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South Wales Golf Course closes for season, maybe forever

Wednesday, Oct. 1 | By Peter Brewington
JEFFERSONTON — It was another beautiful day of golf at South Wales Golf Course, and when it ended, there was sadness and reality.

This country course known for its scenery and low prices, closed for the season, and perhaps for good on Sunday, Sept. 28. Owner Ken Thompson is considering his options.

The prospect of South Wales' last day and gorgeous weather brought a bumper turnout: 30 cars and pickup trucks were in the lot at 3:30 p.m., testifying to the success of the day. “The things I’ve been hearing all day. It’s a sad day after 40 years," said co-manager Deb Proper.

Golfers echoed her view.

“Yes, we’re gonna miss it!” said Kenny Soutter of Culpeper, who called himself one of the regulars.

It didn't take Soutter or his buddy, Trevor Rollison of Brandy Station, long to wax nostalgic about the joys of South Wales, and even propose a business plan. “What if we if got a thousand people and they all put in $20,000 each?" said Soutter.

He sounded serious about wanting to preserve this local course located in Culpeper County not far from the Fauquier County border.

"I said if I hit the lottery I would want to buy this place. We could add another nine holes and open the pool back up,” said Soutter, referencing the old days of South Wales in the 1960s, when the sprawling property thrived and was a more prestigious course, playing longer and harder with high quality sand traps and bunkers.

Soutter's buddy, Rollison, who totes a distinctive Washington Redskins golf bag, said the potential closing of South Wales is also hitting him hard. “There’s so much wildlife here. There aren’t a lot of courses like it,” he said.

Rollison named Rapidan Golf Course in Locust Grove as the closest in spirit to the beauty and affordability of South Wales.

Almost all the golfers knew the course was closing. Like a death in the family, word spread quickly in mid-September.

“I do hate to see it go, it’s convenient,” said Chuck Ragland, who comes over from Stafford. “I love the setting. The maintenance has gone a little downhill, but you can’t have a more beautiful setting.”

Golfers arrived late into the afternoon, including a father and daughter pairing, and a man with a pull cart wanting one last trip around the picturesque links.

Proper said she will miss her job and the working relationship with the regulars. “I feel bad for all the golfers. This is my seventh season here,” she said.

As the departing golfers headed to the distinctive gravel parking lot adjacent to the course's casual driving range, Proper chatted with them from South Wales' long wraparound front porch. The "Course Closed" sign on the clubhouse door was turned. Proper and another employee still had some golf carts to wash off, and some bookkeeping to do.

For the record, the last golfer on the course Sunday was this reporter, accompanied by his wife and a Fauquier Times free-lance photographer, neither of whom played. They finished around 6:20 p.m., just behind Soutter and Rollison.

The three final golfers then posed on the 18th green for a ceremonial photograph. Soutter said he had the best round of his life, shooting 83 to top his previous best of 86.

“I’m saving this,” he said, displaying his scorecard that revealed a 41 on the front and 42 on the back.
Rollison topped that, carding a 79 that featured a 38 on the back.

After dropping their carts off, the golfers strolled past Proper on the way out. You could feel her wistfulness, too. “It was a good day," said Proper of the turnout. "Too bad it’s a day late and a dollar short.”

Another golfer went to his car and came back up the hill with his cell phone. He paused at the putting green to take a photo, then moved to a hill above the 18th green to take another, then swiveled to get a nice shot back at the clubhouse.

The course may not reopen and he wanted a tangible physical memory to cherish.

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