McLemore Club opens new Highlands course

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    The par-four eighteenth at McLemore Club plays along a cliff edge that overlooks a cove one thousand feet below

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    Throughout the new Highlands course (seventeenth hole pictured) green complexes have been enhanced and bunkering has been overhauled

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    Rees Jones and Bill Bergin collaborated on the project to overhaul the former Canyon Ridge club

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    The opening hole has a green on the edge of McLemore Cove

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    Boulders and native grasses are a feature across the course (twelfth pictured)

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    “We saw it as a chance to really deliver something special for Duane Horton,” says Jones

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

McLemore Club in Rising Fawn, Georgia, opened its new Highlands course, designed in collaboration between Rees Jones and Bill Bergin.

The developer, Scenic Land Company, has completely overhauled and rebranded the former Canyon Ridge club, located on a plateau of Lookout Mountain, to create a destination that they hope will attract both resort guests and second-home owners.

An official opening event was held on 7 October, with Jones and Bergin speaking to guests about the new layout.

The design team was tasked with exposing the natural drama of the course while making it more conducive to enjoyable golf. A new eighteenth hole is perched on a cliff edge. “Hole eighteen may become one of the most photographed holes in the Southeast” said Bergin. “By moving the clubhouse site to the ground occupied by the original eighteenth, we were pushed to discover and build a golf hole on an amazing lower shelf along the eastern rim of the property.

“The new clubhouse now sits on the edge of the upper brow, looking over the eighteenth all the way to the base of McLemore Cove some one thousand feet below. The old fairway area has been completely repurposed as a delightful six-hole short course – the perfect spot to start or end an amazing day at McLemore.”

For the remaining seventeen holes, existing hole corridors have been used, with the team reworking green complexes, optimising angles to green locations and overhauling fairway and greenside bunker placements.

“All new greens complexes and bunkering throughout the course presents an original style and increased playability,” said Bergin. “The area around every green complex has been expanded, offering diverse recovery options and allowing players to attack or navigate their way around the many challenges natural to this rugged site.”

“We first worked together with Bill at the Country Club of Winter Haven in 2013,” said Jones. “And when the opportunity to work with him again at McLemore arose, we saw it as a chance to really deliver something special for [Scenic Land Company president] Duane Horton and the entire team.

“The collaboration works because we share common ideas about strategy, playability and the way a golf hole should fit the land.”

Watch: a McLemore Club official video, with course footage and comments from Jones and Bergin.

Forward tees have been added on every hole and the maintained areas have been widened. This combination is designed to make the course more playable for golfers of all abilities, while improving pace of play and reducing the number of lost golf balls.

“As a group, the par fives are the most improved holes,” said Bergin. “Three offer distinct scoring opportunities and one is a stern test for all players. Starting with the opening green on the edge of McLemore Cove and finishing with the magnificent eighteenth on an amazing cliff edge, McLemore offers fantastic golf that takes each player on a journey strewn with boulders and native grasses. Wildlife is abundant and golfers often find themselves above the clouds and looking down on majestic birds soaring over McLemore Cove.”

Horton said: “We could not have asked for a greater spirit of collaboration and creativity on the McLemore project than what Rees and Bill brought to the table.

“From planning through execution, the expertise and artistry were matched only by their shared vision and passion for the course. Equally impressive was their understanding of our site’s unique mountaintop setting, respect for our overall master plan, and stewardship of the land. We are confident members and guests will appreciate and enjoy McLemore for generations to come as a result of the partnership of Bill Bergin and Rees Jones.”

This article is based on material that first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.