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Crossing over to the enemy: Southern Hills golf community

I guess there's no way around it: I'm a hypocrite.

I've spent years blasting away at the Southern Hills golf community on the south edge of Brooksville.

At its development agreement — a gift from the not-so-rich taxpayers of Brooksville to the then-loaded developer, Jacksonville's LandMar LLC.

At its nervy attempt to sell itself as part of historic Brooksville. It's new, not old, no matter how hard it tries to look that way; plus it's 3 miles south of downtown and sealed off from the rest of the city by a guarded gate.

At the outrageous decision by that same marketing department to adopt the name Southern Hills Plantation Club, a celebration of leisure created by slavery. Why would a legacy of chains and beatings make people want to relax?

Yep, I detested all that stuff about Southern Hills.

And now I'm a member.

I don't know if I can justify this, but here's how I try:

My wife is a business person for whom features such as a restaurant with spectacular views of the fairways and, on a clear day, most of western Hernando come in handy. Suppliers need to be entertained, staffers rewarded.

And as she's pulled me up toward, though definitely not into, the class of entrepreneurs who run things around here, Southern Hills has become more democratic.

Dues for golf memberships were crippling to some of the unfortunate folks who originally bought lots there. Now a special promotion offers a free social membership for 90 days and then monthly rates only about 50 percent higher than my wife and I were paying at a local fitness club.

For that we get access to a gym, restaurant, tennis courts, a very nice pool for my previously landlocked kids — no public pool in Hernando, remember? — and a changing room with mind-blowing luxuries like free mouthwash. (Dispensed in disposable, thimble-sized cups, so it's more sanitary than it sounds.)

From the inside, I haven't seen much evidence of the "plantation'' theme. At any rate, it's not prominent enough to discourage the several black members I've met. And while we're on the subject of inclusiveness, Southern Hills allowed lesbian friends of mine to join as a couple several years ago when the bigots at other clubs in Hernando turned them down.

Finally, nobody likes waste.

Southern Hills came along too early, was too big, too arrogant in its plan to draw enough rich people to fill up 999 lots. County tax rolls show only 82 of the lots have homes on them now.

But only a fool would want it to stay that way.

Compared to the 5,800-unit Quarry Preserve planned for 6 miles northwest of Brooksville, Southern Hills looks pretty compact. The membership deals have brought more people to see the pool and clubhouse, with the hope that some of them will build homes.

It's close enough to town that any new residents will shop and eat in Brooksville. You can imagine a bored retiree deciding to start a business there and maybe even answering our prayers by opening a first-class downtown restaurant — with wine, open at night. There's a lot invested in Southern Hills, and investment can beget more investment. That's how us business types see it.

I have to say, though, it still feels a little strange when I drive up to the gate, and the security guard actually waves me in.

Crossing over to the enemy: Southern Hills golf community 08/03/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 6:35pm]
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