Wednesday's Wall Street Journal article about the uncertain future of the Tiger Woods-designed Cliffs at High Carolina golf course had me thumbing through my reporter notebooks. That's because noted golf architect Tom Fazio drove me past the property in question last fall during a six-courses-in-one-day round of golf that had us racing through mountain hamlets and foggy passes like a couple of aging moonshiners. This, you understand, was before the world's best golfer got into trouble.
"Tiger was here last week for a promotional day and a tour of the property," Fazio said that day, lifting his right hand off the wheel to point to a roadside mountain belonging to The Cliffs Communities, Inc. of Greenville, S.C. "They invited some press people, and they had a marketing tour, trying to sell real estate. I would think their goal is to sell X amount of properties and then start construction. They've already started clearing and underbrushing."
All you could see from the highway was a very impressive cliff towering over forest and farmland. The seven established Cliffs golf-course communities were tucked out of sight.
"I'm a Cliffs supporter all the way," Fazio went on, "having done two courses for them and owning property here. They do high-end, quality development, and Jim Anthony [founder and CEO] is a very sharp guy."
Asked about rumors that Tiger had been asked to defer his multi-million-dollar design fee to keep the project going, Fazio shrugged. "I've been around long enough to know that many rumors come from the competition --- people who are struggling to hold on to their own projects and don't necessarily care about your project."
Summing up, Fazio said that while Cliffs Communities might have to wait for the real estate crisis to ease before breaking ground at High Carolina, he was bullish on the merits: "It's a spectacular property, it's a great location, and you'll have a well-managed operation with Jim Anthony in charge." He added, "And it's great to have Tiger's name associated with the area."
Fazio, like the rest of us, didn't know what was waiting around the bend.
(For more of Garrity's 12-hour, 6-course interview with Tom Fazio, check out John's Top Fifty Blog.)