(Marion, VA) Beginning January 1, the Smyth County Community Foundation will take ownership of Holston Hills, an 18-hole championship golf course located in Marion.
“This is an important step forward for this community,” said Marion Mayor David Helms. “The Town of Marion was in a position in 2012 to keep the course from closing, and we believe we have been good stewards of the property. Over the past eight years, we have reinvested in the facilities to modernize it, and now, Holston Hills Community Golf Course is ready to serve our community and our region for years into the future.”
In April 2012, the Town of Marion purchased the financially-troubled Holston Hills Country Club from a cooperative of members. Since then, the Town of Marion has invested in updating the ballroom, cart paths, equipment, and greens, and replaced the underutilized tennis courts with a unique driving range.
The Smyth County Community Foundation assisted by financing the purchase, with the Town making interest-only payments, at five-year renewables. Now the Foundation will be the sole owner of the property and facilities, with a commitment to continue operations as a community golf course. And to assist in meeting the day-to-day operational budget, the Town of Marion has agreed to provide $50,000 to help offset expenses and keep the facility open to the general public.
“Having an 18-hole championship golf course in our town is an absolute amenity,” said Marion town manager Bill Rush. “It adds to our overall offerings for quality of life, for golfers, for those who enjoy walking the course for exercise, for tournaments and community gatherings. It’s a vital center of our community. But there are things a municipality can and cannot do. By having the Smyth County Community Foundation own the facility, they will be much more flexible and agile to meet the shifting market needs.”
In recent months, Holston Hills Community Golf Course has struggled to meet the requests of some in the community. Foodservice is very limited, and regular golfers have wanted to continue and expand benefits associated with memberships previously offered. The Town of Marion tried unsuccessfully over the years to provide additional services, but ultimately, fell short. As the pandemic forced business closings, Marion halted operations at Holston Hills to regroup and spent time exploring options to improve the experience.
“We looked at all options in that off-time,” said Rush. “We met with golfers, members of the community, and examined operations at other municipal and private golf courses across the region and the state. We determined that, as a municipality, we just couldn’t compete with private commerce in our offerings. While having a golf course is absolutely integral to our community, there is just so much we can do as a town to support it.”
Through negotiations with the Foundation, it was determined the best path forward was for the Smyth County Community Foundation to acquire ownership of the facility, and that the Town would commit to helping offset operational expenses, similar to the arrangements with other community partners like the Lincoln Theatre.
“We are proud of the accomplishments made at Holston Hills,” added Helms. “The facility is as nice as it’s ever been. We draw not only locals, but people from across the region to play golf, to compete in tournaments, and to enjoy events in the ballroom. Now, it’s time for the Town to step aside and let the next chapter of this wonderful community golf course begin.”
Holston Hills was originally opened in 1946 as a nine-hole private golf course. In 1969, an additional nine holes were added, and in 1953, the first swimming pool was constructed on the property. In 1998, the aging clubhouse was replaced with the current structure. In April 2012, the Town of Marion purchased the financially-struggling facility from the membership and began the process of reinvesting in the course and buildings. Holston Hills Community Golf Course currently provides an 18-hole championship golf course with scenic vistas of the Middle Fork of the Holston River and the surrounding Appalachian Mountains, a seasonal swimming pool, pro shop, clubhouse, grand ballroom/meeting space, full catering kitchen, grill room, patio, and driving range.