The gates to Beaver Creek Golf Course are officially open, but for local pros to average duffers, it will always be “Beaver Hills.”
The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and the air was warm as a group of about 50 people gathered for the grand re-opening symbolized with a traditional ribbon-cutting at a golf course that has been special for the past 77 years to almost anyone in the area who swings a club.
Ran Isley and George Lester have been the owners of the property at 325 Beaver Hills Club Drive since either 1963 or 1969, depending on which one you ask.
“We started as a nine-hole public course, no water, no trails,” said Lester. “Today is an exciting day.”
Lester said the public had been good to Beaver Hills over the years and he was proud that the course could continue under the capable hands of Greg Haley and Lee Forbes.
Forbes is a 1981 graduate of Bassett High School where he made his mark as a football standout. He spent 35 years at Bassett Furniture Industries, with the majority of his time serving as the Director of Asian Operations. He made his home in Asia for 15 years.
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The name Haley is synonymous with golf in the area. Greg is the son of the legendary Golf Pro Wayne Haley, the head professional at Lynwood Golf and Country Club for 46 years.
Wayne Haley died in 2002 and the following year the Virginia State Senate issued a joint resolution recognizing him as someone who was a major influence on junior golf programs in the state, was the first Virginia junior golf champion in 1953 and was a member of the Carolina Professional Golf Association for 40 years being named its champion in 1961.
Greg Haley graduated from Bassett High School and won a National Championship while at Elon University. He has owned and managed several golf courses over the years including Mariner’s Landing at Smith Mountain Lake and Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
“I want to thank ya’ll for making a commitment to play here,” Haley said to the golfers in the crowd that had gathered in the parking lot Thursday morning.
One of those golfers was Martinsville Council Member Danny Turner.
“It was great that the Lester Group worked with Greg Haley and his partner Lee Forbes, Turner said. “When they first opened the grass was a little too long, but it’s in perfect condition right now so if you want a place to have fun this is a good place to come.”
Also on the Beaver Creek Team is Director of Golf James “Jay Dee” Draper, a third generation golfer. His grandfather played professionally and his father, David Draper, was a scratch golfer right-handed and a single-digit golfer left-handed. Draper’s father was also the golf coach for Martinsville High School for many years.
Draper won the National Minority Collegiate Championship his freshman year at Johnson C. Smith University and the CIAA conference championship his sophomore year.
Draper is licensed by the United States Golf Teachers Federation, World Golf Teachers Federation, US KIDS GOLF, and the National Registry of Professional Golf Instructors. He is also the golf coach at Patrick & Henry Community College.
Instead of re-opening as Beaver Creek, Beaver Hills nearly became a solar farm when the gates closed and new operators could not be found.
“We advertised it, but no one accepted the offer,” said Ran Isley, who co-owns the property with Lester.
The only offer on the table was from a solar company with intentions of converting the golf course into a 120-acre solar facility that would have produced enough power to supply 4,000 houses.
But December 2020, the Henry County Board of Appeals of the plan with its special members in the prospectively denying and use permit requested by Lester and developers.
“Thankfully, Greg came along about a year after that and we’re thankful for having him here,” Isley said.
Haley thanked Isley, Lester and Lester Properties Commercial Leasing Manager Andrew Palmer.
“We are more than thrilled having Greg and Lee here,” said Palmer. “Everything came together and it all worked out.”
“He’s the one that made this possible,” said Lester of Haley. “It’s kind of like a dream to be able to come back and be open again. Even the weather, I think the Good Lord contributed that today.”
Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 2360. Follow him @billdwyatt.