New Hills course bucks US trends


New Hills course bucks US trends
Sean Dudley

Design firm Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest & Associates has opened its third North American course of 2009, showing that the region’s golf market is not all doom and gloom.

The new course at Westhaven, near Nashville, Tennessee, developed by Southern Land Company, opened for member play recently. It joins two more Hills/Forrest designs — TPC at Treviso Bay in Florida, and the desert links at Paraiso del Mar in Baja California Sur, Mexico — among those debuting in 2009.

“It’s a testament to our clients at Southern Land Company and the overall master plan at Westhaven that this project got to the finish line. There are many outwardly similar projects nationwide that haven’t made it that far and never will,” said Hills/Forrest partner Chris Wilczynski, who oversaw the project.

Wilczynski says he doubts a project quite like Westhaven has ever been developed. The club boasted a full complement of homeowners before ground was ever broken, and has been buoyed by the success of its real estate component, not dragged down by it. The architect cites the fourteenth and seventeenth as his favourite holes. Sibling par fives that play in opposite directions, they share a single fairway dominated by a broad ridge dotted with bunkers.

“We created 4-5 acres of wetland that weren’t there when we started, and those will remain protected in perpetuity,” Wilczynski explained. “It was all part of the drainage and run-off/retention system we created to protect the West Harpeth River, which borders part of the site. We see ‘green’ design as simple attention to detail. It’s not special to this project or that project. Protecting an abutting river, or the groundwater, or working around specimen trees — that’s something we do as a matter of course.”

Southern Land broke ground on the first housing phase at Westhaven in 2003 and has built more than 800 homes to date. The traditional, nature of the buildings influenced the golf course Wilczynski and his associates designed.

“Everything at Westhaven feels timeless and elegant in a simple way,” he said. “It looks like it has been there a long time. That theme and vision informed the course we designed, with raised greens, grass-faced bunkering and squared tee boxes. We tried hard to match the golf course to the community at Westhaven because, unlike many real estate communities we’ve built, the community was already there when we started. Traditionally, the architect designs and builds the golf course first, then lots are sold. At Westhaven the brand was already established. When we held the ground-breaking ceremony for the course, many of the residents attended. We met and talked with them. After something like that, you can’t help but feel you’re working for them.”

Florida-based contractor Lepanto Golf Construction built the course. When built out to completion, the community will include more than 2,700 homes with a town centre and 800 acres of open space.