Following years of corporate ownership, Traditions of Braselton Golf Club is now in the hands of a local ownership group intent on bringing improvements to the 15-year-old course.

A group of Jackson County residents purchased the course on June 1 in a move that will keep the course in operation along with prioritizing needed upgrades, according to a member of the ownership group.

“We’re not going to just change ownership and just operate it business-as-usual,” said Jim Southard, one of three people involved with purchasing the course. “We’re about to put in millions of dollars.”

The course’s former owner, ClubCorp, restructured about a year ago and began divesting portions of its portfolio, which included Traditions. Both Traditions and Hamilton Mill Golf Course were sold at the same time to an investment company in Texas. But that company had no intention of keeping Traditions open, according to Southard.

“They were going to sell it for green space, and just keep Hamilton Mill,” Southard said.

That’s when Southard and fellow buyers Lee Botts and Jack Ansley (Southard and Botts both live in Traditions and Ansley just outside of it) stepped in to purchase the Traditions course.

“We found that out probably in January and moved quickly to formulate a plan to buy it and turn it around,” Southard said.

Southard said the final purchase price is convoluted due to leases the group assumed, equipment purchases and bills left to be paid. But he roughly estimated a course value of about $2 million in assets, though likely less than that.

“It’s been neglected ever since ClubCorp bought it,” Southard said. “We’ve just been kind of the step child to Hamilton Mill.”

Southard said saving the course “was everything to me,” describing a sense of community he’s experienced through golfing at Traditions over the years.

There was also a major financial impact for the Traditions of Braselton development to consider.

“The cornerstone to this community was the golf club, and I did a quick analysis,” Southard said. “This neighborhood would have lost over $50 million dollars overnight if this golf course closed down. So, it was very important for us to save this club.”

Southard said that in the limited time the group has own the course it has already grown its membership, “drastically changed” the conditions and has improved the greens to peak conditions.

The group’s aim is to not to merely keep Traditions’ doors open, but to enhance the golfing experience, according to Southard.

“The experience is what’s going to make or break us,” Southard said. “We’re never going to have some of the facilities of some prominent golf courses, such as Athens Country Club, but we can definitely control the experience that the member has.”

Course improvements include purchasing $300,000 worth of course maintenance equipment, hiring of additional workers for maintenance and the pro shop, replacement of bunkers to a capillary concrete bunker system and a $100,000 renovation of the driving range, which will include adding nets and targets.

Some of the course’s holes could change, but the total yardage would likely remain about the same, according to Southard. The ownership group is looking into changing to a hybrid-type of Bermuda greens, adding tee boxes to holes and raising the canopy for areas that are in play.

The Traditions makeover will include expanding its restaurant to include a members-only bar and lounge and upstairs patio. Half of the club will be open to the public and the other half reserved for members.

“It’s a tremendous investment into that facility as well as the golf course,” Southard said.

Southard called Traditions “a hidden gem.”

“This golf course and this community, the members and the employees and the layout are just a tremendous asset, and it’s just been undervalued for years,” Southard said.

And he said he wants Traditions to, at last, feel like a home course for Jackson Countians.

“I don’t think the surrounding community has ever really felt like this was their home, like this was their golf course that they could come and play,” Southard said, noting that the group is utilizing multiple in-county service providers. “And we’re really trying to change that.”

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