyle Curry, project manager for Gainesville, Ga.-based Course Crafters said the greens and tee boxes will all be bulldozed. He added that the fairway bunkers will also be redesigned.
"I would call it a mini-overhaul," Mr. Curry said. "We're not going to import a lot of stuff. We're just going to use the material that's at each tee and green complex and reshape it."
Mr. Curry also added that his favorite feature of the course is that it follows the natural terrain of the land, something most new courses don't do.
"They didn't move any dirt when they built the course, so the golf holes just lay the way the land was," he said.
The work to the course -- although it is forcing members to play their rounds at the Thomson Country Club or one of the local courses offering reduced rates -- is a step in the right direction for those associated with Belle Meade.
"I have played that course for 20 years, and I'm excited about the improvements that are being made," said Belle Meade Member Riley Stamey. "Over the long run it's going to be a great thing for the club and for the community because a lot of people recognize Thomson by the Belle Meade name."