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The road back: Revamped RB Golf Club and Resort set for grand reopening

For the first time in seven years, RB Golf Club and Resort golf pro Tanner Tongate looks out on the 18-hole course in Runaway Bay and feels pride. Tongate has taught, off and on, as the head teaching pro at the course, formerly known as The Club at Runaway Bay, since 2012. He’s seen the course limp toward disrepair. He’s seen the former bent grass greens become unplayable. He’s listened to members complain without having the backing to give answers on a fix. Now, with new ownership and investment back into the course and its facilities, he’s seeing the golf club come back to life. “These guys coming in and re-doing the greens and all the improvements, it’s saving the life of this golf course,” Tongate said. “Back when James Wood owned this place, the club had 300 golf members. We know we have the potential to get back to that. It’s been done before. It’s just taking care of what we got and getting people to see we appreciate what we have. We have bigger and better visions for what this course can be.” RB Golf Club & Resort will puts its new foot forward with a grand re-opening, celebrating the improvements Tuesday through April 21 as golf season enters full swing. Since local entrepreneur Daniel Cocanougher purchased the club in 2018, the course has put in new greens, repaired irrigation systems and brought a new focus to details, like trimming trees and making the course more playable and aesthetically pleasing. Tongate said the improvements are as small as refreshing the paint on the tee box markers, but the attention to detail on the small things, in addition to larger undertakings has been a welcome sight for golfers. “People are seeing the improvement. We didn’t get any compliments before, we got complaints,” Tongate said. “We’re getting lots of compliments on the course now.” The first phase of the renovation for the golf course was the planting of new champion Bermuda grass, with a goal of restoring the greens. Club manager Richard Ray said the greens are in good shape and extensive repairs to the hydraulic irrigation system are ensuring the course stays in good condition. “It’s been like Christmas for our members,” Ray said. “This is our first off season, and we’ve been going to town.” Off the course, RB Golf Club has also taken the initiative to make the practice facility first-class. The course now features a new lit pavilion, outfitted with turf hitting bays and a vision of turning a portion of the range into a Top Golf-like experience. The practice facility will include lighting for nighttime use with eight covered bays and eight uncovered bays, with tables and chairs throughout the canopy for a social practice experience. The club is also in the process of finishing a chipping and pitching practice green to allow for every aspect of game improvement, something local high school golf coaches and Tongate have emphasized as a need for the course. “We’re just doing simple things to make this course better, a better experience,” Tongate said. “We’re doing the small things right.” The revamped RB Golf Club, the only 18-hole golf course in Wise County, has also brought improvements to the club house. The course has added a fitness center with treadmills, stationary bikes, cross trainers, rowing machines and free weights, making it the only workout facility in Runaway Bay. Perhaps the most stark improvement is the new Lakeview Tavern and Grill. Before, Ray said the club’s bar and restaurant offered a 1980s aesthetic with standard concession food, serving mainly hot dogs and hamburgers. Now, Ray said, after ‘down to the bone’ refurbishment and remodel, the club’s Lakeview Tavern and Grill has been fully redesigned, with a chef and dessert chef crafting a menu that offers a fine dining experience. “We would like this to be one of those destinations when people think of Wise County,” Ray said. “They know of gogo gumbo; we want people to also think of the Lakeview Tavern and Grill in Runaway Bay.” Tongate and Ray said many long term improvements are still in the works, but with golf season approaching, the club wanted to allow golfers to experience the new changes and improvements for a season and get back to work next winter. The improvements are a start, Tongate said, that represent an investment into the course that members haven’t seen in years. “Our members spent so long wishing that someone would come in here and save this place,” Tongate said. “Now, they know money is being spent, and they have that feeling that these guys are actually trying and investing back into the golf course. You can ask any member out here, what they think of James Wood when he owned this course, and they’ll tell you it was the best it ever was. James Wood was the person who renovated the club in the first place. Now that they’re seeing stuff being worked on and improved, they are as happy as it gets.”

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