‘Phenomenal’ changes at Elizabethton Golf Course include new restaurant and more

Published 8:12 pm Saturday, September 21, 2019

When Chad Odom, general manager/golf professional at the Elizabethton Golf Course, threw open the door of the golf course’s newly-opened Cookhouse Restaurant, he had a big smile on his face.

That smile remained throughout most of the conversation about all the changes that have taken place at the local golf course over the past 18 months.

There is a good reason that Odom frequently uses the word “phenomenal” as he describes what has happened at the Elizabethton Golf Course. He has quite a lot to be happy about now, with increased membership, improved courses, a renovated clubhouse and a new restaurant.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

But, looking back, he remembers the challenges of getting to this point.

Odom started his job on May 27, 2018, just shy of two months after the City of Elizabethton handed over the reins of the course’s management to Hampton Golf, a professional golf management company which oversees more than 30 properties nationwide. The community and the golf membership was concerned. There were many changes to be made, and as Odom knows all too well, change is hard.

“It was tough getting the membership to believe in Hampton,” Odom said. “That first six months, I just keep wondering, ‘What next?’ It was a big change and people don’t like change, but it’s amazing the obstacles we have overcome.

“We didn’t make a lot of changes the first 4-5 months, and that’s a double-edged sword, because when you don’t start making changes right away, people become concerned,” Odom said. “It took us 4-6 months to figure out what the real issues were and although the members wanted change ‘now,’ if you rush, you make mistakes.”

From the course, to personnel, to the clubhouse, the golf course needed a facelift, from top to bottom. They started with the course, and then one change after another started to take place. The 40-45% increase in membership this year appears to be an indication of their success.

“We have golfers here every day telling us the course is in the best shape it’s ever been in,” Odom said. He attributes that to the experience and hard work of groundskeeper, Louie Hopkins, who has been with the Elizabethton Golf Course for 48 years.

“He does a phenomenal job,” Odom said. “He has always been able to do it but needed the right tools and staff. Being able to work with trained employees has made a huge difference. When I hear golfers brag on the course, that’s a tribute to Louie’s leadership.”

Inside the clubhouse, the changes are immediately noticeable as well.

Locker rooms have been completely renovated with new hard flooring, wooden lockers, and tasteful furnishings. The ragged 20-year-old carpet is gone, as are the old metal lockers that are said to have been built in the late 1930s or 1940s. “When we took them out,” Odom said, “they basically fell apart.”

But it is upstairs where the biggest change has occurred. There is a new restaurant — Cookhouse Restaurant — managed by Debby Dipietrantonio. It is open to the public and already has a number of bookings for company holiday parties.

Odom is notably proud. “The restaurant is phenomenal,” he said. “The food is wonderful and you can’t go anywhere in town and find $6-10 entrees of this quality.”

The Cookhouse at Elizabethton Golf Course has a panoramic view of the golf course below. With a sports bar feel (there are multiple screens tuned to sporting events), the menu features wings, nachos, salads, sandwiches and burgers, with sides and desserts. Beer is available now and Odom says he expects liquor by the drink — wine and mixed drinks — to be available within 30-60 days, by the Christmas season. Open to the public, the restaurant is closed Monday and Tuesday. It is open 10-7 Wednesday; 10-10 Thursday; 10-7 on Friday; 6:30 a.m. (breakfast is served) – 10 p.m. on Saturday and 10-7 on Sunday. Hours will fluctuate, Odom says, depending on weather and holidays, so he suggests calling ahead.

There is also a small conference room, separate from the restaurant, that can seat 12-15 people.

It has been a busy time for Odom. Between construction projects and working with the membership, he admitted there were times he often didn’t know if he “was coming or going.”

But as things settle down, Odom says the most important thing is the way the golf course takes care of people.

A former golf course owner, Odom says he made a living out of thanking people for coming and playing at the golf course as they entered and as they exited.

“I’ve encouraged my staff to do that,” he said. “Even though those first 4-5 months were very trying, we see the light at the end of the tunnel when people tell me ‘We love your staff. They’re so friendly.’”

“Our philosophy is to be nicer, more sincere and mean it. We want a happy environment and a happy workplace.

“My people are phenomenal,” he added. “You don’t always get a team like this. I’ve got the ‘New England Patriots’ of golf: they show up to play every day.”