By Josh Baldwin
Ten years ago, during the grand opening of The Greenbrier Sporting Club’s major amenities, the preeminent golf course designer Tom Fazio took to the podium and told the gathered crowd, “In my 30 odd years of designing courses, I have never felt as pleased as I am with The Snead. The setting couldn’t be more beautiful, surrounded by lush meadows and running streams. The Greenbrier is noted for its world-class golf courses, and the one we just finished is no exception.”
Larry Klein, Vice President and General Manager of The Sporting Club, has been with the club since day one and remembers the opening ceremonies with a certain nostalgia.
“The party was perhaps the most exciting party to take place on the estate since The Greenbrier reopened in 1948,” he remembers. “Many of our members had been away for the winter and eagerly returned to a completed Clubhouse complex and Tom Fazio golf course. To say they were excited would be an understatement.”
Looking at The Sporting Club today, it’s hard to believe that it has been only ten years since that grand opening weekend. In the last decade, The Sporting Club has seen tremendous growth, selling 387 of its available 500 homesites to date, with a membership hailing from 32 states and Canada.
“Ten years, wow that went by fast,” John Klemish, Adviser to the Chairman and Broker-in-Charge, exclaims. “We knew when we designed and built The Lodge, Sports Complex, Ananda Spa and The Snead Course that it was special but I don’t think we knew it would receive such acclaim.”
Klemish has been a fixture at The Sporting Club for much of its life. He was there at the beginning, back far enough to remember staking properties before roads were even finished. And, after a little hiatus, he has returned to push the private, member-only community forward as both The Club and resort continue to add amenities and events.
“Some of my fondest memories of the early years of The Sporting Club revolve around the golf course,” he says, reminiscing. “Anyone who knows me knows I can be found playing golf nearly every afternoon after work. The Snead Course never gets old or boring. I mean it has five tee boxes, numerous pin placements on each hole, and variable winds. The course really plays differently every time you tee it up.”
“I was fortunate enough to play the first official round of golf when we opened the course that day and I got everyone in the foursome to putt out on the 18th green in order of our score so that each of us would hold the course record if only for a short time. My record lasted for 15 seconds,” he notes with a wide grin.
“It’s certainly rare to be in the first group to play a new golf course and truly become part of the history of the property,” adds Klein.
Today, the Snead Course stands as one of the best golf courses in the country, consistently featured in a number of golf and private community oriented publications. It’s easy to see why; the course is stunningly beautiful with undulating, luxurious bent grass fairways and greens speckled with pockets of sun and shade created by Greenbrier and Kate’s Mountains, part of the backbone of the Alleghenies.
The course is continuing to grow more beautiful with age, too. “The hardwood trees we planted throughout the course have grown and matured and now frame many holes,” says Robbie Gilmore, Golf Professional at The Sporting Club. “Also, the bluegrass rough is now established and puts a premium on hitting fairways. That kind of stuff takes a few years to develop and since then we have not made any major changes to the course. The time has just flown by and it all has been good.”
Just as striking as the course is The Members’ Lodge, also celebrating its 10th anniversary. The massive, 32,000-square-foot lodge frames the 18th green and provides a majestic nod to the broad slopes surrounding it. Designed to feel like a natural part of the surrounding environment, the lodge features local stone and natural hardwoods and is bathed in acorn-hued tones and patterns, with a sweeping, curved staircase beneath a wrought iron chandelier. The hickory wainscoting throughout The Lodge is inspired by Sam Snead’s hickory golf clubs, while an entire hallway is dedicated to The Greenbrier legend’s memorabilia. The most prized piece of Snead’s ephemera? The first ever Green Jacket from Snead’s win at the Masters Championship in 1949, the year the tournament first began the Green Jacket tradition.
“We wanted to have a private club that complimented what was already available at The Greenbrier,” says Klein of The Members’ Lodge. “The Club has a different style and feel than our neighbor about a mile east. We wanted intimate settings in a campus style layout that separates amenities like the Spa, Equestrian Center, Sports Complex, and even golf practice facilities from the main clubhouse. It gives a true feeling of exclusivity at each location that our members expect.”
Housed in The Lodge is the club’s popular Lodge Restaurant, led by Chef Stephen Gustard, as well as a number of meeting rooms, spacious locker rooms, lounges, and an elaborate pro shop. In the last decade, The Lodge has become more than just its amazing architecture and amenities; it has become the social hub for the community it serves.
The Sports Complex, directly adjacent to The Members’ Lodge, features a number of amenities that are also celebrating their tenth birthday, including The Club’s outdoor infinity pool, squash courts, a 25-foot climbing wall and three Har-Tru Tennis Courts.
Just beyond The Sports Complex sits the tranquil and serene Ananda Spa, which also opened that day in 2004. The spa sits in a quiet corner of the grounds and features two outdoor Zen porches that overlook Howard’s Creek and White Rock Mountain beyond.
Offering signature services such as massages, skin care, and beauty packages, the spa has become an active component of The Club’s amenities. The spa strives to create a unique experience for each of the guests by creating a wholly individualized service that responds to each member’s needs.
“Being a private residential property allows us to develop a rapport with our members,” says Jane Deolloqui, Director of Ananda Spa, “which in turn allows us to cater to their needs. We can treat each individual as just that— an individual. We don’t have to cookie cutter our services.”
“Always supplying an atmosphere of comfort for mind, body and soul,” says Deolloqui, referring to the spa’s philosophy. “Providing a complete “Zen” experience for all guests by escorting them on the path to tranquility, relaxation and inner peace with our exclusive treatments.”
While time may slow down at Ananda Spa, the last ten years have zipped by for The Sporting Club’s principals. Maybe that’s because The Club hasn’t slowed down a bit and is continuing to add new attractions to its portfolio.
“Since we opened we have added amenities at The Summit including additional dining, pool, indoor gymnasium, mini golf, and a playground based on our member’s needs,” says Klein.
“Going into this project, I didn’t know what to expect.” he admits. “I could not be more proud of the community that we have created and how this has had such a positive impact on the area, our members, and The Greenbrier. I love to see friendships being formed, and also see many members introduced to new activities that they would not have exposure to elsewhere. I feel we have the greatest membership in America and thank our four-hundred members for their continued support of myself and the community.”