The Cliffs Communities, a string of pearls that runs along the western edge of South Carolina and up into the Asheville, NC area, offers the most mountain-oriented golf of any group of communities. With current and planned courses by Nicklaus (2), Fazio (2), Ben Wright (his only one), Tom Jackson and Gary Player, Cliffs golf members can face a different 18-hole challenge every single day of the week...if they can afford it and don't mind driving up to an hour (but what a pretty drive through the mountains). Access to excellent golf doesn't come cheap, with initiation fees pegged at $125,000 recently.
The only name designers not in the Cliffs' portfolio are Jones, Norman and Dye, but with aggressive developer Jim Anthony at the helm, nothing is out of the question. He not only arranged for Gary Player to design the upcoming course at Cliffs Mountain, he also convinced the venerable South African to move his family and his business from Florida to the Mountain.
We toured The Cliffs just at the time the organization opened its fourth community, at Walnut Cove, the most expensive of them all given its knockout mountain views from most home sites and its proximity to the hot retirement town of Asheville, NC. The Nicklaus course at Walnut Cove, which opened in April 2005, is reportedly the toughest of the current six that are open. We didn't get to play it, but we did play the breathtaking and only-a-little-quirky Tom Jackson Glassy course, at 4,000 feet up; the somewhat pedestrian Ben Wright Valley Course; and the wonderful, impeccable and beautiful Tom Fazio Keowee Vineyards course at Lake Keowee (Can you tell we liked it?).
Single family homes in all the Cliffs Communities run well into seven figures, and aside from Walnut Cove and Cliffs Valley, which is about a half hour from Greenville, local services haven't quite caught up with the developments. But the $150 million worth of amenities the Cliffs promotes are enough to keep an active couple "on campus" for a majority of time; and it is hard to imagine any but the most jaded of golfers not being satisfied by the variety and conditioning of the four current and three planned golf courses.
If you want to check out The Cliffs courses, this weekend is your opportunity, assuming you have The Golf Channel on your cable system. The BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs, a Nationwide Tour event, will be played on three of the community's courses - Keowee Vineyards, Valley and Walnut Cove. A small, but impressive group of amateurs from the entertainment and sports worlds are slated to compete, including Kevin Costner, Hootie & The Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker, football's John Elway, baseball's Jim Rice, and hockey's great one, Wayne Gretsky. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. today.
The Cliffs comoprehensive web site is at www.cliffscommunities.com.
It takes driver for mere mortals from the back tees at #17 at Keowee Vineyard, one of the seven courses at The Cliffs Communities. Typically, it is the toughest golf hole on the Nationwide Tour.