August 03, 2015

Future Home of PGA Tour Stop?

By Andrew Ashby
– The Daily News –

The Vesta Home Show definitely is coming to Collierville’s Spring Creek Ranch in 2007, but whether the Stanford St. Jude Championship, formerly known as the FedEx St. Jude Classic, will call the development’s golf course home is another matter altogether.

The Memphis Area Home Builders Association selected the 800-acre planned development for its spring home show, although the event’s dates have not been determined yet. However, speculation still is swirling over whether the 320-acre Spring Creek Ranch golf course designed by professional golfer Jack Nicklaus could one day host Memphis’ stop on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour.

Houston-based Stanford Financial Group Inc. bought half of the entire Spring Creek Ranch development in August 2005. The private company would not disclose terms of the commitment.

Stanford announced in November its plans to become title sponsor for the FedEx St. Jude Classic beginning in 2007. It’s a 10-year deal.

FedEx is stopping its sponsorship of the St. Jude Classic, with which it has been affiliated since 1986, to begin sponsoring the FedEx Cup, a championship trophy for the PGA tour’s new playoff system that starts next year.

The FESJC has been played at the Tournament Players Club at Southwind in Germantown since 1989. That’s where it will stay next year as well, said Scott Notowich, managing director of Stanford Group Co., an affiliate of Stanford Financial Group.

Part of the reason is because the infrastructure at Spring Hill Creek still is developing. The golf course and residential development is at the northeast corner of Collierville-Arlington and Raleigh LaGrange roads and currently is served by two-lane roads. That could prove troublesome when holding a professional golf event that draws 130,000 fans each year. The tournament has raised $15.5 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital since 1970. It also has an estimated $20 million impact on the Memphis economy each year, according to the tournament’s Web site.

"Even if it were our absolute desire to make it happen right now, it’s not there yet," Notowich said. "Down the road, is it something we’re going to explore? I’m sure. But for the foreseeable future, (the event is) going to be at Southwind."

Robb Meyer, general manager of the Spring Creek Ranch golf course, echoed Notowich’s sentiments.

"I think there are a lot of infrastructure questions that would have to be answered before that could even be thought of," he said. "We’ve been looking at it to see if it makes sense. It is natural since Stanford is our partner."

3MC Spring Creek Ranch in 1984 bought more than 758 acres near South Collierville-Arlington and Raleigh LaGrange roads from Malco Realty Corp. for about $2.2 million, according to public records. Meyer’s father, Dr. David Meyer, was administrative partner of 3MC.

At the time, the ranch was being used for genetic engineering of bulls.

"They were basically trying to build a bigger, stronger bull that could survive in (the Republic of) Sierra Leone and other third-world countries," Robb said.

About 15 years ago, the family gave that up and donated the animals to Agricenter International Inc. for research. The change left the family with more than 1,100 acres that had no defined use.

"We didn’t want a developer to come in and destroy the property by tearing down all the trees," Robb said. "We didn’t want to do the typical type of development."

The family considered turning the area into a large park when David took up golf in the early 1990s. Around that time, David met Nicklaus on a hunting trip in Arizona and decided to turn the land into a golf course.

In 1997, Robb came in to manage the property and construction started. The Spring Creek Ranch golf course opened in 1999.

The course is registered in the Audubon International Signature program, which means it was designed to conserve the existing environment. The property features several ponds and hundreds of mature trees spread across rolling hills, and the golf course was built around these features.

"Jack did a great job of laying the golf course in these old pastures," Robb said.

Some changes were made to the course to make it better for golf.

One example of this is the changes made to the land’s clay-based soil, which doesn’t drain very well because of its density. Construction crews brought in 275,000 tons of sand and spread it 6 to 8 inches deep across the whole course in a process called "sand capping." Grass was planted on top of the sand, and rain water filters through it more easily than it would be filtered through clay.

Although the golf course has been completed, construction work still is being done around it. James Cutler, a Washington-based architect who designed Bill Gates’ house in the Seattle area, also is working at Spring Creek Ranch. He designed the course’s 26,000-square-foot club house, which is scheduled to open next spring.

Cutler currently is designing six cabins for overnight lodging near the course. The cabins will contain four bedrooms, four bathrooms and screened-in porches. The cabins will be clustered together near the club house, a putting green, a fire pit and walking trails.

While the Spring Creek Ranch’s golf course is established, its planned residential development still is a work in progress.

Boyle Investment Co. is developing the residential section of Spring Creek Ranch, which will contain six differently priced housing developments. The Vesta Home Show will be in the least expensive development, The Village, with homes ranging from $350,000 to $400,000.

"That’s a price range that a lot of people can afford," said Gary Thompson, vice president of Boyle. "A lot of times when you get into the upper, upper end, people come to daydream, but they don’t really buy a lot of the product."

Builders currently are putting up the first houses in the development, trying to construct seven houses for the Vesta show. The builders also are constructing some speculative houses, ones built to a uniform design, which can be sold at the show.

"We want it to be where you can walk through it on Saturday and own it on Monday," Thompson said.

With the Vesta Home Show and the speculation of a PGA tour stop in its future, the Spring Creek Ranch is a busy place. Consequently, the new residential construction and golf course additions would complete a long development process for the Meyer family.

"We’ve been working on it for about 10 years and it’s finally starting to come together with the residential, the golf house and the cabins," Robb said. "We’re pretty excited."