Photo by Corinne Nicholson
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Chuck Underwood grew up on a golf course.
He was born in 1959, the same year a group of Atlanta golfers bought land in Lawrenceville from his great uncle to create the Castle View Town and Country Club.
By 1964, the original owners, who had built nine holes and a clubhouse, couldn't pay the note, so the land went back to the family.
That's when Underwood's father Charlie took over, building the back nine and creating Northwood Country Club -- the county's first private country club. Both Underwood and the club celebrate their 50th birthdays this year.
"Nowadays they build golf courses to sell houses. That's not the case here," Underwood said, adding that feature helps make the course walkable. "It's a pretty place. When you turn in the gates, you are kind of in your own little world."
The club is now owned by ClubCorp and also has tennis courts and a junior Olympic-size swimming pool.
But it's been a family tradition for many Gwinnettians, not just Underwood, who has been golf course superintendent for 37 years and whose father worked there until his retirement several years ago.
John Raterman's membership at Northwood began when his wife signed him up as a Valentine's gift.
Eventually, the course became a way to connect their family.
Raterman began playing with his daughters, one of whom now attends college on a golf scholarship.
"There's not a club around that's more family friendly," he said. "She's my golf buddy. I miss golfing with her."
Aline Cook, who is now the country club's board president, took up golfing with her husband in 1988.
"It was something we wanted to do together," she said. "We've made some really close friends here."
"We're all one big happy family," Underwood said of the staff and the members.
The members decorate their carts during the Valentine, Halloween and Christmas seasons, and the kids often grow up to be golfers.
In fact, the course's assistant golf pro, Kelly Huff, started playing at Northwood when he was 4 years old.
"I would get out here at 8 a.m. and my parents would pick me up at 8 (p.m.)," said Huff, a former Parkview High School standout. "It's a course you can play every day and not get tired of it. ... I never got tired of it."