Gold Creek to Get Total Rebuild by Smyers

By: Mark Leslie

Foothills Development Corp. has bought Gold Creek Golf Club, purchased another 166 acres and plans to transform it into "a true lifestyle community," according to a spokesman. The facility in Dawsonville, Ga., will be renamed Foothills.

"The opportunity exists for a great community for baby boomers - empty-nesters desiring golf, fitness, tennis and indoor swimming," said Resort Clubs International (RCI) Chief Executive Officer Bob Johnson, one of the partners. "It's also the perfect prospect for creating an innovative new concept: 'a membership club.'

"At Foothills, in order to play golf you will have to have some type of membership."

Besides RCI, the Foothills team includes north Georgia housing developer Steve Eiberger, golf course architect Steve Smyers of Lakeland, Fla., and Private Club Associates, a club-management firm headquartered in Macon, Ga.

RCI has pioneered membership and awards programs, including Clubshare, a concept begun 15 years ago that offers traveling golfers a national membership at clubs where they would only pay a pro rata share of the initiation fee to join the club and only pay dues when they used the club while on vacation; and the new Trophy Club, a premier golf membership for the traveling golfer who cherishes their home club experience, but a couple of times a year wants to have that same private-member experience on other courses.

Foothills should be totally private within about three years, Johnson said, adding that the club's target is 450 local and regional members and another 50 to 75 national members.

The existing Gold Creek Golf Club, which opened in 1995, contains about 100 residences. Foothill Development plans to rebuild the golf course over 180 acres and develop another 175 acres with housing and the new amenities.

Johnson estimated that housing and golf course reconstruction should both start in March and be reading for occupation and play early in 2009. He feels Smyers, who has designed three golf courses that have been ranked among the top 100 modern courses in America, is the ideal candidate for Foothills.

"Steve is one of the finest designers," he said. "He has the same approach as the great classic golf architects: lay out a golf course that's easily walkable, more traditional, and with bunkering and green settings that are fantastic, creating the character of the golf course. And he allows for all levels of play by designing a golf course anybody can play, with multiple tees and very few forced carries.

"That philosophy will work well in a lifestyle community like Foothills, where a large segment of the population is retired and can't hit it 240 yards over the water anymore."

"They need to breath fresh life into the golf course, add homes and make it self-sustaining in their own community," Smyers said. "With rolling foothills, an attractive 30-acre lake and tall Georgia pines, this property has all the makings of a great, championship golf course."

When complete, the course will "have a semi-core feeling, with very few homes along the fairways," Smyers said.

Several holes in the 7,300-yard, par-72 layout will rotate around the lake. One par-3 and one par-5 will run down to the lake, while a par-4 will play across it. Elsewhere, Georgia pines will frame several holes.

This is not the first golf course Smyers has completely rebuilt. Two years ago, to rave reviews, he wholly redesigned Isleworth Country Club, the home of Tiger Woods and a dozen other PGA Tour players. He also tore down the old International Golf Club in Orlando and re-birthed it as Marriott's Grande Pines, which has gained accolades. The famed Olympic Fields in Chicago and Interlachen Country Club in Winter Park, Fla., also received recent facelifts at Smyers' hand.