Best of old and new

Published 11:00 pm Sunday, February 24, 2008

Deck, the golf pro and manager of operations at Meadowbrook Golf Club, sees the spot where his grandparents&squo; old house and barn once stood. An old farm tractor marks the location, right next to rows of golf carts. Close by is the clubhouse building in the same spot where a much smaller clubhouse stood when his father Carson and uncle Kenneth first opened the course 45 years ago. Looking out from the clubhouse, Deck sees the place where he and his cousins spent many long days, working to maintain the course. Even after Friday nights of football, they were up at 4 a.m. to mow grass. There was also time for recreation, whether on the course swinging clubs from an early age, or playing a round to pass time. He recalls one afternoon of youthful exploration that ended with a golf cart stuck in a pond off the 15th hole. From the current clubhouse Deck also can see part of his backyard. His house sits off one of the fairways, and his brother and mother also still live just off the course. For Deck and his relatives, the property that&squo;s slated to become a major subdivision holds many warm memories of not only his family but of the community. That&squo;s why it&squo;s so important, he says, to make sure the new residential community fits with the character of the land and the area. He says he and his cousin Paul, who is a partner in the project, intend to make the community blend in with the area&squo;s rolling, wooded hills and farm pastures. &uot;Paul and I really work well together and we have the same vision,&uot; says William. &uot;I would say our dads had the same vision and we just sort of feel like we&squo;re carrying on with what they had seen. We really want to retain the spirit of what was originally here.&uot; Farming past Like many large tracts in the Green Creek area, the Deck property had been a farm for decades. Before it was transformed into a golf course, the Decks&squo; grandfather worked the land, raising cattle and growing corn, cotton, timber and a variety of other crops that made their way to local markets. Milk was hauled down to be stored at a springhouse near what&squo;s now the 12th hole. William Deck says his father and uncle were not golf course designers, or even big golfers for that matter. But they saw room for a new golf course in the area, and realized the rolling terrain of the old family farm offered an ideal site. Deck says his father was a fan of Arnold Palmer and was inspired by Palmer when creating the course, which opened in 1963. Deck has since had a chance twice to meet his father&squo;s inspiration, including once when Deck ran a tournament for a golf club in South Carolina. He says he would like the chance someday to chat a little longer with Palmer and share his father&squo;s story. Palmer might find it interesting that many years ago he inspired a golf course that today is just several miles from a new Palmer course at the White Oak-Tryon development. Family of golfers After growing up around the fairways and greens at Meadowbrook, William Deck played for the golf team at East Rutherford High and later earned a scholarship to play golf at Appalachian State. He went on from there to work as a golf pro at several of the top golf course resorts in the Southeast. Others in his family have also built careers around the game, including a brother who works at Cleghorn and cousins who are

golf pros at top clubs in California. Deck returned home to Green Creek in 1993 to help his father run Meadowbrook golf course. At the end of the last decade, the family began talking about updating the course and did rebuild the second hole. But a major renovation wasn&squo;t possible until recently when about 76 acres were purchased from a nearby property owner. That purchase brought the total land for the course and development to about 516 acres, and made it possible to relocate some holes and the clubhouse. New, updated holes The Decks&squo; project at Meadowbrook involves not only the creation of a residential community, but a major makeover for the golf course (see story page 12). When it&squo;s done, one third of the course will be entirely new, and all of the other holes will be updated. The modernization, to be guided by golf course designer Rick Robbins, will improve the &uot;visual playability&uot; of the course, says Deck. The course will be lengthened from about 6,500 yards currently to about 6,900 yards. Bunkers and mounds will be added and &uot;visual lanes of play&uot; will be created to eliminate blind shots and help golfers see the greens or target areas in the fairway. The changes are designed to make the course enjoyable for novice players and experts alike. &uot;I&squo;ve been at enough golf courses to know what a really good layout is and we will be second to none of those,&uot; says Deck. William and Paul Deck went through 15 sets of plans for renovating the golf course and considered several designers before finding a plan they believe will modernize the course without changing its character. Deck says the new holes should look as though they have always been there. &uot;Some of the plans were a complete renovation and we didn&squo;t even recognize the course,&uot; he says. &uot;We feel we&squo;re retaining the best of what we had. I think the golf course will be outstanding.&uot; Residential neighborhoods Deck says the residential community is also designed to retain the character of the old farm, while having modern conveniences such as high-speed Internet service. There will be no clearcutting, he says, to make way for homes. Trees will be selectively removed for homesites and a few new roads. &uot;The land is too pretty to even consider (cutting more trees),&uot; says Deck. &uot;We live here and will continue to live here. We agonize over every decision, and we said if we can&squo;t do it right, let&squo;s not do it.&uot; A new clubhouse is planned for the golf course, but it won&squo;t be a &uot;grand theatrical masterpiece.&uot; It will look more like his grandparents&squo; old farmhouse, he says. There won&squo;t be any gates to the community, and the golf course will remain open to the public as it always has been. The development will consist of several neighborhoods, each with its own architectural style, such as mountain craft or rustic. Plans also call for each neighborhood to have its own amenities, such as parks and walking trails. A few ponds may be added with fishing piers residents could walk to from their homes. Timeline As required by Polk County&squo;s subdivision ordinance, at least 50 percent of the cluster-style development will consist of greenspace. Paul Deck recently presented to the Polk County Planning Board the master conceptual plan for the development that will be created in about six phases. Deck said the development is planning public water and sewer service, and has discussed the possibility of connecting to the county&squo;s proposed water system. Work on the residential development and the golf course is expected to take place over roughly the same period of time. Holes will be created or renovated a few at a time, beginning probably in April. The first new holes may be ready for play by this fall, and additional new or renovated holes will be completed every several months. Work on the subdivision will also be split into several phases, beginning with the first one possibly this spring. William Deck says some lots may be available this fall, allowing new property owners to potentially start building a house later this year and move in next spring. A total of about six phases are expected to be open within six to seven years, and the entire development may be built out in 10 to 12 years, says Deck. As proposed in the conceptual plan, the development will have 185 single family lots, 21 townhome buildings with 105 units and 85 golf villas. However, Deck emphasizes that the subdivision plan is only conceptual at this stage. Details may change in final plats for each phase depending on how plans progress and on real estate market conditions. Even though the community may have higher density housing in some areas, Deck says it will not appear crowded. The greenspace required for the cluster development, he says, ensures that property owners and visitors to the golf course will see plenty of green everywhere they look, whether it&squo;s the course, parks, or woodland. Another goal is to make sure that everywhere Deck looks around the development he will still see connections to the land that&squo;s been in his family for more than 100 years. &uot;We&squo;re not out here to make a quick buck and move on,&uot; he says. &uot;Twenty years from now I hope to stand out here and say, &squo;Didn&squo;t this turn out great.&squo;&uot;

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