Bringing It Back – New president of Mallard Pointe Golf Course wants a return to former glory
Published 8:20 am Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Slowly, but surely, the once nationally acclaimed Mallard Pointe Golf Course, is being returned to playable condition, and beyond, if new president and manager Chris Sparks has his way.
“I remember when Mallard Pointe first opened and it was on the Top 10 list of new courses to play in Golf Digest,” Sparks said. “That was in its heyday and I want to take it back to that level.”
What Sparks and his crew of employees has accomplished this summer is remarkable.
The course was closed in November of last year when the State of Mississippi, specifically the Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, chose to not renew the contract of operation with the former managers.
The state seemed content to close the golf course, built on 150 acres next to Sardis Lake more than two decades ago, until State Sen. Nicole Boyd, along with Joe Azar and the Panola Partnership office, pushed hard for the DWFP to take proposals for operation of the course and the two rental villas on the property.
Sparks’ proposal was accepted and he was given a five-year lease. When he took possession of the course and grounds the grass was 16 inches tall in some places and greens had been neglected for months.
“We now have the grass at the right height, or close to it, and our greens are in pretty good condition,” he said. “If we could have gotten equipment faster we would be even further along, but it’s been a challenge trying to find the tools we need with the economy like it is. We finally have our green mower, tee mower, and top dresser for the greens. That helped us tremendously.”
Basic golf course equipment, including tractors and sprayers, were hard to find, and he’s still waiting on a range picker, beverage cart, and delivery of 65 golf carts.
“Golf carts were very hard to find, but we got a good deal for carts from Mirimichi (in Millington, TN) and those will be here soon. Their new carts will be delivered soon and then those are headed this way,” Sparks said. “We were lucky to find them and they are in good shape. They are all electric and we will get new batteries and service them in time for the opening.”
Sparks, who has worked in and around golf courses since he was a teen, said his high hopes for Mallard Pointe aren’t unrealistic.
“This is a great course and golfers know it,” he said. “When word got out we were working and people saw mowers running and sprinklers running the phone started ringing.”
There is currently a membership drive underway (club dues will be an average of the area) and a new website will soon be up that will allow members to begin booking tee times ahead of the September opening.
Sparks has a long list of projects, but is enthusiastic about the future of the course. There are water leaks to fix, grass to attend, cart path repairs, club house upgrades, and dozens more.
“We won’t be perfect this year, but we will be playable,” he said. “I’m asking folks to hang in there for a year with us and they will be amazed what this course can become.”
High on his list for fall and winter repair work are the conditions of the bunkers. Sparks said he will completely rework those around the course, including digging them to proper depth, doing sides and edge work, and bringing in “real bunker white sand” from Georgia.
Long range plans may bring back the Academy Course – a nine hole practice course with shorter distances designed for golf instruction and for beginners wanting to learn the game. It was built in the middle of the main course, but now abandoned.
“Somewhere along the line somebody decided they didn’t want to maintain it and they let it go,” Sparks said. “That’s probably two million dollars grown up out there.”
In may be a few years before the course will be ready to host major amateur championships, but Sparks believes with patience and steady work, Mallard Pointe can once again be a golf destination.
“The people are calling and ready and we are anxious to get them out here,” he said.