E.A. Sports Today

Double eagle

Cory Etter will operate both Pine Hill Country Club and Cider Ridge Golf
Club after Oxford City Council approves management handover of the latter

Cory Etter stands at the entrances to Pine Hill Country Club and Cider Ridge Golf Club, the two courses in his management portfolio now that the Oxford City Council approved a management arrangement for him at Cider Ridge.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — The golf course at Cider Ridge Golf Club will soon be under new management after the Oxford City Council Tuesday night approved Pine Hill Country Club owner Cory Etter as the new operator of the city-owner course.

The Council voted 3-2 in favor of awarding management responsibilities to Etter, a former assistant at Cider Ridge and Pine Hill’s manager/owner/pro for the past four years. Council members Steven Waits and Charlotte Hubbard cast dissenting votes. Council president Chris Spurlin cast the tie-breaking vote.

Cider Ridge had been under the management of Honours Golf/Troon for the past 10 years.

Details on the contract are pending, but according to sources, Etter initially sought a 20-year lease with the city, but will have an initial two-year lease to operate the property with an option to buy. He will pay the city a nominal lease fee and the city in turn will receive all the tax revenue the course generates.

The city is said to be working on a buyout of the remaining term of the current operating agreement with Honours. The changeover could take place as early as March.

“It’s going to be great for golf, it’s going to be great for people,” Etter said.“I’m excited for the opportunity to increase the golf traffic in our area. This is a very, very good area for golf and I feel with my expertise in relationships I can bring a lot of golfers to this area who haven’t been here before.

“(At Pine Hill) we have the largest membership in the county, we have more tournaments than any other course in the county and we have a lot of support and following. Those customers will do the same thing to help support and benefit Cider Ridge, which, in turn, is a huge benefit for the City of Oxford.”

He said within 30 minutes of news of the approval reaching the public, he had received more than 100 texts and voicemails of support from the local golf and business community.

Under his plan, originally outlined by East Alabama Sports Today last month after reports of a management change first became public, Etter is expected to offer a dual-membership to both courses for players, apparently at a lesser rate than Cider Ridge’s current rate. Both courses, however, will be run as separate businesses.

Pine Hill currently has more than 325 members. When Etter helped manage Cider Ridge from 2005 to 2007, when he left for Pine Hill, that course increased its membership rolls from 105 to more than 400; it is said to currently have fewer than 75.

Pine Hill did 32,000 rounds this past season despite the COVID-19 pandemic, while Cider Ridge reportedly did less than half that.

Etter also has plans to change the greens from the current bent grass to TifEagle Bermuda, construct new cart paths on two currently cart-restricted holes, redesign cart path guardrails for increased safety on the course’s undulating terrain and build a new clubhouse closer to the first tee. He plans to hire a general manager/head professional, assistant pro, course superintendent and assistant, and several marshals and starters.

The existing clubhouse is expected to become more of an upscale dining and entertainment venue with the new restaurant lessee approved Tuesday to take over March 1.

Etter intends to keep Pine Hill as a “player’s club” hosting regular play and the more than 100 local charity tournaments it holds annually with Cider Ridge serving as the championship venue for major events and tournaments. The Oxford course already hosts part of the Sunny King Charity Classic, the largest fundraising amateur golf tournament in the Southeast, and there has been talk of attracting other major events to the facility.

The greens project is likely to begin the Monday following the Sunny King Charity Classic, but with two courses now in the portfolio, it would be possible to begin sooner if the SKCC were to play its Cider Ridge rounds at Pine Hill this year. Cider Ridge would remain open and play on temporary greens until the new greens are ready.

“Cider Ridge is one of the best course layouts in the county, really, in eastern Alabama,” Etter said. “The city has a very, very great property, but I think it’s been way under-utilized and now we’re going to maximize it and make it the best it can be for the golfers, the residents and the City of Oxford.

“We’re going to make Cider Ridge a very, very beautiful place to want to be. It’s already a really pretty place, but the things we’re going to do to make it better are only going to increase its appeal.”

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