Tiger's High Tee
A new golf community near Asheville will be the site of Tiger Woods’s first U.S. course
It was a cool fall afternoon high in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, and the crowd inside the tent stood more than one thousand strong. Like the faithful at a revival meeting, they hung on Tiger Woods’s every word as he described the vision for his first golf course design in the United States, why he chose to build it on this site—the Cliffs at High Carolina, an upscale planned community in the Swannanoa Valley—and the essence of what he hoped to accomplish with the course.
“I just want to make sure y’all have a good time,” Tiger said with an unmistakable twang. He smiled and shook his head ruefully. “I just said ‘y’all.’ I’m a looong way from SoCal right now.”
SoCal is Southern California, of course, where Woods grew up and lived before joining the PGA Tour in 1996. Soon thereafter, he moved to his current residence in Orlando, Florida. And now, here he was, sitting in front of an enthusiastic group of Southerners, literally speaking their language. While it may be too soon to call Woods a Southern Man, he says he’s on his way.
“I do like the South, and it’s now my home,” Woods, thirty-three, tells Garden & Gun, adding, “The reason I chose to design the Cliffs at High Carolina is it’s an unbelievable piece of property.”
An avid fisherman, Woods became enamored of the area, about twenty miles northeast of Asheville, after spending time there with Jim Anthony, sixty-five, president and CEO of the Cliffs Communities, lifelong resident of Pickens, South Carolina—and hard-core fisherman and hunter.
“My company has amassed more than twenty thousand acres in the Carolina hills. We build homes there; that’s our business,” Anthony says. “But we also see ourselves as stewards of the land. I enjoy walking it. You could say that’s my main hobby.”
It’s also how he and Woods bonded while working on the course at High Carolina, which is under construction now and due to open in 2010. Some big-name professional golfers design and build—or at least put their names on—dozens of golf courses, so it becomes impossible for them to spend much time on the land where they’re built. Precisely the opposite has been true of Woods, as he’s visited High Carolina time and again with Anthony.
“Tiger and I have taken many thousands of steps together at High Carolina,” Anthony says, adding that the proof is in the pedometer Woods wears on his belt during each visit. “He approaches his course design the way he plays his golf. He’s totally committed.”
Woods’s inspiration at High Carolina derives largely from the breathtaking views. In fact, he designed each hole of the course to take advantage of the Blue Ridge Mountain panoramas. “This property is absolutely phenomenal,” Woods says. “The serenity, the views—you have fifty-mile views.”
But beauty is only part of the equation when it comes to building a great golf course. The other part—creating a challenge for players on each and every shot, demanding that they strategize rather than just knock the ball thoughtlessly from tee to green—happens to be Tiger Woods’s specialty. Woods describes himself as a “minimalist” course designer. His challenge at High Carolina, as he tells it, was to find the pieces of land where the holes fit naturally—not to clear vast tracts of hardwoods and manipulate the soil and rocks to suit his design.
However he gets the job done, the financial rewards for him and Anthony will be as handsome as those fifty-mile views. After Woods addressed the crowd in the tent, a reported $45 million in High Carolina real estate sales took place. And while neither man would discuss the golfer’s project fee, one can safely assume that Woods—who will own a home on the site—will reap a percentage of sales.
Not surprisingly, Woods prefers to talk golf, not money. When Garden & Gun asked him to name his favorite courses, he cited just two, and his choices were telling. “My favorite course is St. Andrews,” says Woods, referring to the Old Course in Scotland, a minimalist masterpiece. “It’s a course that makes you think and gives you a lot of options. Those are two elements that I like to incorporate into my designs.
“I like Augusta National, too,” he adds. “I’ve had some success there.”
Now, there’s an understatement for you. In his twelve years as a pro, Woods has won the Masters at Augusta National four times and finished in the top ten four other times. Indeed, it would be hard to find a course more quintessentially Southern than Augusta National. The fact that Tiger Woods chose it as his favorite course this side of the Atlantic? Well, now, he might forgive y’all for reading a little something into that.