Q & A with new Auburn Hills golf course owner Phillip Nolen
RINER – When the news that Phillip Nolen had purchased the semi-private Auburn Hills Golf Club began to spread last week, many wondered what the lifelong Christiansburg farmer and cattle broker had in mind for the 158-acre property.
“Everybody thought I was going to put in cattle,” said Nolen, as he sat in the restaurant area of the clubhouse Monday. “I want to leave it as a golf course. I have no intentions of changing it,” he said.
On Sept. 5, Nolen, who also owns the Christiansburg Livestock Market, and business partner Danny Thompson officially closed on the Montgomery County property, which included the 18-hole course, pool, shelter and all equipment as-is.
Nolen declined to disclose the final price of the property, but when it hit the market in January, The Roanoke Times reported it to be listed at $2 million and assessed by Montgomery County at $2.01 million. It was most recently listed at $1.6 million on Woltz and Associates’ website.
Nolen did, however, open up about why he purchased the property and what his vision is for the club’s future.
“Honestly, it’s a beautiful place. We’ve got some of the best views you’re going to see when you get outside,” Nolen said.
Q: What is your history with golf?
A: I’m going to say about ’94 was the first time I ever played a round of golf, and I got hooked on it right when I first started. At one time, I was down to seven handicapper, but now I don’t play enough to know.
Q: How did the purchase come about?
A: Lori called me one day, and she’d dropped the kids off at school, and she said, ‘The golf course is for sale. They just put a sign up.’ This had been way back in the spring, and I was with a friend of mine, and we have a couple of rental properties together. He’s a business man, and he said, ‘Let’s make an offer on that golf course.’
I thought he was joking, and he said, ‘No’ and threw out a figure. … I said, ‘Well, I’ll call my real estate [agent].’ I just called and threw out a figure to offer to the golf course, I mean that’s [for] everything. Then I didn’t hear nothing, and a few months later, they started calling back, and then we finally put a contract on it. It was real quick. We closed within three months of the time I put the contract on it.
(In the time between the initial offer and contract, Nolen said his original financial partner had invested in something else, and he started searching for another partner, which he found in Thompson, who lives in Floyd.)
Q: Why did you decide to get into this business?
A: I’m looking to kind of throttle back a little bit on the farming aspect of it. I don’t feel like farming as much as I used to. I’m still going to buy and sell cattle. I’m still going to do the stockyard, but I’m going to cut way back on the farming.
You know, the other reason behind it, too, knowing the price I got it at…I’m 45. If I can get the golf course paid off and it even makes a little money…That’s a pretty good retirement for when I’m 65 years old.
Q: What is your vision for Auburn Hills?
A: First of all, we’ve got to increase members. When I took it over, there was 55 members. My goal is 200 members.
The course itself, we’ve already got it whipped into shape. I want to cut some trees down, make it a little easier for the average golfer to play. And I want to make it community-friendly. I want to tie this and the pool together, maybe with a deck and a walkway, make it where people from the pool can come up here and get drinks or whatever they want to.
I think there’s about 70 households right here on the golf course, and [I want to] get those people involved. I really think if everybody in the community pitches in on this thing and supports it, then it will go 100 percent.
Q: How do you plan to increase membership?
A: We’re going to do different kinds of membership drives, but more or less, just offer a good golf course and have a good attitude. I mean, attitude’s everything, and I think if we provide a good product and people enjoy the people they’re dealing with, it’ll grow.
Q: What changes will people notice?
A: The biggest things, I think, is the condition of the golf course and then secondly the attitude here – the friendliness. Also, increase outings …. I would really like to see different kinds of groups, like church groups and any kind of groups that want to have outings, to be able to provide the food for them and the golf and a place for them to eat and different things like that.
Q: Will the club’s name change?
A: My LLC just took it over and we’re going to keep Auburn Hills Golf Club.
Q: How do you think your background in farming can benefit you in the world of golf?
A: I think the biggest thing that I’m pushing is kind of what I do in the stockyard business. It’s a service industry. You’ve got to treat people with respect. You’ve got to treat them nice. We’re providing a service, and they want a good service and they want a friendly face when they get that service.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
Family: Wife, Lori; two children, Emily and Maggie
Education: Graduated Virginia Tech in 1989 with an animal science degree