Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Like a God Above the Mountain Landscape

This guy's such a king here nowadays that the people crave even his dirt.
- Los Angeles Times, discussing Phil Mickelson

I'd like to thank my sponsors, including KPMG.

My commitment to golf is to creating the highest quality courses that are challenging, engaging and always provide a truly enjoyable experience each time they are played. To do that, you need to find the most beautiful landscapes available, and develop dream destinations for golfers from around the world. We've done that in the mountains of North Carolina.
- Phil Mickelson

I don’t keep up with Phil Mickelson, the golfer.

But once in a while, I check in on Phil Mickelson, the golf course designer. As we all know, he is eager to take credit for carving his massive initials into the Tuckasegee River valley.

Well, guess what? I have a video message from Phil, welcoming us to his new course at River Rock. Very impressive. And the fly-over footage in the video is thrilling.


The Legasus guys fudge a little and say the golf course is near Cashiers, NC on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. The rest of us would say it’s near East Laporte, NC on Moody Bridge Road. But that doesn’t have the same allure. And it's all about allure.

An optimistic press release informs us:

The River Rock clubhouse is slated to open in fall 2009 along with a unique, 22-hole instructional short course, called King's Grant, designed by Mickelson's long-time swing consultant Rick Smith.

This press release at was full of facts and figures:

The par-72 River Rock will measure approximately 7,100 yards at its maximum, with the yardage mitigated by downhill drops to several fairways and greens. Just six of the 18 holes will play uphill on a site that ranges from 2,250 to 4,250 feet above sea level. Among the more dramatic topographical features are a 114-foot descent on the fourth hole and an uphill of climb of 74 feet on the 11th.

I had to stop and re-read those last few sentences to picture the design. All I could envision was something that looked like an M. C. Escher print.

This Mickelson course at River Rock will be a real humdinger. Dig this:

* The second hole is a 305-yard, par-3 from the tips, with a 65-foot drop to a green that sits on a knoll with 180-degree views of the nearby mountains.
* The 343-yard third hole is a drivable par-4. The 270-yard carry over a stream and ravine is helped considerably by the 104-foot drop from tee to green.
* The 15th and fourth fairways cross one another, a rarity in American golf.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Phil Mickelson website - - had a message board.

The word "slavish" comes to mind when describing the goofy fanatics posting on the forums. One wanted to know Phil’s blood type. Another wanted to know his shoe size. Bizarre stuff like that. Mostly, these were extended discussions about what a great guy Phil is and how he will beat Tiger again. Some day.

Occasionally, a thread would begin with the breathless announcement that Mickelson’s course was underway near Cashiers and it would be just swell. Hurray for Phil!

Doubters and skeptics commenting on such threads were likely to get banished from the message board. And now, at least for the moment, it seems that the official Phil Mickelson message board has folded up shop.

Or maybe the moderator just got tired of deleting impertinent questions about the River Rock project.

You’d think Phil Mickelson would enjoy getting to know his Jackson County neighbors, so maybe the message board will reappear.

Until then, we can catch up on the news we would have already known if we had been regular readers of Golf Community Reviews -

Phil Mickelson to design NC mountain course

Saturday, 28 April 2007

We learned about Phil's new venture in an advertisement for a new community, River Rock, near Cashiers, NC, way up in the mountains. What especially caught our eye in the double-page ad was the photo of a smiling Phil, rising like a god above the mountain landscape, his head literally in the clouds. He looks like a giant billboard. On his head is the ubiquitous golf cap bearing the unfortunately horsey Bearing Point logo, and on the left breast area of his shirt the Callaway Golf logo. Near his right sleeve is the River Rock logo, larger than the others but almost a half page below Bearing Point, which is the first thing you see on the page. Bearing Point's lawyers must have done a great job of the fine print when they signed Phil to the contract.

River Rock is Mickelson's first project since announcing formation of his design company in January. His only other golf course design was for Whisper Rock in Scottsdale, AZ, which opened in 2001. Mickelson Design also has other projects on the drawing board in Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean. No scheduled opening date for the course at River Rock is listed. We've visited the area and know that the landscape is breathtaking. River Rock will be composed of five separate villages within a short drive of each other and near Lake Glenville, the most elevated lake east of the Mississippi River. The planned $100 million in amenities will rival the Cliffs Communities which are about an hour away. Home sites are offered at prices up to $1.5 million.

One final note: The logo for Phil Mickelson Design is clever and cute. Between the words Phil and Mickelson is a graphic icon of a golfer, arms raised with putter extended from one of them, feet slightly off the ground. Anyone who watched the end of the Masters tournament three years ago will recognize it as Phil's magical levitation after his clutch winning putt at the 18th.

There you have it. The ability to defy gravity is a distinct advantage for anyone who would design and build a golf course in these mountains.

So I'd say Phil Mickelson is the right guy for the job. Not only that...

...he looks like a giant billboard.

[Addendum - This commentary from the LA Times appeared on Mickelson's website.]

About an hour after he'd quelled the tempest that can rage between his temples and birdied Nos. 16 and 17 and won, Phil Mickelson stood Sunday on a veranda at Riviera Country Club, grinning and signing serially for a throng that kept blurting its adoration.

As the golf freaks and beer nuts and other fanatics walked away sated and the crowd thinned out, a young man held up toward Mickelson a paper plate covered with an upside-down paper plate. Mickelson opened the contraption, and for a moment it seemed someone had brought him maybe a hot dog and some potato salad.

After Mickelson signed the cover plate and handed it back, though, the contents turned out to be his divot from No. 8 in the fourth round of the Northern Trust Open, which just went to show a fresh reality around Hogan's Alley.

This guy's such a king here nowadays that the people crave even his dirt.


Western North Carolina Writer's Underground said...

Perhaps Phil Mickelson should find out about pitt & company's current desperate search for alternative financing, the liens on the property and the angry creditors before touting his "prize winning" course design.

Anonymous said...

Since he's king of the hill, maybe we should take him out for lunch and drinks at the Stray Cat Lounge, just make sure he pays.

The Wampus said...

Hmm, Cashiers could use a little bit of the Mick! Actually, I don't get the whole hero worship thing. I mean, do you really get a boost to your self-esteem by groveling for a signature from some cat who doesn't know you from Adam?

Anonymous said...

I'm saying this again, and without hyperbole- building golf courses in the mountains is of the Devil. It's as awful and flippant a violation of stewardship as can be offered. At least the mining companies can rationalize some necessity for their activities; golf courses in mountainous areas strikes me as biohubris. I imagine it can be done without harm, but I have never heard of its execution.

And I'm a Paleocon.

Class of '74

The Wampus said...

I don't know if the building and running of the course in our mountains, per se, is of the devil. Smaller well designed courses I can usually handle.

What I cannot handle are the types of individuals that purchase country club lots and property on said golf course. Can there be any more self-righteous infidels? Pompous, arrogant, and hubristic enough to place a gate between themselves and Joe Bob the country boy.

Steve Brady said...

To Anonymous Who Suggested Taking Phil Out To Eat At The Stray Cat Lounge: Bad idea. The guy's famous for choking.

Anonymous said...


I laughed out loud at that.

Class of '74