Aiming For Green

New owner, manager determined to revive Hanover, Ind., golf course

Former Spring Hills is now Butler Falls Golf Course

HANOVER, Ind. (June 2017) – When Mel Adams started building the Spring Hills Golf Course in Hanover, Ind., in 2000, there were 60-70 cattle and four acres of tobacco on the property. A few years later, he sold the property to Keith Thorne. When Thorne died, Adams came back and managed the course for a year before the bank put the property up for sale.
That is when Hanover resident and pro fisherman Wes Thomas stepped into the picture. “My friend, Dean Ford, said ‘Why don’t you run it? The town of Hanover needs to keep this’ ”
Ford said that if Thomas would run it, then he would buy it. Thomas replied, “If you can buy it, I’ll do it.”

Photo by John Sheckler

Pictured in the foreground (from left) are Mel Adams and Wes Thomas, who has recently become manager of the newly renamed Butler Falls Golf Course in Hanover, Ind.

Five minutes later, Ford called Thomas back and said, “You better get here from the fishing tourney. You got a golf course to run. It doesn’t need to be torn up or go back to a cattle farm.”
Ford changed the name to Butler Falls Golf Course, and Thomas has turned his attention from fishing to golf as the course’s new manager.
As a fisherman, Thomas used to travel all over the country for tournaments. But for the last few years, he has stayed closer to Kentucky for weekend tourneys. He participates in 30 tourneys each year.
He and four friends are the members of “Team Hoosier.” In one recent tournament, they won top prize by catching 719 pounds of fish. There were 56 teams fishing for eight hours in that tournament.
His corporate sponsors were the National Fuji team, Indiana National Guard and Evinrude Motors.
When Thomas arrived at the golf course, he found sparse furnishings. “All that was here in the clubhouse were a few chairs and a table,” he said. “The only equipment was a bush hog style mower. You can get educated really quick when you start calling people saying you need mowers and golf carts. I always thought farming was expensive when you buy stuff, but when say ‘golf course,’ the price shoots up.”
He enlisted the help of his son, Cory Thomas.
“We went to mowing it from the ground up,” said Thomas. “This was never a championship course, but you can come and play a round and enjoy it.”
Thomas talked to the members to see what they felt was needed.
“It has not been easy, but we made great strides,” he said. “It is a struggle, and we have a long way to go. We have four employees plus me and my son.”
The club has 40 paid members.

Photo by John Sheckler

Wes Thomas stands by a golf cart bridge at Butler Falls Golf Course. He and his team are working to improve the course in hopes of luring back former members.

“We need 75 members, “said Thomas. “The list is growing. People are starting to come back. We have Southwestern High School, and the Hanover College women’s team.
“Hanover College has always come,” said Thomas.
“They liked it as a home course before it got too bad to play.”
The course has scrambles from groups like the retired employees of the Jefferson Proving Ground, and MainSource Bank. They also had the inaugural Hanover Open.
“I like scrambles because we can push Hanover,” Thomas added. “We really believe this is an asset for the town.”
Adams lives at the edge of the course.
“Mel will help with anything we need to do,” said Thomas. “We don’t envision this to be a cash cow. We are happy just to keep our head above water. I couldn’t do it without the help of my son and the staff.”
“I’ll be 82 soon,” said Adams. “They are working hard to do the job. I am here to do whatever I can.”
Thomas and his son still grow peaches at the 900-acre Reed’s Orchard. 
“My son is the fifth generation at growing peaches,” he said. “Cory takes care of the greens and mows the fairways. He also does the spraying.”
“It will take a while to get everything the way I want it,” said Thomas. “I told the members it didn’t go bad overnight. We can’t fix it overnight, either.”
“We don’t have a Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson out here, so we try to keep it as economical as we can. Someone can play a round with a cart for $23. We have student rates.”
The course caters to students and retired people with a low budget. A husband and wife membership is $550 year, and it is only $100 for a student. Thomas said he plans to lower prices in June.
“It is a friendly place,” he said. “We have a big room that can be rented out for parties like birthdays and baby showers.”
“It’s a team effort, and we got a pretty good team,” said Dan Turner, who also lives adjacent to the course. “We are really appreciative that Wes is stepping up to take over. It is good for the course and good for the town.”
“There are not many days Dan is not doing something.” said Thomas. “He will come out at 8 p.m. and put carts in the barn.”
“I know we have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Cory Thomas. “I am not afraid of hard work. We can bring it back to playable condition pretty quickly. We cleaned a lot of tree stumps and rocks.”

• For more information about Butler Falls Golf Course, call (812) 806-1833.

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