One of the oldest golf courses in North Georgia is Mossy Creek, just over the Hall County line into White County on Ga. 254 next to Mossy Creek Campground and at the base of Skitts Mountain.
Billy Jenkins, a retired White County educator who has played it since it was just three holes back in the 1950s, has compiled an informal history of the course. He has known it since age 12. He retired after more than three decades in education, including principal of White County High School.
The late George R. Brown, a native of the Mossy Creek area, built the course in his backyard just for friends and family at first. In 1956, he acquired some adjacent farm land and built a nine-hole course. Some of the land was still under cultivation, and corn rows were evident in some of the fairways for a while. Brown later bought a bulldozer, and the corn rows disappeared.
Tommy Aaron of Gainesville, the 1973 Masters champion, remembers playing the course when cornstalks remained in some fairways. He said few Gainesvillians played golf when he was growing up, and there were hardly any golfers his age.
Brown had been the architect, construction superintendent and labor force for the nine holes, Jenkins said. He also had laid out another nine holes before he sold the course to J.P. Ballard about 1970. Much of the current 18-hole course is Brown’s design.
Before the name became Skitts Mountain Golf Course, it was known as Brown’s Golf Course. The name was changed to Mossy Creek in recent years, but many golfers still refer to it as “Skitts.”
Brown wanted the course to become a country club and added a swimming pool and bowling alley. The spring-fed pool featured cold water, but later turned green and became home to tadpoles and spring lizards.
He built the bowling alley pretty much by himself. There were no automatic pin setters, so Jenkins, Bud Black, Brown’s sons Raymond and Charlie set the pins themselves. The bowling alley was very successful for a few years.
Brown saw two pro shops burn during his operation of the course.
Golfers who didn’t walk the course had their own carts. Ever the innovator, Brown and Scott Craven began building small gasoline golf carts that resembled lawn mowers with places for two golf bags. They called them “Par Ponies,” which they sold or rented.
Ballard added leased carts and built cart paths and a cart barn. He also built tennis courts near the highway, but they got little use and soon deteriorated.
Since its beginning, Mossy Creek Golf Course has been considered “laid back” and informal, a contrast to courses that some golfers consider uptight over their rules. There is no dress code at Mossy Creek today, and blue jeans are not uncommon on the course. But most golfers adhere to dress appropriate at most golf courses.
Ballard had tried a dress code, but it didn’t work. “The question wasn’t whether men must wear shirts with collars, but whether they must wear a shirt at all,” Jenkins remembers. Some golfers played in bib overalls, sometimes without a shirt.
Ballard’s success with what was then Skitts Mountain Golf Course led to his acquiring or building other courses under the “Eagle Greens” umbrella.
Robbie Haynes, now 42, has played the course since age 8. He is now a co-owner and general manager, having worked at Mossy Creek since November 1993.
The last two years, the course has been in the best shape it’s ever been, Haynes says. He attributes its success to catering to golfers of all skill levels, reasonable green fees ($32 week days, $37 weekends), and the pace of play. “It doesn’t take all day to play,” he said.
Mossy Creek is a walkable course and encourages walkers. It has a number of regulars who maintain a pace that doesn’t slow cart golfers. League play runs Monday through Friday, but Haynes says tee times are always available for individual golfers.
Many North Georgians have fond memories of Mossy Creek Golf Course. Jeff Ash of Helen said he and other White Countians learned to play golf there. “It will always be a place where it’s hard to lose a ball,” he said.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.