Golfing greats building in WNC

Golfing greats building in WNC

August 8, 2007 12:15 am

ASHEVILLE — Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson and Tom Kite.
A dream foursome? A collection of golfing greats? A reunion of major championship winners?
Yes to all of the above, but that quartet of links legends — along with famed architect Tom Fazio — also are designing new golf course developments in Western North Carolina.

And perhaps you can now add the most famous name in golf and perhaps in all of sports - Tiger Woods, who according to published reports is going to design a course at The Cliffs at High Carolina in Fairview.

In an area already covered with quality mountain golf at more than 50 courses, a suddenly booming market includes some of the greatest names in the game and nearly a dozen projects either recently completed, under construction or in the planning process.

“This is a beautiful area of the country with incredible scenery,” said Nicklaus, who has two highly regarded WNC courses open (The Cliffs at Walnut Cove just south of Asheville and Elk River in Banner Elk) and is currently working on Bear Lake Reserve in Cashiers and Queens Gap near Lake Lure.

“When you get this kind of land that is just so natural for a golf course, your chief mission is to just not mess it up,” said Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 major championships.
Woods is currently working on his first course in Dubai; High Carolina would be his first U.S. design.

The legendary Palmer built his first WNC course — Cullasaja Club in Highlands — about 20 years ago, but is now entrenched in this area.

The scenic Balsam Mountain Preserve near Waynesville opened for play this summer, and work has begun on White Oak in Polk County and Seven Falls Golf & River Club in Etowah, which will feature a 60-foot waterfall and gorgeous rolling farmland.

Fazio so fell in love with this area while designing Wade Hampton CC in Cashiers in the 1980s that he made his home in Hendersonville.

He is the architect of such highly acclaimed local layouts as Champion Hills Country Club in Hendersonville, Diamond Creek in the Linville area and the recently opened Mountaintop in Cashiers.

Fazio also recently unveiled the first 18 holes at Bright’s Creek in Polk County. Another 36 holes are planned on the 4,000-acre property near Mill Spring.

Mickelson’s first foray into golf course design is River Rock Golf Club, part of a 3,500-acre development planned near Lake Glenville in Cashiers. Plans also include a nine-hole course (King’s Grant) designed by noted golf coach Rick Smith.

Kite is designing Ginn Laurelmor, scheduled to open in 2009, on 6,000 acres between Boone and Blowing Rock.

“We think this is a great market for golf,” Palmer said during a recent visit to Seven Falls. “People are flocking to this area because it is such a wonderful place to live, and we want to give them some great golf courses to play.”

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