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Maxwell Golf Group growing along with sport’s surge

RIDGELAND – With a recent flurry of golf course construction and redesign activity, the timing has been superb for Maxwell Golf Group, the only full-service, golf-course architecture firm based in Mississippi.

“Golf in Mississippi is growing at an enormous pace,” said Frank M. “Max” Maxwell, owner of Maxwell Golf Group. “Casinos have spurred growth in golf that is unprecedented, and it has provided a great opportunity for golfers in Mississippi to play these great golf courses that are coming on line. And by having new courses on line, older courses have renovated to keep up. It has created a good environment for my business, resulting in work in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.”

Even rural Mississippi has been impacted by the increase in golf activity, said Nathan Crace, senior design associate for Maxwell Golf Group.

“Many people might have thought rural communities would be the last place to find golf courses but that’s not so,” Crace said. “In Covington County, they recently built a golf course that fills the niche. The people that play golf there don’t necessarily want a big clubhouse and expensive greens fees. They just want to play golf.”

A million bucks or more can be spent on sod alone, Crace said.

At Brookhaven Country Club, Maxwell faced a challenge with turning 40 acres into a nine-hole course and renovating the existing nine-hole course, which was achieved in part with a contrast of native grasses, large mounds and strategic bunkering. Maxwell opted to design a par 70 layout with four par-five’s and six par-three’s rather than a shorter-than-average par 72 layout. On a par-four, par-five hole, he designed perhaps the only double green in the state on a 15,000-square-foot green.

“Par five’s and par three’s are what make golf fun,” Crace said. “And a challenging par 70 with this combination of holes is more fun than a short par 72 with 10 par-four’s. Max is big on making golf fun. If a golf course beats you up, you don’t want to come back to play. When golfers get off No. 18 and can’t wait to do it again, that’s what Max wants.”

Last year, 99% of the members at Hattiesburg Country Club in Hattiesburg, site of the Magnolia Classic, predecessor to the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, voted to close the golf course – originally designed and built by Press Maxwell in 1959 – and totally restructure it.

“Hattiesburg Country Club has a deep history, and it was time to renovate regardless of other golf courses in the area,” Maxwell said.

HCC’s grand re-opening on Oct. 29 was overshadowed by the memorial service for golf great Payne Stewart, whose first PGA tour victory was at the Magnolia Classic in 1982.

A moment of silence in remembrance of Stewart was held during the ribbon cutting and clubhouse flags were flown at half mast. Stewart died in a plane crash Oct. 25.

“It’s strange how such a special person can touch the lives of people throughout the world even 17 years later,” said Crace.

Compassion, attention to detail and consummate professionalism are characteristics that have spurred the growth of Maxwell Golf Group.

“We’ve grown from two employees in 1993 to a high of 128 employees last summer,” Maxwell said. Key staffers listed on the company’s Web site at www.maxwellgolf.com include Crace, golf course superintendent and senior agronomy associate William C. “Cal” Hill and PGA professionals Jay R. Dill, Chris Jester and Terry Wilbanks.

Maxwell, a certified golf course superintendent, grew up in the golfing business.

After his dad gave him a choice between working in the family business or working on his golf game, Maxwell chose golf.

When he wasn’t playing collegiate golf, Maxwell worked in a pro shop at Vicksburg Country Club, and was employed by Warren County during construction of Clear Creek Municipal Golf Course.

After graduation from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy-turf grass management, Maxwell served as an assistant superintendent at Jackson Country Club. After a year, he headed to Florida and worked with renowned golf course architect Pete Dye on several redesign and reconstruction projects before returning to Jackson Country Club for a 10-year stint as head superintendent during its four-year, 27-hole renovation program.

“As a golf course superintendent, I just felt like there was something else out there,” he said. “I’ve always loved design, and our company does design, construction and management. I never could have done any of it without the support of my wife, Lee, and our family. It’s taken many, many long hours.”

These days, Maxwell hits the links at Caroline Golf Course in Madison County, which he designed and constructed, or The Refuge in Flowood, one of the three golf courses the company manages.

Maxwell Golf Group also manages golf courses at LeFleur’s Bluff State Park and Sunset Landing in Huntsville, Ala.

Current projects include a Scottish links-style course at Copper Mill Golf Club near Baton Rouge, which includes an 880-yard, par-6 hole on No. 14.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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