Lou Biago has been at Lake Toxaway Country Club for 37 years and currently serves as the Director of Golf. John Schoenbeck has served as the club’s General Manager for 4 years. Although there is a vast difference in the amount of time they been involved with the Club, both can tell you of the massive undertakings that have gone on at the club over the past 10 or so years. And, both will tell you that some of the biggest changes are yet to come.
For those not familiar with the property, Lake Toxaway Country Club is a private, gated mountain community located just minutes from Cashiers, Highlands and Brevard N.C. that sits on the shores of the state’s largest private lake, about 3,000 -3,200 feet above sea level. The Club is defined by its historical charm and refined Southern elegance and is the social hub of the community.
Lake Toxaway Country Club’s history dates back to the early 1900’s, when the well-to-dos of the era would descend upon the area to take in all that Mother Nature had to offer, while enjoying the company of close friends and family.
As the area began to grow in popularity and became accessible by rail, a group of investors from Pittsburgh formed the Toxaway Company to acquire and mine land but saw greater profits in building a series of lavish resorts in the region.
A few years later, the Toxaway Company took on an even bigger project: damming the Toxaway River and creating Lake Toxaway. They also created the most modern vacation hotel in the country. When the five-story Toxaway Inn opened in 1903, it had some of the most modern conveniences of its day: central heat and private indoor plumbing, long-distance telephones, elevators, a billiard parlor, bowling alley, and a gazebo for outdoor concerts.
A few years later as golf was growing in popularity, the Toxaway Company built a 9-hole golf course near what today is Lake Cardinal. Over the next 14 years, the Inn and golf course played host to the likes of Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, R.J. Reynolds, the Vanderbilts and many other prominent individuals of the day.
In 1916, the weather would change the history of the Lake Toxaway region as two hurricanes hit the area in July. In early August, a third roared in from the Gulf of Mexico, bringing over 20 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Then, early on the morning of August 13, the Lake Toxaway dam burst spilling 5.3 billion gallons of water that rushed down the mountain as far away as South Carolina. Scars on the landscape can still be seen today. Now that the lake was gone, the tourism industry disappeared and the Toxaway Inn never reopened for the next season. In the late 1940s, the Inn’s contents were auctioned off and the structure torn down.
Fast forward to 1960. Reg Heinitsh, Sr. and a group of investors from Columbia, S.C. came up with the idea of restoring the area to its turn-of-the-century appeal. They formed the Lake Toxaway Company and bought 9,000 acres of property around the old lakebed at an average price of $50 per acre. They immediately began clearing the area where the lake had once existed, rebuilt the dam and restored the lake to its original level, 3,010 feet above sea level. They began selling parcels of land around the lake as private home sites and gave property owners exclusive private access to the lake. Then in 1963, Mr. Heinitsh built a golf course and formed the Lake Toxaway Country Club. Today, the Country Club is surrounded by a thriving community of almost 1,100 homes in a community surrounded by Hawk Mountain, Panthertail Mountain, Cold Mountain and Mount Toxaway, along with several wilderness areas totaling more than 10,000 acres.
The golf course is the centerpiece of the community. In 2008 it underwent a $9 million course renovation project led by noted architect Kris Spence. Not only did he do the usual – rebuild greens and tees – he totally changed 14 of 18 holes, bringing the golf course at Lake Toxaway Country Club to a new level.
This golf experience is enhanced by incredible views of sweeping mountain vistas and breathtaking topography. This 18-hole championship golf course has beautifully manicured Bentgrass greens, tees and fairways, with bluegrass roughs and some attractive tall fescue native areas. Although regarded as a mountain golf course, most holes play downhill, making it enjoyable for everyone, regardless of their skill level. Low handicappers who appreciate a good risk reward opportunity or having to hit a challenging shot into a well-protected green won’t be disappointed. Nor will the beginner, who may require a little more room off the tee or a bailout area beside the green. No matter your skill level, you’ll find the golf course a challenge each and every time you play, and the stunning views create a memorable golf experience. Lake Toxaway is no longer considered a quaint mountain golf course, it is now a truly unique layout that will rival any golf course in Western North Carolina.
Lake Toxaway Country Club is also the home of the Tom Fazio Golf Learning Center, a full-service 20-acre facility unrivaled in Western North Carolina. It’s a great place to introduce young family members to the game and hone your skills. The Club’s team of PGA Professionals offer a comprehensive player development program with Trackman swing analysis, custom club fitting services and on-going training programs. After a vigorous practice session, members can enjoy their favorite beverage at the Learning Center’s open-air pavilion overlooking the facility.
The Club’s 2,000 square foot fitness center offers a full complement of state-of-the-art equipment such as Cybex Treadmills, Precor Elliptical Trainers, Nautilus Resistance Equipment and much more. They also offer members year-round group classes such as Yoga, Total Body Conditioning, Pilates, Core Training, Hiking and more. If you’re interested, they can even help you design a personalized fitness plan and help you reach your individual wellness goals.
Lake Toxaway Country Club has one of the most active tennis programs in Western North Carolina, with programs that appeal to players of all ages and abilities. You’ll find five Har-Tru fast-drying courts that are open seven days a week from May – October, weather permitting. The tennis program features a full calendar of organized events, social outings, round-robin tournaments, men’s, ladies and mixed group clinics, and high-intensity “Tennis – Cardio” classes guaranteed to get your heart rate up!
One amenity not offered at a lot of clubs is croquet. Lake Toxaway Country Club has developed a reputation as one of the country’s leading croquet facilities over the past few years and features a robust year-round program for Club Members and their Toxaway Mountain Challenge event plays host to some of the game’s finest international players. This isn’t a friendly backyard activity; out here they take their croquet very serious, with players clad in “whites” from head to toe. Rules are strictly enforced; no do-overs!
Part of the 2009 mega million-dollar renovation was a makeover of the clubhouse. The clubhouse is a lot more functional than its original design; less formal dining and more family based. What used to be two separate structures is now one building. There is still plenty of room to host formal events such as weddings, baby showers and anniversaries, but the emphasis has clearly shifted to a family-friendly environment. The bar area has been moved and greatly expanded. The décor is warm, friendly and inviting, much like a lakeside lodge. You’ll find a friendly and knowledgeable wait staff and culinary experts that create dishes that will tempt every taste bud you have. The Club also offers a full range of menus and services for special events, from a simple party to a gala wedding. Their Group and Events Coordinator can assist with planning your event, whether you have it at the club, your home, or another location of your choice.
When it comes to dining, Lake Toxaway offers first class culinary delights prepared by Executive Chef Greg McDonald, and personalized service from a front of the house service staff that goes the extra mile to treat all Members like family.
Members and their guests have several choices of dining venues to enjoy throughout the season. The Vanderbilt Ballroom is open in the evenings for member dining as well as Sunday Brunches during the season. The Vanderbilt Ballroom is highlighted by soaring cathedral ceilings and is popular venue for special member events, weddings, private parties and more.
The Firestone Grille is open daily for member dining and is a popular gathering spot for lunch after a morning round and dinner specials. It was recently honored by Golf Inc. with their prestigious “Golden Fork” award as a Most Improved Restaurant in the private club category. On those cool summer evenings when you want to take in all that Mother Nature has to offer, the outdoor patio adjacent to the Firestone Grille is a popular dining option for causal fare, drinks at the outdoor bar or simply enjoying the beautiful view. A second outdoor patio with a view of the lake is also a preferred location for dining and drinks.
Lake Toxaway County Club continues to make improvements; they begin Phase II of the “The Lake Club” renovation this August and it is scheduled to be completed in time for the opening of the 2020 season. The Lake Club will include a modern family-friendly pool, an outside Grille with dining pavilion to service members, their guests, and golfers looking for a quick bite at the turn, beautiful new bathrooms with changing rooms and lockers, a youth activities building, and 3 new Pickleball courts. The new Lake Club will offer spectacular views of both the lake and mountains and will be within walking distance of the newly-renovated clubhouse and all other amenities.
Now that you know what Lake Toxaway has to offer, it’s time to check out how you can become a member. The Club offers four membership categories: Full Membership, Social Membership, Non-Resident Membership and a National Membership. Full Memberships are the most popular and offer unlimited access to the golf course, Fazio Golf Learning Center, dining facilities, croquet courts, tennis courts, the fitness center and pool facilities. Your guests will receive reduced access fees to these facilities and you’ll also receive temporary membership privileges for renters and guests. A Social Membership offers many of the same benefits with limited golf access. Non-resident Memberships are available for those who live outside the community; National Memberships are available for those living more than 50 miles from the Club. Want more information? Call Membership Director, Laura Johnson, at 828-966-4020. A one-time Trial Membership is available to those who are not and never have been members of the club and is subject to approval by the membership committee and board of directors.
In addition to having all of the traditional offerings of most upscale private clubs, Lake Toxaway ups the ante with a stunning new Clubhouse and less-common amenities such as Croquet and Pickleball. They also offer several creative programs such as hiking, biking and fly fishing. This coupled with the Club’s rich history, the mountain lake and the knowledge that more improvements are on the horizon, make Lake Toxaway Country Club unique among other private clubs in the area. For more information or to plan a visit to Lake Toxaway Country Club, give them a call or visit their website: www.laketoxawaycc.com.