Just a few miles east of U.S. 63, Route WW climbs a gradual hill. To the left, an unwelcoming bank of loose sediment is littered with patches of dormant Johnson grass, the kind you used to chew on as a kid.
As the highway tops the hill, the bank drops to road level, revealing an expanse of perfectly cut bright green grass, striped dark and light by the alternating paths of a mower. In the middle of the property, just before the hills start to dip and roll likes waves rushing from the sea, a beautiful and commanding manor rises above the surrounding pasture, behind a white wooden fence that suggests rural tranquility but demands respect. Now home to developer Billy Sapp and his wife, Glenda, it soon will serve as the clubhouse for what they hope will become the premier golf club in the area.
Sapp on Monday night cleared a major hurdle in his effort to develop the property when he won unanimous approval from the Columbia City Council for his Old Hawthorne subdivision. The area covers 631 acres of land, and the preliminary plat approved by the council provides for 370 single-family homes, 625 townhomes, 30 acres of planned commercial development, the golf course and an 18-acre park that will be owned by the city.
Despite the size of the development, it won council approval with relative ease. Mayor Darwin Hindman, taking a cue from city staff, unsuccessfully lobbied for an additional stub street to the east to accommodate future development; Sapp’s plat calls for two to the east and two to the north.
Boone County Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre spoke at the public hearing, complaining about the lack of connector streets to the north and east.
“It’s the biggest annexation in Columbia’s history, and there was zero public input as to how it develops,” Schnarre said. “There was no time in the development of this subdivision where the county had input.”
Golf-course grading and preliminary infrastructure work will begin in the next few weeks, said Sapp spokesman Don Stamper. Home construction will begin next year, and the golf course could open to limited use next fall. A grand opening is planned for spring 2007.
The course, centered around the South Fork of Grindstone Creek, will be the largest and most competitive in the region, according to Sapp spokesman Don Stamper.
“There’s lots of water elements. One of the holes is 550 yards uphill. It’ll be a very challenging course,” he said.
“We hope it will be the home of the MU men’s and women’s (golf) programs,” Stamper said. “We think it’ll be a special place.”
The course is being designed by Art Schaupeter, whom Sapp golf coordinator Jeff Woodfield called one of the country’s leading course designers.
“He’s probably the best designer under 50 years old,” Woodfield said.
Schaupeter designed The Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas, The Buckhorn Golf Course in Comfort, Texas, the Persimmon Woods Golf Club in Weldon Springs, the Gateway National Golf Links in Granite City, Ill., and Haymaker in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
“One of the things that makes a great strategic golf course is width,” Woodfield said. “This course has wider fairways than most, which gives you more options. The golf course doesn’t dictate how you have to play the hole.”
The designer went so far as to create a new blend of bluegrass for parts of the course, which will also include a 22-acre practice facility. The course will feature five sets of tees for people of different skill levels. The longest tees will cover 7,200 yards and the shortest 4,700 yards.
The club will be private, offering national, regional and local memberships.