Last fall, the final rounds echoed through the rolling hills of South Hills Country Club, a historic golf course with retro charm in Franksville, Wisconsin. Established in 1927, this public track (not to be confused with the private South Hills Golf and Country Club in Fond du Lac, which is still in operation) boasted an 18-hole, par-72 course spanning over 6,300 yards from the back tees.
Situated approximately 20 miles from the Illinois border in Racine County, the course was part of Wisconsin’s golfing history for almost 100 years. The property itself had a storied past, once owned by Sea Captain Parker, a Scotchman who established a farm and homestead on the land in 1846. When the property transformed into a golf course, Captain Parker’s house became the original part of the clubhouse, complete with whispers of the sea captain’s ghost haunting the dirt-floor basement.
Over the years, South Hills underwent various management changes and updates. Countless rounds were played, including outings and leagues. Numerous weddings and events were held in the banquet hall. Many a fish fry were consumed at the bar and grill.
Unfortunately, the course closed its doors in late 2023, marking the end of an era.
Alexander Hintz, member of Hintz Real Estate Development Company, which owns South Hills, and who previously worked as South Hills’ general manager, told the Racine Journal Times that the family decided to close the course because of staffing challenges “and a general downturn in golf turnout over the last few years.”
Future plans for the site have not yet been made public, but South Hills began to divest its assets in November.
A sale conducted online by Hansen Auction Group auctioned off a wide variety of items, ranging from golf carts, mowers and other golf equipment to 8-foot long murals, a commercial freezer and other bar and restaurant equipment. Amid the eclectic offerings, one iconic piece caught my eye — an old Par Aide Ball Washer.
These classic golf accessories, once fixtures at South Hills, were up for grabs, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I envisioned a unique yet practical yard decoration, making it a perfect Christmas gift for my golf enthusiast father. While not as inexpensive as some other auction finds, the ball washer proved to be a bargain at $110 compared to its retail price of several hundred bucks.
Camped out in front of my laptop like a Swiftie trying to get Eras Tour tickets, my strategic bidding unfolded. Despite outbid notices and nail-biting waiting periods, I emerged victorious, paving the way for a new adventure— the retrieval of my golf course relic.
Upon securing my prize, reality set in — the vintage ball washer required more than a touch of TLC. What followed was a challenging restoration project that tested my DIY skills. I’ll spare you the details, but from calls to Par Aide headquarters in Minnesota to enlisting the help of a golf pro friend and navigating hardware store aisles, the journey unfolded with broken drill bits, red-stained shoes, and a Christmas week miracle, courtesy of the kind souls at O’Gorman’s West Towne Auto in Wauwatosa. (Yes, auto. Don’t ask.)
Numerous times I considered that it might have been much simpler to buy a brand-new ball washer. I know it certainly would’ve saved me hours of frustration and time.
But in the end, despite the unexpected hurdles, the result was worth the effort.
The restored Par Aide Ball Washer now stands proudly in my dad’s backyard, looking as good as new. And the beauty is that it’s more than just a functional piece of equipment. It’s a piece of Wisconsin golf history, a simple reminder of the shared joys found here on our fairways — and a quirky tale to share. While purchasing a brand-new ball washer might have been the easier choice, it wouldn’t have carried the history woven into this unique piece. Through it, the memory of South Hills lives on.
Caitlin Moyer is a veteran communications and marketing professional specializing in creative ideas, social media, marketing, branding, public relations and writing. She writes a monthly column for Wisconsin.Golf. Have a question, comment or idea for an upcoming article? Email Caitlin@CaitlinMoyer.com or follow her on instagram @CaitlinMoyer.