Brooks West continues transforming Franklin Bridge
When Brooks West took ownership of Franklin Bridge Golf Club in Franklin, Tenn., on January 1, he did so with the intention of turning the only public 18-hole golf course in the county into a “public country club.” To some, that may have signaled massive change – and rightly so – but in this case, not all change is bad.
West is a lifelong golfer who saw an opportunity for positive change, and when he bought Franklin Bridge, he began to realize how big that opportunity really was.
“Coming in here with amazing bones the course had, with the location and the layout and the river and the bridge and the people, I really don’t think what I’m doing is that special,” he says. “I don’t think I’m that special. This place is special. I’m just trying to be a good steward of that opportunity.”
West talks of owning Franklin Bridge like a privilege. As with any owner, he has his eye on profit and revenues and all the nuances of maintaining a business, but to him, Franklin Bridge is a special place with special people both operating and frequenting it.
And, of course, being the only public 18-hole course in a thriving Middle Tennessee county, West wants to offer an experience for local golfers that they can’t get elsewhere, and an experience deserving of the residents of Williamson County.
“Williamson County is known for quality – quality schools, quality roads, quality homes. It’s not an inexpensive place to live,” he says. “People come here because they want a great lifestyle. My goal is to try to give them that. Elevating the overall experience to what I’ve unofficially tagged as ‘Williamson County’s public country club.’ We’re getting the feedback that people feel that way and certainly that’s what we set out to do.”
Much of that feedback references the changes West has implemented and overseen in his brief time as owner of Franklin Bridge. Already he’s changed out the course’s aging golf cart complement with a new fleet. He’s executed capital improvements on the course itself, including fixing drainage issues and eliminating overgrowth. He’s flipped the nines for a more enjoyable playing experience, and now the clubhouse has a new look and feel.
“The entire clubhouse is completely renovated,” he explains. “We’re done with everything. The pub is open. The hallway is finished. The pro shop is finished. The outside of the clubhouse is painted and has new landscaping. It’s done. I’m excited about it.”
The new pub is more than a footnote in the renovation work West’s team has done with the clubhouse. Dubbed the Persimmon Pub, the new bar area is what West calls a “local watering hole” already.
“The pub is sort of another step down that path where when people get done, they come in and they know the bartenders and the bartenders know them and have a drink and tally up the bets,” he adds. “It’s a place you want to hang out.”
Fittingly, the name of the pub matches the new interior – persimmon wood adorns the entire bar, the paneling, the shelving. Long used in golf clubs before giving way to manufactured metals, persimmon has a place in the lore of golf, and West wants that rich history to be a part of the heart of Franklin Bridge’s clubhouse.
Every improvement has been part of a bigger plan, which is still in its infancy. Small changes to larger ones, every single step West’s team is taking makes for an improved experience among its clientele.
“The feedback is overwhelmingly positive,” he says. “I hesitate to recount feedback because it starts to sound like bragging. The thing that was the most pleasant surprise for me is how much this place means to a lot of people. That has nothing to do with anything I’ve done. That’s because of the history and how long it’s been here. That dynamic was already at play when I got here. When I came in and took the place they already loved and poured a bunch of passion and energy and love into it, of course they’re going to like it.”
Big changes like the clubhouse improvements are nice, sure, but so is changing tee times from an eight-minute spacing to a 10-minute spacing, which West implemented this year. Pace of play has improved as a result, and the same can be said for the overall experience.
In the coming months, West plans to focus on training and development of kitchen staff to execute the soon-to-be-released menu that will include barbeque, wings, smoked sausages and other salty favorites, along with the typical club sandwiches and salads common to golf course eateries.
He’s also overseeing projects to remove nonnative trees and shrubbery to be replaced with specimen oak trees for the sake of visibility, playability and air flow. West says he wants the course to return to the river-bottom links-style course it was originally intended to be.
Whatever your opinion on each individual change and improvement, each speaks to the mission West is on. To him, it’s his duty to give the people a place they want to golf, time and time again.
“It’s a special place, and that’s not because of me,” he says. “It’s the only 18-hole public course in the middle of a thriving community. It’s just a unique opportunity, and hopefully I’m taking advantage of that opportunity and giving the people what they want.”
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