Legendary designer Tom Fazio is known for building amazing golf courses in communities around the world. But Champion Hills is the course that, according to him, “just became home.”
To hear Tom tell the story, making Hendersonville their hometown was all his wife’s idea. After all, what golf course designer would move their business from Florida to the mountains of western North Carolina? “If you’re in the golf business, Palm Beach County, Florida is the place to be,” Tom explains. “My main competitors, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye are in Palm Beach County. It’s a county of 170 golf courses.” So when his wife suggested moving to western North Carolina, he says, “I thought she was kidding!”
But Sue Fazio wasn’t kidding. After spending several summers in the area, she knew it was the spot to raise their young family. So they started looking for a permanent home and a location for Tom’s business.
Building Champion Hills
A few years after settling in Hendersonville, Tom was approached by a small investment group with a big dream: building Champion Hills. “They had an idea of creating a family golf course community; a great destination, year-round kind of place, but also in the mountains with views and all the things that you want,” Tom says. “And then all of a sudden we start planning a golf course.”
Being in their hometown, the Fazio Design team poured themselves into the project. “Usually I have people spread out over different projects. But everybody wanted to be on Champion Hills,” says Tom. Their dedication and talent is part of the reason Champion Hills is known as his mountain masterpiece.
A Course for Everyone
The design chipped away at the mountain to create a course where the majority of the holes play downhill and the fairways are contoured to be challenging for low handicapped golfers while offering newer players the benefit of a better bounce.
“Why would you want it to bounce away from you and bounce out of play and lose a golf ball? So there’s a great amount of detail of things that we do to make it fun,” Tom explains. “If I designed a golf course just for the Jordan Speeth’s and the Dustin Johnson’s of the world, this wouldn’t be successful.”
Asking Tom to choose a favorite hole at Champion Hills is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. Off the top of his head, he can run hole-by-hole through the course describing the tee locations, bunker layouts, backdrops, elevations, views and vegetation like one would describe their child’s strength and weaknesses.
“It's hard to have a favorite hole because this property has a lot of variety to it,” he says. “It has a lot of different angles, views, elevations, backdrops. It has a lot of settings. You take and go through each golf hole. They all look different.”
“I think that's one of the reasons that people enjoy Champion Hills and want to come back: It's the kind of place that you just have to go play again and again.”