Hickory Hill Golf Club closes down after 55 years in Gautier


GAUTIER, Mississippi — With dwindling revenues and facing a $350,000 cart lease renewal, the owners of Hickory Hill Golf Club in Gautier made the difficult decision to close down the course and put it on the market.

The course pulled all the flags and closed its doors for the final time at the end of play Monday.

For Kenny Hughes, one of the course’s four owners, the decision was a painful one.

“Yesterday was a somber day,” Hughes said. “I started in the golf business at Hickory Hill 34 years ago. I played golf there when I was 14 years old the first time. I got engaged on that property. So, yes, it was a difficult decision, but it’s just not where it needs to be to be competitive in this marketplace.”

Hickory Hill becomes the fifth Jackson County golf course to close since 1997, following Pine Island, Southwind, St. Andrews and Gulf Hills — although Gulf Hills recently reopened as a 9-hole course under new ownership.

“There’s a reason why that is,” said Hughes, who is part-owner and CEO of Shell Landing Golf Club, also in Gautier. “The casino courses are a big part of it. The tourists want to play the new place, the modern place. You still have a few who will play the older courses, but not enough to sustain them.”

Hughes also said there hasn’t been enough local membership to maintain the course.

“It takes a lot of money to keep a golf course in good condition – equipment, fertilizer, chemicals, labor,” he said. “After Katrina, so many people left the area and although we’re a long ways a way from that, there are still residual effects from that you don’t see.”

Hughes said the timing of the closure wasn’t random. He and the other owners were facing a $350,000 price tag to renew the club’s golf cart lease.

“You don’t just rent carts for a month or two, you have to lease them for 3-4 years,” he said. “You’re talking about another $350,000 more of debt. No one was willing to put their name on more debt based on what we’ve seen the past eight years there.”

Tuesday afternoon, in fact, Hughes was waiting on a call from the cart rental company alerting him to meet them at the course so they could take the carts away.

Opened in 1965 as Hickory Hill Golf Club, the course would years later change its name to Mississippi National, but returned to its roots when Hughes and his partners bought the course eight years ago.

The 2020 pandemic was not a factor in the decision to close, Hughes said, noting in fact that most golf courses have reported robust businesses this year, with the exception of resort-based courses open only to resort guests, with no public play or memberships

“The numbers (at Hickory Hill) should have gone up, but they went down,” Hughes said.

He also said the course has not been listed for sale as yet, but there have already been two serious inquiries. Hughes said he hopes the new owners will opt to keep the property as a golf course.

The course property is not currently zoned for residential use, so any sale of the property to owner wishing to convert it to residential use would have to be contingent upon the Gautier City Council first voting to rezone the property.


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