Monumental groundbreaking at McLemore


Despite the Spring rain and wind of a Monday afternoon on Lookout Mountain, over 100 people participated in the historic groundbreaking of The Course at McLemore.

The crowd joined golf course architects, Steve Weisser and Bill Bergin, to learn about the renewed vision for the mountaintop course and gain insight on the team's plans for the bunkers and greens complexes. “We plan to make the course accessible for all levels of play,” said Bergin. “We want people to enjoy this course for generations and to talk about it throughout the year.”

Flanking Weisser and Bergin were Scenic Land Company President Duane Horton and Hart Howerton Master Planner Roland Aberg, who shared their plans for the entire McLemore development, Golf Village and Clubhouse. “We plan to embrace and highlight the beautiful natural elements inherent in this spectacular site,” said Aberg of McLemore. “We learned from working with Walt Disney that the journey to McLemore begins long before a guest reaches the front gate. We want to guide them through the property until they finally reach the ultimate promise of the site—the cliff edge overlooking McLemore Cove. There is no place like it in the Southeast.”

Construction on The Course at McLemore will begin in early May and conclude in late 2018.

Canyons, Rocks and Strategy


Bill Bergin's strategy for the re-design of The Course at McLemore requires careful analysis of fairways, bunkers, greens and the natural topography.

An Interview with Bill Bergin: Part Two

When you sit down to talk about a golf course's design with Bill Bergin, you can expect an almost exact description of its fairway dynamics, bunker placement and greens. His memory seems photographic as he describes the landscape.

Even more impressive is his vision for its next phase. He talks about the views created from the re-contouring of a fairway. Or how the bunkers will be modified and shaped to enhance play. How he plans to open up the greens to improve visibility and placement. He talks about making the course more challenging for the seasoned golfer, as well as more approachable for the novice.

To appeal to all levels of play as Bergin plans to do with the re-designed golf course at The Course at McLemore will be no small feat. It will require experience, insight, imagination and working with the natural landscape at the site.

Here, we continue our series of interviews with Bill Bergin as he creates the strategy for The Course at McLemore and his partnership with Rees Jones on the project.

How do you design a golf course so that golfers can play strategically?  
We look at a golf course, and we start the project strategically. We ask ourselves how is it going to play, and how is it going to play for all types of golfers. So, as a former player, and as a teacher, and as an architect, that is of special interest to me. We take a lot of time in laying out the golf course, balancing shot values, using ups, downs, side angles, all kind of things that the property has to offer to create an interesting strategy. Now, conversely, for the recreational player, sometimes, strategy goes out the window on the first shot because most golfers do not hit the ball where they intend. So, they have strategic intent but sometimes lack the ability. In fact, even really good golfers lack strategic ability from time to time. It becomes this mix between your strategic intent and what actually happens with players, and then fusing that with the beauty of the land.

Oftentimes when players hit their first shot they might transition into recovery mode. They are required to immediately adapt. At that point, strategy isn’t so important because it starts over on each tee. But during that process, we also look at giving players the ability to navigate their way around obstacles, around the golf course, play the game on the ground, feel like it’s set up, so they have a chance, and they have a mission that’s doable. So, it’s sort of a blending of what is perfect strategy and what is reality or realistic for the player.

The Course at McLemore is an exciting project for me because I feel like we really can create these awe-inspiring views, whether they’re already here naturally, or we’re creating or adding to what’s here naturally. So, that’s exciting.


Natural outcroppings of rock are a particular feature The Course at McLemore. How do you work with and enhance what the landscape provides?
Sure. So, one thing that’s really interesting about this property, to me, is the abundance of views, the abundance of boulder-type massive rock, and also the trees. In the master planning process, when we’re going to adjust this golf course, those are areas that are actually easy to alter and take advantage of. Naturally, a big, massive, boulder like you see to the right of number one or that you go between the cart path going from seven to eight, well, that’s a given. That’s an easy situation. But then you have other spots on the golf course where we have a tiny bit of rock showing, and it looks like a blemish or a dirt spot rather than a rock outcropping.

So, we will take those areas, and we will either eliminate them all together by bringing in enough dirt to cover them properly where grass can thrive, or we will actually expand and expose those rocks and then plan some natural vegetation around the non-playable side of the rocks to really make them part of the art—make them intentional rather than accidental.

There’s a couple spots like that. The fourth fairway has a lot of small rock exposed in the fairway that doesn’t look good. It has spectacular rock exposed on the rise up from the tees to the fairway, and that should look exposed. So, two different things here. We are either going to enhance, or we’re going to eliminate. That will make it all look like we are in charge here. We’re intending it to look good.

What are a few of the holes that represent more of a design challenge for you?
We’ve got a vast area between the sixth and the ninth fairways. And we have a canyon through that area where the elevation changes dramatically. On the sixth hole, you play out to a plateau, and then it drops out of sight. I mean clearly out of site. Where on the second shot, for most players, they cannot see anything. That’s not a good thing. That’s not exciting. It’s just awkward and difficult. On the ninth hole, we have the tee set on the other side of the canyon, and they’ve got to cross it to get to the fairway. It’s a long carry for most players.

To counteract both of those holes, we’re going to take the middle ground. The middle ground has a tree-lined ridge, if you will, between the holes that actually works as a extension to the sixth fairway. This means you can go down the left side of number six, and you can play further down that way, in my plan, than you can currently do so. And the more you move to the left, you can see the green. So, the hole opens up from the left side. From the right side, it’s sharp, and it’s blind, but it opens up from the left side.

At the number nine tee, that same tree-lined ridge gets players closer to the tee ball. In other words, if you can’t quite hit it far enough to carry the canyon, you’ll have the opportunity to hook left to a new fairway that will be joined. I have a feeling that we will actually have fairway cut on those two holes that they share. It’s going to be a wide area. There will be a couple trees left in that area for beauty, but it will be a very wide area that makes both holes more playable. I’m really excited about it because that’s the most difficult physically. That location is the most difficult on the golf course. It could also be considered unfair for a lot of players. We don’t want people to come here and feel like, “I’m just not capable of playing those holes.” So, we’re really excited about what we’re going to do between those two.

“The Course at McLemore is an exciting project for me because I feel like we really can create these awe-inspiring views, whether they’re already here naturally, or we’re creating or adding to what’s here naturally.”

The canyon on number six is extremely dramatic, unusual. What are some courses that have similar features that have utilized the topography successfully?
Well, I can name a couple. Waterfall up in the North Georgia Mountains at Lake Burton has a par three that drops out of sight like that. It’s all visible, but the hole drops a tremendous amount of footage between tee and green. Then in Alabama, Farm Links has a par three, also, that drops out of the sky. It’s their signature hole. Both of those do fine, but they did it over a par three, so you’re playing from a fixed position to another very low position that you can see. Our problem with number six being a par five is you don’t get to hit down the canyon from a fixed position, which causes golfers hit the ball all over the place.

Right now, if players don’t hit it close enough to the edge of the cliff, they have to chip on their second shot to get into position and then play the blind shot. We really want to eliminate that. So, I’m not modeling after those by any means, but really, the point of discovering that bridge between the holes that allows us to get people closer to their intended target is the discovery that we’re pretty pleased about. Then back to the view. When we open this up, you’re going to be able to stand on the ninth green, and you’re going to look backwards all the way down. You won’t see sixth green from there, but the view of the mountains from that point going backwards is tremendous.

Rees Jones is coming on board to work on The Course at McLemore with you. What has he been like to work with in the past?
Yeah, I was fortunate to work on a project in Winter Haven, Florida with Rees Jones three years ago. It was a delight. It was a great learning experience. It was a successful project where Golf Digest recognized our work there as one of the best new courses in America. Reese is, obviously, an incredibly experienced architect. He’s worked all over the world, and he’s worked on some of the best golf courses all over the world. For us to work together, I think, is going to be an exciting opportunity. We became very good friends during that process and have continued to look at possible projects together. This is going to be a super opportunity for us to work together. I would assume being local, that I will carry the lion share, but Rees will have incredibly insightful and positive input during the process.

How would you describe Rees Jones’ style as an architect?
Rees and I don’t differ tremendously in that we both generally prefer grass face bunkers with sand in the bottom, which are very maintenance friendly. Strategically, he played golf for Yale University, and I played college golf and then professional golf on tour and was able to play in five major championships. Rees has designed probably many more than five major championship golf courses. So, that will be a nice collaboration—my playing experience and his design experience on championship golf. Bringing that to The Course at McLemore is going to be fun. We’re not looking to host a US Open at The Course at McLemore, but what we do want is an exciting challenge but one that’s really fair for the majority of players that play here.


Jones and Bergin Join Forces

left to right—Bill Bergin, Rees Jones and Steve Wessier discuss the Course at McLemore.

left to right—Bill Bergin, Rees Jones and Steve Wessier discuss the Course at McLemore.


Two of golf’s most respected designers bring their world-class vision to the dramatic Lookout Mountain resort/hotel development.

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, TN—Scenic Land Company announced today that Rees Jones and Bill Bergin, two of golf’s most legendary and innovative architects, have joined forces to re-design and renovate the Lookout Mountain Resort Golf Course, formerly Canyon Ridge Club. Sharing over 60 years of golf course design experience between them, Jones and Bergin have each created some of the most played and award-winning golf courses in the United States, including their most recent collaboration at the Country Club of Winter Haven in Orlando, Florida.

“I am looking forward to getting underway at Lookout Mountain Resort,” said Rees Jones. “The natural site is ideal for golf, with beautiful vistas and dramatic terrain. The foundation for an intriguing golf experience is there. We are going to enhance the features that require strategy, create definition, and make it more flexible, so that every caliber of golfer can enjoy playing Lookout Mountain Resort time after time.”

Jones has designed or redesigned more than 225 golf courses in his career, including seven U.S. Open venues, eight PGA Championship courses, five Ryder Cups, two Walker Cup sites, as well as the President's Cup at The Royal Montreal Golf Club. Among his notable original designs are Nantucket Golf Club, Atlantic Golf Club, The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek, RedStick Golf Club, Ocean Forest Golf Club, Haig Point Club, Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, The Bridge and Cascata Golf Course.

Joining Jones on the re-design and renovation at Lookout Mountain Resort Golf Course is Bill Bergin. As a professional golfer, Bergin played in excess of 250 professional tournaments worldwide, including three U.S. Opens, two British Opens, and more than 50 PGA Tour events. Bergin has been involved in the planning and design of over 50 projects, including The Club at Foxland Harbor, named one of Golfweek’s “2009 Best New Courses;” Oaks Country Club, selected as Golf Digest’s “4th Best Remodel in the US for 2015;” Chariot Run, Golfweek's “#3 Best Course You Can Play in Indiana;” Justin Timberlake’s Mirimichi, named Golfweek’s “#1 Best Course You Can Play in Tennessee;” and Chattanooga Golf & Country Club, an acclaimed Donald Ross restoration along the Tennessee River.

“As golfers, we are fortunate to play the game on varied land and some magnificent properties,” said Bergin. “As an architect, it is even more special to mold and fine tune a beautiful piece of ground. From the moment I stepped foot on the land encompassed by Lookout Mountain Resort, there has been a sense of anticipation, excitement and serenity. What a beautiful feeling one gets when simply taking in all that is offered here. Rees Jones and I will transform this golf course to a level that matches this amazing property.”

At Lookout Mountain Resort, Jones and Bergin plan to enhance the greens complexes, optimize angles to green locations, and improve fairway and greenside bunker placements. They also plan to adjust yardages to create more variety and provide a world-class test for the game’s best players and accessibility for the beginners.

“For far too long, our members and guests have commented about how good this course could be. Our wish is now a reality,” notes Doug Amor, Lookout Mountain Resort’s Head Golf Professional. “With the hiring of a great emerging course designer like Bill Bergin and a legendary designer like Rees Jones, the full potential of Lookout Mountain Resort will be realized.”

Course strategy and planning by Jones and Bergin are already under way with potential groundwork being initiated as soon as 2018.


Located a short 30-minutes from downtown Chattanooga and less than two hours from Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham and Knoxville, Lookout Mountain Resort is planned to be a major branded, upper upscale/luxury resort, conference center with a mountaintop golf course and spa that will attract visitors from the Southeast, as well as national and international markets. Construction plans call for the hotel to be built on the eastern brow of Lookout Mountain overlooking historic McLemore Cove. To learn more, visit:

Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Scenic Land Company is a balanced mix of land stewards and community developers. The team and its partners are comprised of planners, designers and contractors sharing a dedication to responsible land development and community building. Scenic Land Company’s goal is creating value through thoughtful land development within each community and growing our local economy, Scenic Land Company develops remarkable communities that balance highest and best uses with the preservation of our natural resources. Other projects developed by Scenic Land Company include Hillocks Farm in Hixson, Brow Wood on Lookout Mountain and The Village of Oakbrook in East Brainerd. To learn more, visit:

Scenic Land Investments and its member investors are focused on the development of challenging, undeveloped land and bringing them to market to provide the highest and best use. Scenic Land Investments seeks to provide our member investors’ with a maximum return on investment year-over-year through responsible stewardship and consideration for all people and land involved. To learn more, visit:

The Secret is on the Ground


An Interview with Bill Bergin: Part One

Renowned early 20th Century golf course architect Alister Mackenzie observed that “the chief object of every golf architect or greenkeeper worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from nature itself.” Nearly 100 years later at The Course at McLemore on Lookout Mountain, Georgia, golf course architect Bill Bergin remains focused on reflecting the natural beauty in the setting of this breathtaking mountaintop course.

Last month, Bergin was engaged by the leadership Scenic Land Company to bring new life into the Canyon Ridge course and to begin the process of redesigning it to accommodate its growing residential community as well as the planned 180-room luxury resort hotel and conference center.

On a recent scouting visit to McLemore, we sat down with Bill Bergin to get to know him a little better and to get his thoughts on The Course at McLemore course and how he plans to approach this unique property.

What made you fall in love with golf course design?
My father is in the insurance business. And anybody who knows insurance knows that golf plays a big role in the insurance business. We were members of a club that did not allow children to step foot on the grass until they were 10 years old. This was not a high-end, stuffy club; this was a middle of the road club in Maryland. But you were still not allowed to step foot on the grass until you were 10 years old. That rule created this desire in me that has never left—that I couldn’t wait to put my foot on that perfect green grass. Today, I still get emotional about the smell of cut grass in the morning or the shadows late in the afternoon on a golf course. That just goes right to my heart. And there’s no place I’d rather be.

Golf has grabbed me. And that’s what I want to do for more people. I really want to create a situation and create golf courses where people just want to be there. I do this by trying to appeal to the golfer on multiple levels—intellectually, in the heart, and physically.

When did your career as a golf course architect become more serious for you?
In college, I became interested in golf course design. I was a great mapper of golf courses as well as a solid player. This was before having range finders and great yardage books. We just created our own. You could buy yardage books on the PGA Tour, but I always augmented them with my information.

When I got into the design business, I found it very interesting how golf course design parallels competitive golf. As a competitive golfer, you visualize a shot, you execute the shot, and you’re instantly rewarded with some feedback. As a designer, there’s even more feedback and it’s even better. Here’s why: we get to a piece of property and we start imagining the golf shots on that piece of property. Then we draw that up on a plan. We take that plan even further into construction drawings, with grading plans being the most important aspect of that. The detail of that shot you have imagined in your head starts to come to life on paper. Then we get to go out and build it and it all starts coming to life.

We’ve visualized it. We’ve drawn it. We’re building it. And then we get to play it. And that is just like playing professional golf, but even better because the course is permanent. It lasts.

You know, if I finish fourth in the Provident Classic, no one cares. But they will always care about Canyon Ridge. It is here and it is going to last. And so, that’s even more rewarding. That’s why for the last 27 years now, I can’t wait to get up in the morning and get to the next project, get my feet on the ground, get a little dirty, and see a course come to life.

“At The Course at McLemore we’re going to create options where people have an ability to challenge a hole or play a little bit more conservatively, but they’ll feel that the golf course is there for them. ”

You were a professional golfer for seven years, competing in three U.S. Opens and two British Opens. What is one of your stand out experiences from that period in your life?
My top professional golf experience was probably the best round of my career. I was fortunate to qualify for the 1984 British Open at Saint Andrews. I was 25 years old and was playing on the first version of what is today’s Tour. I decided to go to Europe and try to qualify for the British Open, which I did. The qualifying is a two-round qualifier on Sunday and Monday. And by Monday afternoon I was in the British Open.

The British Open starts on Thursday, so I had two practice rounds. There’s no Pro-Ams in the majors, so I was able to play practice rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday. I was playing very, very well and had finished second in an event. I shot the course record in the qualifying at a course called Lundin Links. So, I knew I was playing good golf. But I had shot 75-73 at Saint Andrews and made the cut on the nose.

On Saturday, I tee off very early and shoot 66. And at the time — this was 1984— the course record was 65. I was aware of that, but what was really exciting was, I get to 6 under through 16 holes, and the Road Hole is number 17. I hit every green in regulation that day, and that is not a big feat at Saint Andrews as other courses because the greens are giant. Yet, it is still an accomplishment. And then I three-putt 17. Of course, I’m disappointed.

Then I play a nice drive off of 18. It’s into the wind, so we’re not driving it near the green. I hit my second shot about two feet from the hole. The gallery there is a horseshoe just loaded with people. I got a standing ovation from the time my ball landed on the green until I marked it. They didn’t know who I was, but they knew my score. I literally got goosebumps. It was a moment. It was just a moment that you can’t…I’ll never recreate it. That was equal to the low round of the week. Tom Watson shot 66. Ian Baker-Finch shot 66. And I shot 66. So, to equal the best round of the British Open, and to do it with a birdie in the last hole, with the crowd recognizing it, was quite a thrill.

As a golf course architect, how do you make a golf course more playable for seasoned amateurs as well as for beginners?
So, every course that I work on personally, two things happen. The course gets harder for the best players and easier for the typical golfer or the recreational golfer. That is something that we’re really proud of, and I give that talk often. People look at me a little sideways like, “How can you possibly do that?” Yet, we’ve done it over and over and over for the last 20 years.

The reason we can do it is partially my background. I played golf professionally and saw golf at the highest level. Then I taught golf for three years back in the 80’s. I gave eight to ten lessons a day to recreational golfers, so I understand the difference in how a golf course impacts the recreational player and the top player. What impacts the best players is different than what impacts the recreational players that we’ll have at The Course at McLemore.

Most golfers play the game on the ground. The best players play it in the air. Because everybody else plays the game on the ground, what happens around the green’s complex is key. Allowing players to navigate, giving them an option where they can choose a challenging route or a more safe route—that gives them the impression that the golf course is fair. They might take the challenging route and be unsuccessful, but they don’t blame the course or the architect. They know it’s on them, as long as they have an option.

At The Course at McLemore we’re going to create options where people have an ability to challenge a hole or play a little bit more conservatively, but they’ll feel that the golf course is there for them. It’s fair, and it’s fun. So, that’s one of the things we’re going to do. The secret is on the ground. In this course, especially.

What are the current strengths of The Course at McLemore?
Well, I think the first thing that you notice is when you come down the entrance road, you get this view out over the 18th green to a series of hills in the background, mountains in the background. They’re just layered out there for you, so it just sort of ramps up your anticipation of what’s to come right there with that first impression. That’s very exciting. We have a good golf course. We have a dramatic site. We want to match those two things a little bit better.

“Number one is a bold start to the golf course. It sets a strong tone. I think it’s one that gets people excited.”

Are there some holes and fairways that are stronger than others at The Course at McLemore?
It’s interesting. The original designers took the 1st hole and the 18th hole and, they used the edge of the mountain on both of those holes. So, you begin dramatically and you finish dramatically. We actually want to take the first hole even closer to the edge. We want to make you stand there so that you basically do a 360 degree turn and say, “Wow!” That’s your start of the day. We want to do the same thing when you finish the round on the 18th.

So, on number one, you start with an elevated tee shot. There’s not a lot of fairway definition right now, and it’s actually quite tight and too intimidating, especially as a resort course. So, we’re going to make that a little bit more user friendly. We’re going to make it a little bit more defined, so people understand the hole. Then, when they get to the green’s complex, they’re going to go, “Wow!” That’s our goal to start the round. We do have some very dramatic holes as you play throughout the golf course. I think number two is an excellent hole. It’s, again, from an elevated tee, looks down into a valley that has a beautiful lake, and then the green sits across the lake on the other side.

It’s a bold start to the golf course. It sets a strong tone. I think it’s one that gets people excited. But then there are holes like number three, which is underwhelming. It needs to be uplifted to fit this role that we’re looking for with this property. A great golf course sort of ebbs and flows between challenges and opportunities. We will do that here. We will have plenty of challenging holes. We’ll also have plenty of holes that you can take advantage of to actually improve your score. But, all of that needs to fit together so it’s an experience that keeps the player interested. And each time he or she gets to a new spot on the golf course, they’re impressed. We will look at that throughout the whole golf course.

One of the things that I think you’re known for is your approach to bunkers. How do you compare to someone like Tom Fazio, whose bunkers are a little out there?
Tom Fazio bunkers are very dramatic. They’re very eye-catching. To me, they go a step too far in that they dominate the scenery. I believe the bunker’s job is to highlight the scenery. You want the greens to be the star of the show. We want the bunkers to highlight and lift those greens up, not dominate or overwhelm them. There’s a fine line there.

Our bunkers are going to make the golf look better, yet still paint this gorgeous picture. Then our bunkers are also very maintenance friendly, which to me, just makes perfect sense. What I mean by that is the sand doesn’t wash; the bunkers are very consistent. The player will find from bunker to bunker to bunker a consistent sand quality and performance. The shot values will be consistent. And the staff who has to take care of them will like it because there are no surprises.

“A great golf course sets a tone for a player so that when they enter the property and they get the first glimpse of the course, it grabs them in the heart or speaks to them. The Course at McLemore is that kind of property.”

Each location has its own unique terrain, climate, soil and conditions. How do you design a course to reflect its environment?
I’ve played over two hundred professional golf tournaments around the world, so I’ve seen a lot of golf. Each course I’ve played is unique. And when managed and understood properly, the land helps guide the design. For example, we currently have three projects underway in Atlanta. If you went to all three of them, you would know they were cousins, but they’re not brothers and sisters. There is an element that you go, “Yeah, they’re related, but they’re different.” They may look the same, but they will be different. You’ll see unique aspects to each course that are specific to the land.


The bunker style at The Course at McLemore will be a grass-faced bunker with sand in the bottom, but it will have really interesting movement to the grass face. The arc of a bunker has two aspects: the sand line creates an arc, and then, for our bunkers, the crestline creates another aspect of arc. And they don’t have to move parallel to each other. They can actually vary in height and angle. And that creates this just beautiful, bold look. We looked at bunkers at The Course at McLemore and found that some of them are just flat scoops. They’re like someone took an ice cream scoop and just took a little scoop out of the grass. Our bunkers are three-dimensional and really get your attention without dominating the golf hole. So, we’re proud of our bunkers and that will be a big deal at The Course at McLemore. 

In the master planning process, we’re going to look at this golf course from top to bottom. Our goal is to make it the best it can be.

What do you find inspiring about a great golf course?
To me, a great golf course ebbs and flows between challenges and opportunities. I want certain holes to really test me, and I want certain holes to give me an opportunity. And both of those create that anticipation. A great golf course sets a tone for a player so that when they enter the property and they get the first glimpse of the course, it grabs them in the heart or speaks to them. The Course at McLemore is that kind of property. We want people to come here and have the course create a feeling in their body that says, “I am really happy. I don’t want to be anywhere else than where I am today.”

I also believe that yardage diversity is part of a great golf course. Too much is put on today’s world about length, because the tour players hit it so very far. But that’s less than one percent of the golfers out there. But to mix with that ebb and flow of opportunity and challenge is yardage diversity. For example, the third hole here at The Course at McLemore is a very nice, short par three. So, conversely, number eleven is a pretty long par three. We want that great mix of lengths, from the shortest hole to the longest hole, all of them being fun, all of them where people look forward to playing them.

We want our players to experience a great mix where they can use all their clubs. It’s a cliché, but we literally will set the golf course up so that players will use every club in their bag. We will lengthen this golf course, and we will shorten it. We will work on both ends. We literally want to appeal to every person who comes down the entrance road.