Something unusual is taking shape in a vacant lot off M.L. King Boulevard just a stone's throw from Champy's Chicken.
Flags are flying on the roughed-in greens of a two-hole golf course coming to life on a 1-acre lot at University and East 10th.
"It's weird, ain't it?" Wiley Morton said.
Morton is a retiree who is transforming the once overgrown and littered lot into Pitch 'n' Putt, what he calls an "urban golf" course at which charity organizations will hold fundraisers and the public will be able to chip and putt golf balls.
Because there's no room for long drives on a fairway, Morton plans to put up a small building that will hold an indoor golf simulator. Golfers will start at the course playing virtual golf and -- depending on how well they hit -- will have their ball placed accordingly on the real-life, two-hole course.
"I don't have a fairway, but I do have a simulator," Morton said.
Morton said he learned how to do golf course landscaping at Chattanooga State Community College under associate instructor Casey Neal and building the course is Morton's class project.
He expects to open the business in the spring.
Morton has been working on the urban golf course with help from homeless people who traverse the neighborhood that's near the Chattanooga Community Kitchen and other homeless services on East 11th Street.
Morton isn't paying his homeless helpers, but he plans to make them partners once the business takes off.
"As we grow it, then they grow with it," he said.
Morton said he learned to spot people's potential as a data services manager for Tricor, the state prison industries agency.
John Holt, a homeless man, was helping clear brush at the site Wednesday afternoon.
"It just seems like it's going to take off," Holt said. "The virtual golf is going to be interesting."
The golf course is behind Key Bonding Co., whose owner, Charles Key, said he gave Morton permission to use the lot.
Contact Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...