Entrepreneur acquires two Chattanooga area golf clubs

photo Henry Luken, new owner of Battlefield Golf Club, talks about the renovations and changes at the golf course in Ringgold, Ga. Luken owns three golf clubs in the Chattanooga area.

IF YOU GO• Battlefield Golf Club -- 706-406-0305 -- 285 Cannon Drrive, Ringgold• Eagle Bluff Golf Course -- 423-326-0202 -- 5808 Club House Drive, Chattanooga• Montlake Golf Course -- 423-332-3111 -- 9104 Brow Lake Road, Soddy-Daisy

Henry Luken is usually the type of leader who delegates day-to-day tasks to others so he can focus on his real estate and TV empire.

But the local millionaire has taken a special interest in rehabilitating his two recently acquired golf courses, he said.

"The fairways are in better condition than they've ever been," Luken said. "There are still a few weeds to work out, but we'll beat the weeds."

Luken, who already owns Montlake Golf Course, took over Eagle Bluff Golf Course and Battlefield Golf Club in January and immediately started freshening up the aged courses and clubhouses. He decided that the economies of scale in owning several courses were too good to pass up.

Luken will spend between $5 million and $7 million in total by the end of 2012 on the courses, which includes both the cost of buying and renovating the three clubs.

New pricing tiers are slightly higher, but they grant member benefits at all three clubs.

"When you sign up for a normal golf membership, you get one golf course," Luken said. "Here, you'll get three."

The clubs had fallen on hard times before he acquired them, suffering from falling membership during the recession, he said. By combining operations and sprucing up the courses, Luken hopes to save money and attract new members. He's already made several deals to acquire better golf carts and new furniture for the clubhouses, and an extensive upstairs renovation is under way at Battlefield.

"When I acquired Battlefield, we were down from 330 members to 170, but we're already back up to 220," he said.

Ben Vaughn, general manager at Battlefield Golf Club, said the personal attention from Luken has boosted the club's fortunes.

"Things had been neglected for a long time," Vaughn said. "We've probably doubled our players from the same period last year."

The long-term goal, Luken said, is to boost membership over 1,000 among the three clubs.

To that end, he's refreshing everything. So far, he's repaired pools, installed new pedestrian bridges, fixed fairways, and mended water obstacles.

And there's still a lot left to do, he said.

"We intend to take this back to the way it was," Luken said, seated in one of Battlefield's new golf carts. "When we get done at Battlefield, we'll get to work on Eagle Bluff."

Once the clubhouses are renovated and the course is fully repaired, he's willing to add new features like gyms and full-service restaurants -- if members want it.

"It's a matter of making the business plan work the right now," Luken said. "I'm trying to make a family environment that's economically viable. I don't mind putting in the money to make it work."

Families pay $250 per month, including carts, not much more than the single member rate of $200 per month which includes carts. That's up from a cart rate of $194 per month for single members and $234 for families under the previous owners.