The premier club featured in this month’s newsletter takes its name from a Confederate General: Wade Hampton III, known as “The Giant in Gray.” Hampton came from a long line of soldiers, including his grandfather who served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War. At one point, Hampton was the largest landowner in the South with his holdings of plantations in Mississippi and South Carolina. Wade Hampton III also served as Governor of South Carolina and in the U.S. Senate after the Civil War. The course is named after Hampton because the land the club is built on was owned by his family for generations.
The Wade Hampton golf course is located in the mountainous western part of North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the town of Cashiers. The mountains of western North Carolina have long been a summer retreat for Southerners who trek there to escape the sweltering heat. Built in 1987 and designed by Tom Fazio, the course is regarded as one of the best in the world and is regularly ranked as such by the various golf magazine rating panels.
Wade Hampton Golf Club A Pictorial History was published in 2011 with a goal of capturing the club’s early history and formative years, while the founders were still around to tell their stories. Written by Adam Messix, a professional at another Fazio-designed 9-hole course nearby, the club history appropriately captures the spirit of Wade Hampton. Like the course itself, the book is beautifully done and understated. It offers a well-researched and detailed history of this private club, which was the brainchild of one of its founders: William McKee. McKee had the vision to develop the course into a world-class facility and hired Fazio before his rise to stardom in the design business. He had the foresight to bring on a couple of Augusta members who helped guide the club in the right direction.
Membership at Wade Hampton is limited to those who have a home site on the property and it counts Fazio among its members. Set at 3,500 feet of elevation, the course was blasted from granite and out of thick forest. In much the same way that Muirfield Village is Jack Nicklaus’s masterpiece, Wade Hampton is considered Fazio’s best work. Many of the holes play from elevated tees and the course uses the nearby Chimney Top Mountain as a spectacular backdrop.
The 128-page book includes a hole-by-hole pictorial of all the holes on the course and Messix chose to use pictures taken in the fall with the orange and crimson colors bursting off the pages. Wade Hampton is in a charmed setting and the picture of the 9th hole in the book, with the clubhouse behind it has the look of a Thomas Kinkade painting: idyllic, with bucolic scenery and an idealized version of the world. Given the exclusivity of the club, their club history is one of the harder ones for a collector to obtain.
There are two other books that have been produced about Wade Hampton, both also difficult to find. The first was Wade Hampton Golf Club: The Journal (D & J W1840), a 55 page hardcover issued in 1987, it captures the first year events of the club. Tom Fazio also produces a book for many of his new golf courses and did so for Wade Hampton, publishing Golf Course Designs: Wade Hampton Golf Club (D & J F4990) in 2000.
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