published Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Developer eyes old state-owned golf course in Manchester, TN for public links

A local developer wants to resurrect the state-owned Old Stone Fort Golf Course site in Manchester, Tenn., with the idea of offering up the links to the public, particularly senior citizens, women and youths.

"We want to open it as a public golf course, available to everyone with an emphasis on giving seniors a place to play," said local developer Tink Driver. Driver and his partner, Pete Jackson, are negotiating with the state to acquire the 140-acre tract.

Driver said he wants to have a "ladies day" at the course "because about 20 percent of new golfers are women and that's real important," and he intends to employ instructors so area youths "get started right" on a course that is unique for the area.

"I want to make this a true 'links-type' course," Driver said. A links course refers to the design associated with coastal courses in Britain.

"I used to play Pebble Beach a lot when I would host meetings. I like the Spanish Bay there at Pebble. It is a links course. And I used to play Ballybunion Golf Club on the western coast of Ireland," he said.

"I think it's something different people would like to come to Manchester, Tenn., for," he said.

The state closed the course in 2011, along with the course at T.O. Fuller State Park near Memphis and a restaurant at Henry Horton State Park as state officials trimmed park budgets. The closures idled 13 full-time and 10 seasonal jobs.

Driver, his wife, Judy, and Jackson, who is Judy's brother, are all tied to the land through their family.

"Originally, the property belonged to my grandfather," Judy Driver said. In all, three generations of Jacksons owned the land.

"We had 310 acres, sold 140 to Manchester Golf and Country Club and the MGCC sold it to the state," she said.

Now the Drivers and Jackson hope to reclaim the land for a nine-hole golf course, and there are options for expanding it, Tink Driver said.

"Later on there may be a possibility of adding nine more holes," he said.

The family has a 27-acre parcel, containing "virgin forest," and another two-acre tract that adjoin the golf course property, he said. Ideas include some A-frame lodges for overnight accommodations and a small facility for conferences or meetings.

A lot of work must be done before anybody tees up.

The course needs a new irrigation system, new greens and reseeding among other updates, he said. Driver thinks the first nine holes can be opened for play about a year after an acquisition deal is reached.

The Coffee County Industrial Board recently voted unanimously to support redevelopment of the property, board executive director Ted Hackney said.

"Recreational activities are always a plus," Hackney said. "It'll be a nice addition to bring back to the community."

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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