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May 2021

Brand New McLemore: The Future Looks Really Good High Atop Scenic Lookout Mountain

By Scott Kauffman

Seeing a new course open these days is seemingly as rare as witnessing a double eagle. Indeed, after golfers witnessed a 20-year period of record new course development from 1986-2006, the ongoing golf market correction continued into 2020 as America recorded the 15th straight year of overall net losses in new course supply.

The McLemore, on the other hand, is that rare ‘double eagle’ if you will, and not just for the mere fact it was one of the few new courses to officially open last year. For those fortunate to be part of the Facebook ‘Friend of McLemore’ social media whisper campaign last year and gain early access to this private club atop Lookout Mountain in Rising Fawn, Ga., the setting is stunning, to say the least.

And that is just one reason Golf Digest nominated the private resort layout “Best New Course of the Year 2020.” The other notable component is a compelling new clubhouse that opened last October and will likely prove to be as popular as the course itself once McLemore developer William “Duane” Horton builds his planned luxury lodge and conference center with proposed branding from Curio Collection of Hilton.

The McLemore’s new private residential resort destination, situated in the northwest corner of Georgia not far from Chattanooga, Tenn., is actually the resurrection of what was once known as Canyon Ridge. But ambitious plans for an upscale convention hotel and championship course more than 10 years ago by the previous developers never materialized and wound up in bankruptcy.

Horton’s Scenic Land Company gained control of the property and subsequently acquired the remainder of the breathtaking mountain top plateau from “brow to brow.” To be sure, the McLemore is a completely new course and gated enclave for all intents and purposes, highlighted by the highly acclaimed 18-hole highlands course and 6-hole short course designed by Rees Jones and Bill Bergin.

Throw in the striking new 10,000-square-foot clubhouse designed by the award-winning architectural and land-planning team of San Francisco-based Hart Howerton, and this new $200 million-plus development perched along the eastern bluff of Lookout Mountain is positioned to be one of the great must-visit private golf resort communities on par with places like Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia and Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina.

Horton, who can almost see his childhood home from the picturesque 800-acre plateau he now controls, says the McLemore was a “long time in coming” and he couldn’t be “more excited about the future plans.” After gaining control of the property in 2017, Horton’s bet is already paying off with 2020 membership sales and golf traffic already exceeding expectations.

Meanwhile, the course and clubhouse are receiving endless amounts of critical acclaim for the thoughtful design and sustainable development embraced by Horton’s team from the very beginning. In fact, the $8 million clubhouse might be the quintessential model for the future “modern clubhouse” as it relates to design, construction and overall land and landscape planning.

The  new course, which actually opened in July 2019 to limited play, and the accompanying clubhouse that was far from the usual afterthought in typical real estate development timelines, seem to be tucked in and around the cliffside edges of the mountain with panoramic vistas from a stunning vantage point of some 2,300 feet above sea level.

Roland Aberg, who was the project’s master planner, collaborated on the compelling indoor-outdoor clubhouse complex with fellow Hart Howerton principal Tim Slattery, who was in charge of architectural design. Simply put, the McLemore’s new “home away from home,” which will eventually feature an adjacent 245-room boutique resort component and 30,000-square-feet of conference and meeting space, is a sensational piece of “placemaking” one would expect to see at the world’s most renowned resort destinations.

According to Horton, the clubhouse was paramount in the overall development’s plan as much as the surrounding courses and 300-plus homes that will range in price from the low $600,000s to more than $2 million. In fact, Horton valued the potential of Hart Howerton’s plans so much he actually defied what most developers would do and repositioned the clubhouse on some of the most stunning parts of the mountain formerly routed for the golf course and real estate.

Horton and the Hart Howerton team also kept the clubhouse buildings to an intimate and relatively modest 10,000-some square feet in scope.
“We really spent a large part of our investment on the outdoor areas and making those accessible and experiential” Horton notes. “Doing things like our dining terraces and beer garden and event lawn. When it’s winter and cold, you don’t normally have as many people there anyways, so you don’t need as much space under cover.

“But when it’s really nice, people today want to be outdoors. So, we handled our maximum capacity by really focusing on the outdoors and these extensions. Our clubhouse has so many places you can come in and out of that it really is an extension of the outdoor spaces.”

When it comes to the true outdoors, or the surrounding 18-hole layout and alternative 6-hole short course, this part of the McLemore is already resonating with resounding approval – what with more than 200 golf memberships sold within months of opening the new clubhouse.

Meanwhile, Horton’s real estate team is doing equally well, selling out more than half of the estimated 300 developed lots.

“We’re doing unbelievably well with the golf course (business),” says Horton, who is now focused on securing investors and breaking ground on the club’s boutique lodge for those who are non. “We’ve exceeded all projections for our first year and we continue to receive tremendous support going forward with everything we’re doing here.”

Considering the McLemore is strategically placed within 35 minutes from Chattanooga’s large regional airport and just a two-hour drive from some 14 million people located in other growing cities in the South, the future looks bright for Horton and his Scenic Land Company.

Or, as some might describe it, the scene at the McLemore is looking real good right now high atop Lookout Mountain.

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