GALLIPOLIS — They arrive in town every year at about this time. This year there were 36 of them, but there have been as many as 52. It may be coincidence those are both multiples of four, but probably not. That’s because this is a group of friends from northern Ohio that visit Gallipolis every year to spend five days playing golf and having fun. Now in its fifteenth year running, it’s a tradition that is fondly remembered and anticipated by the visitors and their hosts alike.
It began in Holmes County, in the heart of Amish country, 20 years ago. A group of guys who knew each other from a local softball league decided that a long weekend, a road trip and a lot of golf sounded like the perfect way to spend a spring weekend. For a few years, they put their plan into action in Washington County, but eventually the group outgrew that location.
“As we started getting older, we started playing less softball and more golf. We play 36 holes Thursday, Friday and Saturday and another 18 on Sunday,” said Terry Carlton, acknowledged leader of the group.
A friend who also roams the links told Carlton he should have a look at Cliffside Golf Club, which he did, driving down the next weekend. Carlton spoke with Bobby Kincaid, then the club’s pro, and that was the beginning of a relationship that is still going strong.
“We just love coming down here,” Carlton said last weekend. “It’s better weather. We really are treated great by everyone here, especially Jake [Hall, current club pro] and his wife. We can’t say enough about how much we like it.”
It may be easy to see why some courses might find the demands of the group tough to meet. During their time here, they played a total of 4,536 holes of golf. On some days, the 1,296 holes of golf doubled because the group occasionally plays in mixed foursomes with local players. All that golf adds up. By the time their visit is over, the tab for the group in green fees alone comes to more than $5,000. But that’s just the beginning.
Every time they visit, the group books about 20 hotel rooms at the William Ann Hotel for the duration of their stay. Then there’s the matter of feeding everyone and of course keeping them properly hydrated. The Courtside Bar and Grill, Hogg Haven and Uncle Kenny’s are the popular choices for food and various forms of liquid refreshment. But though they are known to enjoy adult beverages, the group keeps a lid on the fun.
“We just want to come into town and have a fun time, and we do,” said Bob Boss, who has made the trip every year since they began. “We love coming here, and there are a lot more who want to come, but Terry is pretty selective about who gets the invitation.”
According to Carlton, the rules are very simple: no trouble, and if there is any, it’s one strike and they are out. Given who makes up the group, the rules don’t get used much. This year, no one in the group is under 30 and roughly half of them are over 50. Apart from their ages, the troupe is made up from a wide cross section of professions. Carlton worked in nuclear power, his good friend Boss is a bank president and other members include factory workers and truck drivers.
The group is even diverse when it comes to how much they each enjoy golf. Some of them play every chance they get, on weekends, with their wives and any time throughout the year when they feel like the weather will allow them a quick round. Other members perhaps play once or twice a year, including the rounds at Cliffside. The one thing they all agree on is how much they enjoy the yearly trip to Gallipolis.
“Every one of us has a great time, and we can never say enough how good everyone here in town treats us,” Carlton said. “Anyone who makes the trip with us once wants to keep coming back again and again.”