Golf legends to plan new Greenbrier layout

By Cam Huffman
Published on
Golf legends to plan new Greenbrier layout

BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Together they've won 40 major championships, captured 188 PGA Tour events and designed nearly 1,000 golf courses around the world. But four of golf's biggest legends have never worked together on a project -- until now.

Greenbrier owner Jim Justice is bringing Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino together to build a new golf course in White Sulphur Springs. To be built on recently-purchased land that overlooks to Oakhurst Links -- the oldest golf course in America, which Justice purchased in 2012 and is now part of The Greenbrier's golf offerings -- Justice plans to name it IV Greats of the Game, and it will become another addition to The Greenbrier Sporting Club.

"No one has every landed these players to co-design a golf course," said Trevino in a phone interview Monday afternoon. "It's going to be really something special. Jim Justice wants to leave a legacy for Arnold, Jack, Gary and me, so it will be there forever and ever. I'm indebted to him for that."

Justice said the idea really dates back to the day he purchased The Greenbrier Resort for $20 million in 2009. At the time, there was labor unrest at the resort, and the resort, which was owned by CSX, had filed for bankruptcy.

The Greenbrier Sporting Club, a branch of The Greenbrier was in an even worse position. Justice said home owners were selling their property for 30 cents on the dollar just to get out.

Justice said he knew stabilizing The Greenbrier would stabilize The Sporting Club, so that was priority No. 1. Brining in a PGA Tour golf tournament, The Greenbrier Classic, the New Orleans Saints summer practice facility and a new tennis stadium, which opened this past weekend, helped bring visitors back to The Greenbrier, which he says is now on solid footing.

As predicted, The Sporting Club followed. Prominent figures such as Bubba Watson, Nick Faldo, Jerry West and John Smoltz are now Sporting Club members, along with CEOs from businesses across the country.

But Justice wanted to take The Sporting Club to a new level. He was convinced brining in new members would help stimulate the economy and as members told friends about the club, West Virginia would be shown in a more positive light.

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For years, though, Justice struggled to find the right plan.

The answer hit him almost by accident.

Three years ago, Justice purchased Oakhurst in White Sulphur Springs. Built in 1884, it's considered to be the first golf course build in America. The Greenbrier went to work on restoring the course and its museum, and now offers guests the opportunity to play the course, using period equipment and wearing period dress.

But this past fall, Justice was called to come take a look at another piece of land which had been up for auction but hadn't sold. Knowing it overlooked Oakhurst, he decided to take a look, and he immediately fell in love.

"I immediately had the answer," said Justice. "I knew what I wanted to do."

His plan was the one involving Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Trevino, which he announced to Sporting Club members this past Friday. But getting four of the biggest names in golf together was no easy task.

Justice said the first time he reached out to the four, Nicklaus flatly said no, and the others were skeptical.

But after Trevino came on board as The Greenbrier's golf pro emeritus, Justice had "one leg of the stool." Eventually, Player and Palmer came around, saying they would do it if everybody else was in.

Nicklaus was the last piece to the puzzle, and Justice eventually got the 18-time major winner to agree.

"I went back to Jack and said, 'This is an opportunity that will be history,'" Justice remembered. "I told him, 'You have a chance to do something for the legacy of the game. The game started here.'"

That, the Golden Bear just couldn't resist.


"To get the super legends of golf that made the game what it is today and do something that has never been done and do it in West Virginia is just wonderful," said Justice. "It will be a legacy to them and a legacy to the game, because it's right on top of where the first golf course ever in America."

"I'm sure Jack will probably have the most input in it, and then Gary and Arnold," Trevino explained. "I've never designed a lot of courses. So I'm kind of riding their coattails a little."

Trevino, though, did have one suggestion.

"I told them I wanted four par-3s that dogleg to the right about 135 yards," joked Trevino, who's known for his ability to cut the golf ball. "But I just think it's fantastic."

Justice expects to break ground on the project sometime in the next month, and he's hoping to have the course completed by the fall of 2016.

The facility will include a private ski resort, swimming, tennis and dining options, as well as home sites for Sporting Club members.

"This ridge actually runs East to West," said Trevino. "Which means all the lots will be facing North or South, and you're never going to get the sun in your windows in the afternoon. That makes it absolutely unique. I've never seen that."

The course itself, Trevino said, will be designed a little like St. Andrews. Nine holes will be built on one side of the ridge, five going out and four coming in, with the other nine on the other side of the ridge in the same design.

"That's pretty unique," said Trevino. "And the view is priceless."

Justice said the streets in the area will be named for Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Tevino, and he's hopeful the new course will catch the attention of the world, while drawing more people to West Virginia.

"I'm trying to do stuff to create jobs, do stuff to bring the icons here so they'll create jobs and do stuff where people look at West Virginia differently," said Justice. "These things make people think differently about us, and I think perception is reality."

This article was written by Cam Huffman from The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.