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Zac Blair

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The Tree Farm Update
« on: December 23, 2021, 01:08:33 PM »
Heres my best attempt to give everyone an update about The Tree Farm ... A little backstory of how we got here

Virtually everyone on this site is familiar with my story of trying to build a destination golf club in Utah (The Buck Club). I spent a few years trying to make that project work ... ultimately it became apparent that TBC was an uphill battle (for now). There were several things I learned along the way including 1) land prices were high and the math didn't work to make it successful without some extremely deep pockets 2) construction costs were high due to the fact we would literally be creating most of the golf 3) seasonality of a club in Utah didn't make as much sense 4) location, unfortunately Utah doesn't allow for much drive by action for people traveling through ... with all this in mind I began looking at some other options. The one that made the most sense was to do another project on the east coast & more specifically something in the southeast.



Early 2020 after scouring the world wide web for a few months looking for sandy sites big enough to build a golf course I found one that looked promising. About a week into the COVID19 shutdown I was sitting in my office and all I could think was "if we could somehow get this property I know we could do it" ... so I called up a few friends and we booked flights to go take a look. We spent a couple days walking the property ... I had a couple stick routings and we were checking out these holes (wildly enough a few holes/fairways/greensites are pretty similar to what's being built). On the way home I remember thinking we need to get this property. A few days later we had the land under contract and a serendipitous event occurred - I got a message from a complete stranger, Jeff Warne, asking if the property we had under contract was (Jeff rattled off some local place/rd/pond name) and to be honest I had no if it was or wasn't the place he was referring too. I gave Jeff my number and told him to give me call the next day (I believe he was in Australia at the Renaissance Cup). On the call Jeff told me how he'd been looking at THAT property for a few years and was hoping to build a golf course with Tom Doak/Brian Schneider. This was a really cool moment for me ... I remember thinking okay if someone else was thinking this property in New Holland South Carolina of all places could be "golf" I guess we do in fact have a pretty cool site!


Fast forward to August 20, 2020 me and a small group of friends purchased the "Merry Land Tract" ... a pretty cool birthday present if I do say so myself!


At this point I was in weird position ... was this The Buck Club or something completely different? I landed on this project being a completely different one from TBC. It had a similar vision and a lot of the same ideas but I still wanted (and still want) build The Buck Club in Utah. TBC's vision has changed/evolved over the years and with everything I learned it seemed like a public course would make more sense than a destination private golf club. I look forward to following through on this!


--BACK TO THE TREE FARM--



Now we had a property but how do we build a golf course? ... another serendipities event occurred ... I was on my way to a golf trip and Will Smith had arranged for Kye Goalby to pick me up at the Atlanta airpot. I had met Kye earlier that year while he was working on Oakland Hills, but this was my first opportunity to really chat about my project outside of Aiken. I spent the entire car ride picking Kye's brain & asking him about the process of building a golf course. I'll never forget hearing Kye talk about the projects he has been apart of and I knew after that conversation he was the perfect person for The Tree Farm. After the golf trip we took a little detour out to the site for him to take a look... and over a few drinks at the Wilcox that night he offered to help out. That was really the domino that got everything else going.


A few days later we started working on the routing, it was apparent there were plenty of good holes out there. Seemingly each way you looked there was golf holes, but how do we make sure they all flow together! I felt like I could always get a really cool run of holes but I would then get stuck where I couldn't get out or I could get out of but it took a weak hole or two to get back to the good stuff. Kye  mentioned the routing is something we need to make sure we get right and suggested I reach out to Tom Doak and see if he was interested in helping out. The next day I got in touch with Tom and asked if it was something he'd be up for. (It was pretty cool timing because I had just finished reading "Getting to 18") If I remember correctly he gave me a few options 1) he could give me some suggestions with the routing I had been working on 2) he could lay out a few holes he thought would be really good and let me piece it together from that point 3) he could do the entire routing. It was an easy decision for me - getting one of the best to ever do it, to be in charge of the routing seemed like an awesome opportunity.


Tom asked me to write him a letter discussing some of my favorite courses & holes. He also wanted to hear what I was hoping for in the routing. I basically gave him carte blanche (I now Colin will love this I even italicized it) telling him I just wanted a fun, walkable routing with a lot of variety ... my only request was that 18 be a drivable par-4.


It was about this time last year when Tom started sending sneak peeks of the routing ... it started with holes 1, 2, 18 (they are a little different than whats being built today) ... attached to the sneak peek was a not from Tom "My first version had #1 as a par-3" immediately I began thinking how cool and different that would be. A few months later during our first site visit together I asked him why he changed #1 away from his original thought ... he responded with something along the lines of "I've never had a developer/owner let me do it before" ... he obviously didn't understand that he was dealing with someone who everyone thought was building a "fake golf course" for several years  ;)  I wasn't too worried what the people were going to think ... I loved the idea of starting with a one shotter. I can assure everyone you're definitely not going to forget #1 at The Tree Farm, a 175 yarder over a beautiful valley to a giant green with all sorts stuff happening on the green.


The entire routing process was so cool to see develop ... people often ask me what was the difference between my routing and Tom's ... the best way I can describe it is - I feel like I found a lot of cool holes but it was always like "what kinda green do we build here?" and with Tom's routing it was very apparent what to build on the greens. Almost all of them were just kinda sitting there.
There was a few edits made after the site visit including changing one back to a par 3. A few of the edited holes will certainly be memorable, 13 immediately comes to mind.


It has now been just over a year since me and Tom started chatting about the routing. A lot has happened in that time and the construction is off to a great start.


Kye Goalby and the crew (Ben Warren, Matt Smallwood & Eamon Sullivan) started in early November and have roughed in holes 13, 14, 15, 16, 18 and 1. It has been AMAZING to watch the transformation from raw woods to golf. These guys are so talented and have done an awesome job executing the ideas we've talked about. I must say I love discussing golf with Kye - it seems like every idea I bring up he's either been there or worked on the course. Something Kye mentioned in our very first conversation has stuck with me ... he just likes building cool golf and I've given him total freedom to do so. I'm so excited to get back to the site after the New Year and get started on the rest of the course.


We are looking to finish up shaping early next summer - irrigation is scheduled to start sometime in January with the hopes of starting the grassing process late spring. If everything stays on schedule we should be playing some "preview" golf in spring of 2023 (I will undoubtably be sneaking out a year from now to get in a few holes)


The entire project has been so amazing ... We have a great team & an awesome group of Founders that love golf and believe in the project just like I do. We recently started inviting our first batch of Members and hope to have that finished up in 2022! Thanks to everyone that is involved - so many people have helped me along the way.


Tom Bacsanyi

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2021, 01:21:05 PM »
Good stuff Zac, glad you found a way to make it happen.


How many founders do you have?


Have you made the grassing spec decisions? If so what are those?



Don't play too much golf. Two rounds a day are plenty.

--Harry Vardon

Jeff_Mingay

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2021, 01:22:10 PM »
Thanks for the update, Zac. Congrats, great stuff!


Kye's one of my favourite guys, too  8)
jeffmingay.com

Paul Jones

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2021, 02:09:39 PM »
Zac,


That is a neat story and glad to see your dream come true. 


I have a question about your other dream... what are your plans for the PGA Tour?
Paul Jones
pauljones@live.com

Zac Blair

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2021, 02:43:04 PM »
Zac,


That is a neat story and glad to see your dream come true. 


I have a question about your other dream... what are your plans for the PGA Tour?


Looking to be back sometime next year if my other shoulder cooperates

Anthony Gray

Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2021, 03:37:04 PM »





 This would be a dream for a lot of people. Congratulations Zac. I love a drivable 18th. Finish happy. Thatís Fun.

Peter Flory

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2021, 04:41:13 PM »
I've really been enjoying the before and after pics on Instagram.  Once the corridors get opened up, the rolling land is really impressive. 

Drew Harvie

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2021, 04:41:26 PM »





 This would be a dream for a lot of people. Congratulations Zac. I love a drivable 18th. Finish happy. Thatís Fun.


Like nearby Palmetto!

Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2021, 04:55:35 PM »
Zac,
Kye is fantastic to work with.  Forrest and I used him as our lead shaper when we renovated/restored Berkeley CC in CA.  He was really fun to work with and a true artist with his machine.  I distinctly remember the second and eighth greens trying to get them just right.  He worked from sun up till sun down (and I think he loved every minute of it).  I am sure your project will turn out great.  Congrats!

Anthony Gray

Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2021, 07:25:32 PM »





 This would be a dream for a lot of people. Congratulations Zac. I love a drivable 18th. Finish happy. Thatís Fun.

 +1




Like nearby Palmetto!

Mark Kiely

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2021, 07:33:15 PM »
This is very cool info to be privy to. Thanks for sharing Zac!
My golf course photo albums on Flickr: https://goo.gl/dWPF9z

Ronald Montesano

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2021, 10:36:37 PM »
I love it. A drivable first and a drivable last...my favorite way to open and close a round.
Maybe for 2022
~Eden Valley
~Hillview
~Pinehurst (NY)
~Kis 'N Greens
~Pine Meadows
~18 Mile Creek
~Greenwood
~Shawnee
~Leroy
~

MKrohn

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2021, 05:45:58 AM »
Zac, well done on getting things off the ground, any idea why the place is called New Holland?

Jeff Schley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2021, 07:24:14 AM »
Thanks Zac for the update, as I have followed the project from afare. Maybe down the road Iíll have time to join and enjoy. But I wish you and the club the best as any new course nowadays is exciting for all of us.
"To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice your gifts."
- Steve Prefontaine

Rick Sides

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2021, 07:38:30 AM »
Zac!! Congrats on your dream and vision . Will this be a public or private course ?

Anthony Gray

Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #15 on: December 25, 2021, 06:45:32 AM »



 I like the updates on Twitter. Hitting shots at the holes that are being cleared is what Bobby Jones did at Augusta I believe. 😎😎😎




Mike_Clayton

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #16 on: December 26, 2021, 12:21:08 AM »
Zac,


Of all the tour players, who'd have thought you and Mat Goggin would be the pair doing the coolest projects.

Jay Mickle

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #17 on: December 26, 2021, 06:40:59 AM »
No doubt that the greens will be exciting with Kye. His 4 greens on Pinehurst #3 could qualify him as the Salvador Dali of greens. Prepare to smile or cry. I will be smiling.
@MickleStix on Instagram
MickleStix.com

jeffwarne

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #18 on: December 26, 2021, 08:51:19 PM »
Nice update Zac.
Thanks for the shout out.
One day I'll fill in the rest of the details on my history with the property, but suffice to say Zac and team are absolutely hitting it out of the park and I'm having the time of my life due to several unexpected turns.
I am extremely pleased he hired Tom to do the routing(I tried to provide a few subtle ;) hints re:Tom but fortunately Kye was on the case) and as it turns out Brian Schneider is just down the road doing another exciting project on nearly an identical timeline.
I am thrilled Zac allowed me to tag along on the project, and it looks like exciting times for golf in Aiken County.


It is great to see someone have the courage/consideration to post frequently on his plans and progress,and GCA is a better place for his frequent Instagram, Twitter and GCA updates on his dream.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2021, 09:33:25 PM by jeffwarne »
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Buck Wolter

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Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #19 on: December 27, 2021, 10:31:48 AM »
Zac do you have a similar photo on the site?


From this thread:
ANGC and The Masters - photos of how they once were (golfclubatlas.com)




Some further old B&W photos of ANGC/Masters now coloured.
Some of the course, some of folks involved.
Enjoy. :)
atb



Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience -- CS Lewis

Ronald Montesano

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #20 on: December 27, 2021, 10:48:27 AM »
That looks like Tyre meets the Matrix.
Maybe for 2022
~Eden Valley
~Hillview
~Pinehurst (NY)
~Kis 'N Greens
~Pine Meadows
~18 Mile Creek
~Greenwood
~Shawnee
~Leroy
~

Tim_Weiman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #21 on: December 27, 2021, 09:18:48 PM »
Zac,


Thanks for the detailed update. Look forward to seeing the course sometime in 2022.
Tim Weiman

PCCraig

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2021, 05:51:24 PM »
Congratulations on the progress, Zac. Looks like its shaping up to be a really nice project.
H.P.S.

Michael Whitaker

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Tree Farm Update
« Reply #23 on: December 30, 2021, 04:49:08 PM »
I'm excited for Zac and his partners. We've wished for a project like this for a long time.


I'm also excited that this project might finally get some of the GCA crowd to visit South Carolina!  ;)


Maybe Zac will work with us to resurrect the Dixie Cup and have a group of GCA'ers out for a visit. Our last Dixie Cup was May 2018. Would be nice to bring the event back in honor of Bill McBride. Would be awesome to pair up The Tree Farm and Old Barnwell sometime in '23.
"Solving the paradox of proportionality is the heart of golf architecture."  - Tom Doak (11/20/05)

David_Tepper

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