Lookout Mountain Club will host a Groundbreaking Ceremony on Wednesday, June 22, at 5:00 p.m., for its members to commemorate the restoration of the club’s Seth Raynor-designed golf course and historic Fairyland clubhouse. The $12 million capital improvements are part of a Master Plan that was voted on and approved by a super majority of the club’s membership back in October of last year.
It has been 97 years since Seth Raynor first walked the property that became the Fairyland Golf Course (now Lookout Mountain Club) and gasped in wonder and satisfaction at its unique site, a plateau that sits on a mountain rather than in the mountains.
Mr. Raynor, the pre-eminent golf course architect of the "Golden Age," never built a second-rate course. All were "of championship quality," and no other architect landed a higher percentage of his designs in the "Top 100 Classic Golf Courses" published by Golfweek.
But Mr. Raynor died two months after drafting his final plan for the course. Although his able associate Charles Banks picked up the project (and several others) that Raynor had underway, the Great Depression and World War II pushed off the full realization of the dream at Lookout.
It was not until the club hired Brian Silva in 1995 to produce the first Long Range Plan for the course that the dream was finally resurrected. Even then, though, courses were slow to embrace the idea of restoration after years of doing renovations. Mr. Silva's initial work was constrained by a budget of only half of what would be needed to fully restore the layout. Silva advised the club to put in the fairway bunkers as the first priority and restore two of the five greens that had been altered over the years, #11 and #17.
Two Lookout Mountain Club members' creation of the Seth Raynor Society pushed the idea that many of Raynor's courses were "Rembrandts in the attic" and that the memberships at all Raynor courses had been bequeathed a treasure that had to be burnished and maintained. Since then, many Raynor courses have been fully restored.
This year, Lookout Mountain has embraced this responsibility and has hired renowned golf course architects Kyle Franz, whose work was just highlighted at the 2022 US Women's Open at Pine Needles in North Carolina; Tyler Rae; and Jim Ryan to oversee the completion of the project by restoring the greens complexes to their full Raynor/Banks glory. When complete, golfers will once again "gasp in satisfaction" at this unique "links on a mountain."
The course restoration, which will kick off in June and is expected to be complete by next spring, will include all of the greens getting completely rebuilt and resurfaced, featuring a new turf grown in Auburn University's agricultural lab, a new irrigation system being installed, bunkers being rebuilt and expanded, and new cart paths being added.
Later this year, renovations will also begin at the historic Fairyland Clubhouse and are expected to take nine months. Those renovations will be guided by the Atlanta-based architectural firm Kuo Diedrich Chi (KDC), which was selected for its depth of experience and breadth of expertise, specializing in award-winning master planning and designs for private clubs worldwide.
The Groundbreaking Ceremony will feature welcoming remarks from the club’s President Caroline Williams and General Manager Andrew Orbison. It will also include featured comments from the Master Planning Committee Chair Chas Torrence, Golf Course Architects Tyler Rae and Kyle Franz, Clubhouse Architect Mark Diedrich of KDC on later phases of the restoration, and Seth Raynor Society Founder Doug Stein.
“This is such a defining moment in the narrative of Lookout Mountain Club,” said President Caroline Williams. “Our membership, board and team have overwhelmingly embraced the opportunity to invest in our future by partnering with the best in their fields to thoughtfully restore our historic golf course and clubhouse, ultimately enabling us to provide generations of members and their families an experience like no other – one that is distinctly Lookout and decidedly extraordinary.”