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Concord Golf Club Chattanooga Photos

A half century ago, Dan Tribble Sr. – who died June 18 – was an air traffic controller in Chattanooga.

At that time, more disposable income and more leisure time were becoming characteristics of American society. So, he probably noticed that more people were starting to fly commercially.

He also realized that more people were playing golf. Although golf had once been a sport primarily of the elite, Arnold Palmer and his makeshift swing ushered in an age beginning in the late 1950s when the game started appealing to the masses.

But in Chattanooga in the late 1950s, Brainerd was the only public course available. The other facilities were private and required membership dues. Public resort courses in the area – such as the current Bear Trace at Harrison Bay State Park – were also non-existent at that time.

Mr. Tribble Sr. and some of his work colleagues who liked to play golf began assessing the situation. “A bunch of guys he worked with said that somebody needed to open another public golf course,” recalled Dan Tribble Jr. this week. “So he took that idea and ran with it.”

What would eventually result would be two public courses – Concord and Hickory Valley, the latter of which has been in the news recently with the announcement that the city is buying it for $1.2 million.

But when Mr. Tribble Sr. decided to pursue building a public course, he first had to find some land. In March 1960, he leased some acreage from horse enthusiast Dave L. Brown. In late August 1960, the nine-hole Concord Golf Club was opened and began operating as the second public course in town.

As the years passed, the Tribble family began taking steps to buy the tract from Mr. Brown. But he became ill and later died. Other family members could not come to an agreement over whether to sell or lease the property, so Mr. Tribble and his son began looking for a place where they could build – and own – a course.

They found it off Hickory Valley Road. The land, which they bought in January 1968, was a farm that had belonged to Andrew Swafford. Mr. Tribble Jr. remembered that the acreage had miles of barbed wire and at least two barns that had to be taken down.

On June 13, 1969, the course opened as Hickory Valley Golf Course. Within a few months, the Tribbles ended their lease with Concord and the Brown family to focus strictly on Hickory Valley.

Concord was eventually sold and has changed ownership several times in the years since then. It has also been expanded into 18 holes.

Also, Brown Acres later opened as an additional public course on another part of the former Brown farm.

The Tribble family, including grandson Dan Tribble III, has continued to run Hickory Valley for more than 38 years.

But this year will be the last. As part of the city of Chattanooga’s plans for the land, the creek/ditch that runs through the course will be rebuilt to help with flood control. The remaining 28-acre section will be used by the First Tee organization.

First Tee plans to construct an instructional practice range, as well as three holes.

As a result, the nine-hole Hickory Valley Golf Course will cease to exist.

Mr. Tribble Jr., a PGA professional and president of the family corporation that has owned Hickory Valley, said a contract for the city to buy the land was just recently signed. The Trust for Public Land had been negotiating with him on the city’s behalf, he said.

The closing on the sale is expected to take place in January. The last day on which the course will be open for play as Hickory Valley will be around Dec. 31, said Mr. Tribble, whose son, Dan III, has also been involved heavily in the course’s operation.

Mr. Tribble said he had not actually been looking to sell the land, which is near Tyner Academy and not too far from Hamilton Place Mall. The number of offers had increased since about 2000, he said, but this was the first time a serious offer agreeable to him had been made.

He was contacted on behalf of the city of Chattanooga approximately a year ago, he said.

Part of the reason for selling the land now, Mr. Tribble said, is his age. “I will be 62 on Nov. 27,” he said. “It is time for me to do something else.”

But helping run public golf courses since he was a youngster has certainly been fulfilling, he added

“It’s been very enjoyable,” said Mr. Tribble.

Although Hickory Valley as it appears now will cease to exist, Mr. Tribble Sr.’s dream dating to 1960 of having a place for junior golfers to play will continue with the First Tee plans.

For years, Hickory Valley hosted premier local junior tournaments, Mr. Tribble said.

“My dad enjoyed kids getting an opportunity to play there,” Mr. Tribble Jr. said.

And plenty of others from all walks of life had chances to play golf at Hickory Valley as well.

Jcshearer2@comcast.net