Golf: Back from the Edge

The new Gary Player–designed Cliffs at Mountain Park joins courses by Jack Nicklaus and other top designers at the resort community in the Carolinas.

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It is safe to say there is nothing else like the Cliffs. The sprawling development of seven communities, each with its own golf course, is spread across 23,000 acres of mountains and lakes in the up-country of western North Carolina and South Carolina. However, like many resort communities, the development struggled in recent years, most notably when it fell into bankruptcy in February 2012. But with new owners—and the September debut of the Gary Player–designed Cliffs at Mountain Park course—the Cliffs appears to be climbing back as one of the country’s premier private golf destinations.   

The new ownership, a partnership between various investment and development groups, brings deep pockets and extensive experience in golf, real estate, and amenity management to the Cliffs, which emerged from bankruptcy last summer. Signs of financial health are everywhere, including new

homes, new members, and the Mountain Park course, which is one of only a handful of golf courses to have opened in the United States this year.

Player joins an illustrious list of Cliffs architects: Jack Nicklaus (with two courses), Tom Fazio (two), Ben Wright, and Tom Jackson. Three of the development’s courses border the 26-mile-long Lake Keowee; one is located in a broad valley just outside Asheville, N.C.; and the other three, including Mountain Park, rise and fall along the foothills and ridgelines of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Despite its moniker and location, Mountain Park is easily walkable and even offers a taste of links-style golf. Player incorporated large natural bunkers to pair with massive greens and chipping areas, where bump-and-run play and long off-green putts are often part of the fun.

Like all of the courses at the Cliffs, Mountain Park is open to golf members at any of the seven communities. The various communities, which are all within driving distance of one another (the longest drive being about an hour), also offer a range of non-golf activities, from boating and fishing on Lake Keowee to cycling and hiking through the foothills. Since the first club opened in the early 1990s, wellness has also been a fundamental component, with classes, clinics, and treatments on property bolstered by a growing network of health practitioners.

Houses and homesites at the Cliffs range from about $100,000 to $4 million. Golf initiation is $50,000, with annual dues at roughly $10,000. Potential owners who want to sample the Cliffs’ golf and lifestyle can stay at select residences on the property. The development does not include a hotel, although the new owners are said to be considering adding one in the not-too-distant future.

The Cliffs, www.cliffscommunities.com 

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