E.A. Sports Today

Take over date

Etter takes over at Cider Ridge April 1; greens renovation put off to next year, other plans remain on schedule

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Cory Etter now has a date for when he gets the keys to Cider Ridge Golf Club.

Etter will take over operation of the city-owned golf course April 1 after the Oxford City Council approved a lease agreement Tuesday night by a 3-2 vote.

The vote went the same way as the vote to approve Etter as the new operator earlier this month, with Steven Waits and Charlotte Hubbard dissenting.

The lease is for five years with an option to purchase, which Etter hopes to do before the end of the first contract. Under the terms of the contract, the city will receive a nominal annual fee from Etter and all the tax revenue generated by the course.

The course has been under the management of Honours Golf/Troon Golf for the past 10 years. Etter had hoped to get the course March 1, but the city is required to give Honours 30 days written notice on any changes to their agreement.

“I’m very happy (to have a date) because April 1 is a good segue; that’s really when the main golfing season starts,” said Etter, who did not attend Tuesday’s council meeting. “Now every day we’re a step in the right position and right direction to move forward and make it a good endeavor.”

Etter said the interest and support he has received since news of his approval to take over the course has been “overwhelming.”

“People are calling me every day now about how they’re ready to get back out there and start playing,” he said.

Even though he voted against the change in management, Waits recognizes the value Cider Ridge is to the community.

“Now that this has been approved, I am not aware of anyone who does not want this to be successful,” he wrote in response to a Facebook comment calling out the dissenters. “This is an incredibly important asset to the city as well as the residents of Cider Ridge. Anyone who is not for success here is not for the success of Oxford.”

With the Council approval in hand, Etter now operates two golf courses in Calhoun County – Cider Ridge and Pine Hill Country Club off Choccolocco Road. While he plans to offer a dual membership option to both clubs, both courses will be run as separate businesses.

He is in the process of developing a fee structure for membership and daily play, which could be finalized as early as next week.

Now that he has an official start date, Etter can begin the process of following through with his plans for Cider Ridge.

He recently hired Hoover Country Club director of instruction Jammie Lett to be the course’s general manager/head professional. He plans to hire an assistant pro and is looking to hire a head superintendent with “real good experience with bent grass greens.”

That experience is important because Etter has made the decision to delay Cider Ridge’s conversion to TifEagle Bermuda until next year. His other renovations are still planned as scheduled.

The greens will undergo its regular spring aeration in another week or so and the course has major seasonal maintenance planned for March 11, Etter said.

His original plan was to begin the greens renovation July 12, the Monday following the original conclusion of this year’s Sunny King Charity Classic. Tournament officials moved the dates of the Classic to September, which would have given Etter a chance to start the project earlier and complete it in time for the new dates, but the timing of that announcement led him to push it to next summer.

“With the Sunny King being pushed back, it’s too late to move (the scheduling of the restoration) up, so it was easier to move it back,” Etter said. “That way we can offer a very good product without feeling rushed.”

Plans to construct a comfort station on the back nine, add cart paths on holes 7 and 14, and redesign the guardrails on the sloped cart paths will proceed as scheduled in coordination with city work details.

Etter also plans to bring on several starters and marshals to enforce the course’s dress code and pace of play.

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