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LAKE WYLIE --
Any golfer knows sometimes the most critical moments on the course also are the quietest.
The course at River Hills is quiet now, but hardly for a lack of activity. New general manager Jim Sutton took over in mid-July and, despite duties with tennis and dining along with other club offerings, is focusing 100 percent on the golf course. Jason Bradley, golf course superintendent, expects a Labor Day weekend opening after one of the most significant upgrades in its history.
Now, weve just got to watch the grass grow, Sutton said.
The course closed in June to rework the greens and revamp the practice area. A little length was added to the course, but the main effort has been the greens where Bermuda replaces bent grass and 87,000 square feet of putting surface becomes 105,000. The move is designed to better tolerate summer heat and improve play, allowing in places for possibly five- or 10-hole placements compared to two before the switch.
The putting surfaces are going to be more consistent year-round, Bradley said. Theres going to be some adjustment there. For most of our members for all of our members, actually its going to be a brand new golf course.
This month, Bradley celebrates two years at the club. Sutton will celebrate when his wife and two daughters, ages 9 and 3, arrive to complete the transition from his prior club in Chapel Hill, N.C. Doug Shifflett, longtime general manager at River Hills, moved in the spring to accept a position at the Governors Club, also in Chapel Hill.
Talking with Shifflett helped Sutton decided to relocate, as did a desire to focus on a full-service club experience.
The golf course upgrade, paid for by members, is a sign Sutton made the right choice, he said.
The members believe in this facility, he said. They stepped up for this project.
Sutton has almost 20 years experience in the industry and a business degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Sutton wasnt interested in spending his days behind a desk, which steered him toward club management. Now, he wants to provide more programming for all members and all age levels at River Hills, from the tennis courts to the pool to the fairways.
The more theyre out here using the facility, the more the facility becomes a part of their lifestyle and the more value they see in wanting to be a member, Sutton said.
Sutton oversees a staff that can swell to 60 or 70 members depending on the season.
Hell also look to fill the remaining 50 or so golf memberships, and add to tennis or dining memberships. Hell prepare for reviews from the U.S. Golf Association and Professional Golfers Association once the course is complete, which could lead to interest from tournament tours or other outside groups.
But hell also have to balance those possibilities with his main objective.
The main goal is to have a facility the members can enjoy every day, Sutton said.