Forest Creek: A whisper campaign

Golfweek contributor

PINEHURST, N.C. – Some banks snickered in the early 1990s when Barton Tuck, managing partner of Forest Creek Golf Club, proposed building a high-end private development in the North Carolina Sandhills. Tuck had done his homework several years prior when he tinkered with purchasing Pinehurst Resort before backing away from the deal.

Tuck had a compelling calling card: land in Pinehurst. He had teamed with Terry Brown, whose family willed him and his brother 1,265 acres of pristine pine forest. Tom Fazio was lined up to design two golf courses. Everything seemed to be in place.

Lenders weren’t so sure. They were stunned that Tuck budgeted zero dollars for marketing and advertising – key tools in recruiting potential buyers. The Greenville, S.C., developer opted for an unconventional approach: word of mouth.

“Not very many projects in the United States have been sold by the members,” Tuck said.

“We preached from Day 1 that we would build world-class facilities, but they had to build the membership if they wanted a really good club.”

NationsBank didn’t bite.

“They obviously didn’t believe in the project,” Tuck said. “They told us we would sell 150 lots, but that we would never sell 750.”

Tuck secured financing from First Union, along with a loyal group of about 150 friends and associates who joined Forest Creek, including large contingents from Chicago and New York, where Brown and marketing director Chuck Cordell had strong roots.

Today, Forest Creek has 37 holes of award-winning Fazio golf and has sold 575 homesites. Locker No. 23 belongs to Michael Jordan, as does a large tract of land along one of the fairways.

The local airport is one mile away, so Jordan and other members can fly in on private jets, play golf, and get out of town with few hassles.

The 1 1/2-mile drive from the entrance gate to the first tee sets the mood at Forest Creek. The road is lined with 100-foot pines, with a glimpse every now and then of a hole but few homes.

“Let’s just say you’ll never have to stop for someone pulling out of their driveway,” Cordell said.

The 7,067-yard South Course has a traditional Pinehurst feel, while members and visitors have dubbed the 7,139-yard North Course “The Pine Valley of the South.” The North features a rugged waste bunker look that complements Nos. 15-17, which wrap around a large lake.

The property has 150 feet of elevation change, an unusual feature in the Sandhills. Forest Creek also has bragging rights. Both of its courses have been ranked in the top 100 of Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses. (The South Course fell out of the top 100 in 2007.) An added bonus: homemade chocolate chip cookies at the turn.

Village homes, with a stacked-stone and cedar-siding look, have become a popular option recently. They range from $700,000 to $1.5 million, with buyers given the option to customize most interior features.

There also are homes ranging to $3 million in the development, including one with eight bedrooms and 81/2 baths. Course homesites range from a half-acre to more than 2 acres and start at $200,000. Forest homesites begin at $100,000.

All home construction has been tastefully blended into the surrounding forest and set back from the golf courses.

“We wanted a range of homes,” Tuck said.

“We didn’t want just a bunch of filthy-rich guys. We really wanted golfers, people who loved golf and really want to be here.”

A fitness center opened over the winter, but the must-see attraction is the men’s locker room, a replica of a stable with an open-air, post-and-beam structure accented with handmade pine lockers and large chandeliers.

Ground has been broken for a new clubhouse to be completed in 18 months. It will overlook a lake and the club’s par-3 Hog Hole, the 19th hole on the South Course, used to settle bets.

Forest Creek logged a total of 16,000 rounds last season, so tee times are never a problem.

“I like the peacefulness of it,” said Carolina Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, who joined Forest Creek this past summer. “I feel like I can leave my house in Raleigh and all the stress in the world and go down there, and as soon as you go through the gates it’s like you’ve gone (on) vacation.”

Golf facts
• South Course, Tom Fazio, 1996
• North Course, Tom Fazio, 2005

Club membership
• $75,000 (must own property)
• Annual dues: $5,100 (local), $4,260 (in state), $3,660 (out of state), $500 (retired), $1,000 (social).

Real estate

51 Chestertown Drive
• 4,800 square feet
• 5 bedrooms/5 baths/2 half-baths
• Exercise room, 3-car garage, elevator
• $1,350,000

21 Wellington Drive
• 2,456 square feet
• 4 bedrooms/3 baths
• Office, great room
• Master on main level
• $649,000

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