SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. - The old Sequatchie Valley Golf and Country Club property in South Pittsburg these days looks more like the moon than links to nine holes.
Reece Thomas and his family are rejuvenating the 60-year-old course along Sweetens Cove Road, aiming to reopen Marion County's only golf course by summer with a redesigned layout and hilly topography topped off with new sand and water obstacles.
"We want to provide the Marion County area, and the larger area for that matter, with a quality golf course," Reece Thomas said. "We're trying to keep the costs [of membership] low but we're trying to really keep the quality up."
The course will get a new name before reopening, and by next summer he'll know more about membership pricing, he said.
Golf fans might recognize a couple of the names associated with the project, he said.
Slow times in the construction industry helped the Thomases nab a big name in golf course design, architect Rob Collins of King-Collins Golf Course Design. Collins has worked with Gary Player and played a role in the design of a Canadian project called Wildstone.
Another key component of the construction team is the man doing contouring work with a bulldozer, Gus Grantham, Reece Thomas said. Grantham "is known for his abilities as a 'shaper,'" he said recently, waving toward Grantham, who was focused on a transitional section between a fairway and green along a stretch of just-poured concrete cart paths.
The course's topography is being changed from what was only about a foot of elevation change from the front of the course to the back to a rolling course with 20 to 30 feet of elevation change, Reece Thomas said.
Collins, the man behind the design, said dramatically improved drainage and a design to create "firm and fast" course conditions is matched with "wall-to-wall" fairway grass.
Thanks to a nearly endless supply of sand from the Thomases' business, Sequatchie Concrete Services Inc., the course's Bermuda grass should flourish, he said.
Reece Thomas and his father, Bob, 88, hope the course will satisfy and inspire the region's current and future golfers.
"We built it without spending a lot of money on it. It was a farm," Bob Thomas said of the initial construction of the links in 1951.
"Sort of on a shoestring, we just made it go," he said.
The Thomas family paid about $6,500 for the property and the clubhouse was built for $2,500, he said.
Eventually, a group of local people acquired the club property from the Thomases and the course continued to operate over the years under various owners, he said. The Thomases recently acquire the property again.
Bob Thomas, still a frequent player, was course champion more times than he can count, and most of the Thomas family followed suit over the years.
"I really have had a great time out there," he said. "That golf course has, in the past, meant a lot to Marion County."
Since the early 1950s, a lot of great golfers from Marion County and surrounding communities got their start at the links along Sweetens Cove Road, the octogenarian said. He wants that tradition not only to survive but to grow.
"I'd like to see a student from South Pittsburg High School win the state junior championship," he said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@times freepress.com or 423-757-6569.