I’ve heard similar scenarios about a few private cubs and how they came to be. A foursome of impatient golfers is waiting to tee off at their club; maybe their alma mater has an early kickoff that day or little Suzy has a dance recital. For whatever reason, they’re not cutting the starter any slack. He says something like “Hey guys, if you’re in that big of a hurry, maybe you should go and build your own course.” And they do, or at least that’s how the story goes.
A similar situation is said to have occurred in the Augusta, GA area. A group of guys is stuck behind a very slow playing group on a hot, sticky Saturday in July on a local private course. After waiting on the 12th tee for almost 45 minutes, one of the players says jokingly to his playing partners, “Maybe we should build our own course!” So, they did, and West Lake Country Club was born.
But it wasn’t just built on a whim. After careful study and planning, it was determined that in order to build and sustain a private golf club set to the standards the Augusta area was accustomed to, it would be best to tie this new country club to a real estate development. One of the players in the aforementioned foursome, along with a couple of business partners, owned about 350 acres of land in a desirable location and that land was empty, except for a historic black church with a land title muddled in red tape.
Now that a plan had been formalized, a corporation was formed and more adjoining property was attained, bringing the land mass to almost 720 acres, including a 43 acre lake that would be used for irrigation purposes. A local engineer was hired and in 1966 Donald Ross protégé Ellis Maples was selected to design the 18-hole golf course. At the time, his chief assistant on the job was Ed Seay, who would go on and become Arnold Palmer’s principal architect. By the way, the church and graveyard can still be found in its original location next to the golf course maintenance area between the 7th tee and the 12th green.
Over the next few months, Maples assembled his team and course construction began in early 1967. At the time, Maples figured he could have 9 holes completed and ready for play that fall. By June of that year, they realized that the original date was going to be impossible to keep and revised the plan: Have all 18 holes open and playable by the fall of 1968.
In August of ‘68, mere months before the scheduled opening of West Lake, torrential rains hit the area, dropping 4 inches of rain an hour, wreaking havoc on the newly planted golf course. To make matters worse, the earthen dam holding the pond at the 18th green was washed away as were plans to open in Fall ’68. Plans were scrubbed and a new opening date set for spring of the following year. Finally, by March 1969, the golf course was playable and the Clubhouse available for basic use.
In the early days of West Lake Country Club, few roughs had been cleared, meaning a ball was either in the fairway or lost, something that didn’t sit well with many members. The popularity of the Masters Tournament brought several well-known professional golfers to the area and ultimately to West Lake Country Club: Byron Nelson, Tony Jacklin and Gene Sarazen – who would later become a non-resident member. The added exposure was immeasurable.
In those early days, the community was not without its share of doubters. Many in the area felt that the community was too far from the city and didn’t think it would survive. Fortunately, people moving in from other parts of the country felt that West Lake was indeed close to town. By the end of 1973 nearly 100 homes had been built within the community and club membership had grown to around 275. In December 1977, the sale of the club facilities to the club members was formally concluded.
Fast forward to May 2015. Concert Golf Partners purchases West Lake Country Club from the members and currently owns and manages the property. Concert Golf is one of the premier golf course ownership/management companies in the country, and currently manages 20 properties in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Membership at one Concert Club makes you a member at all of them, which alone is a great reason to join. The club has become an Augusta tradition for guests from around the world.
The golf course at West Lake is known by local golfers for its impeccable playing conditions and TifEagle Bermuda greens that typically run 11.0 – 12.0 on the stimpmeter and roll true. Water comes into play on at least 7 holes and depending how well (or poorly) you’re hitting the ball, it could come into play on several more. West Lake offers 5 sets of tees and can play anywhere from 3,272 yards (Red Tees) to 6,857 yards (Blue Tees) and will challenge and reward players of all levels.
The aesthetics and beauty of the golf course have created many memorable holes but to me, none more memorable than Number 6, a par 4 that plays 358 yards from the White tees. It’s a hole where water comes into play no matter how good or bad you’re doing! There are three bodies of water to contend with, although the one just in front of the tee box shouldn’t be a problem at all. If it is, consult the friendly PGA staff in the pro shop and schedule a lesson! Standing on the tee, the only water you’re likely to see is the pond in the middle of the fairway, about 115 yards from the green. There’s a second pond hidden just past the trees on the left; push your tee shot over that way and you may very well find it. Find the fairway off the tee and you’ll have a short iron or wedge into a well undulated green protected on either side with bunkers. Finishing with the same ball you started with is somewhat of an accomplishment!
Although West Lake is a private club, they are very receptive to hosting golf tournaments. Their talented staff will take care of everything, from preliminary planning to smooth coordination and execution the day of the tournament. They offer custom golf packages and various menu options and can help tailor the perfect tournament. Keep in mind, since they are a private facility, tournament events are only held on Mondays.
Staying fit and healthy has become a big part of life and as a member of West Lake Country Club, you’ll have access to both the Fitness Center and Spa. The Fitness Center is a state-of-the-art facility and offers access to personal trainers who can help you shape up smartly and safely. These trained professionals will help you put together a comprehensive program to help you stay healthy and fit. The facility has over 30 fitness classes available throughout the week in their dedicated aerobics studio. The all-inclusive weight room offers circuit-training machines, free weights and state-of-the-art cardio equipment. Men’s and women’s locker rooms have steam rooms and dry saunas.
Inside the Spa at West Lake, you’ll find onsite Massage Therapist, Ashley Bryan, who has been in practice for over a decade and is certified in several fields including Neo-Muscular, Ashi-Atsu, Swedish, Orthopedic, Sports, Neonatal and Deep Tissue massage therapy. The Spa offers a wide variety of services and Ashley will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
The community becomes a special place during Masters Week; many homes are rented out by large corporations who pay a lot of money to have a place to entertain corporate clients. It’s not unusual for large homes in the area to fetch six-figures in rent for that week. One special event they host is Taste of The Master Chefs, a charity event where America’s award-winning chefs and celebrities come together for an evening, creating one-of-a-kind dishes for guests. The evening is topped off with a performance by acclaimed musical artists, all to help raise funds and awareness to benefit hunger relief.
The membership makeup at West Lake is quite unique. The majority of members have been referred by other members, so it’s pretty easy to meet new people and make new friends whether you’re a single, couple or family. For more information on becoming a West Lake Country Club member, visit their website at www.westlakecountryclub.com.