A Champion in Golf Destinations
Arnold Palmer (golf’s heralded “King”) once noted the sport’s connection to “Four C’s” – “Concentration, Confidence, Competitive Urge and Capacity for enjoyment.” These very attributes add to the allure of a Georgia-based golfing retreat where the concentration on customer service so complements the quality in golf offerings as to give this venue a competitive edge over other clubs; and in this case, that not only compels considerable capacity for enjoyment, but certain confidence in future growth as a favored destination for champions of sport and industry.
Encompassing some 1,200 acres graced by Georgia pines and wetlands along the winding waters of the Savannah River, Champions Retreat is a private golf club mere minutes away from the legendary golf capital of the world, Augusta National Golf Club. Champions Retreat enjoys its own masterful distinction in that it is the world’s only venue where three of golf’s greatest players have exacted their expertise in course design to respectively create three remarkable 9-hole courses for a 27-hole experience unlike any other in golf.
In describing the design achievement manifest here by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Champions Retreat Golf Club General Manager Bill Fitzpatrick says each course is so distinctively different as well as fun and challenging to excite golfers of any talent level. The Bluff (designed by Nicklaus) accommodates up-and-downhill play on a course complemented by dramatic shifts in elevation. The Island Course (by Palmer) features greens nestled between the Savannah River on one side and the waters of the Little River on the other while The Creek Course (by Player) offers challenges posed from playing amid the combination of marshes and native hardwoods. Fitzpatrick says each course features topographical elements and signature challenges which uniquely align to the golfing talents of its creator, and to such extent, “No golfer could ever get bored from playing here … the beauty of the setting, the quality of our courses and the services we provide for our guests make for an environment like none other … it is a true retreat,” says Fitzpatrick.
And when retreating from the course, guests here are afforded comfort and convenience in lavishly furnished golf cottages (from four or eight-bedrooms) which come with flat screen televisions in each suite, Electrolux appliances, high-speed wireless internet connectivity and well-appointed baths some with steam and waterfall showers. The cottages’ rustic, low country aesthetic, indicative of Architect, A. Hays Town, is further reflected in the infrastructure of The Golf Village which includes a Golf House, a Locker House with facilities for men & women, a Golf Car House and The Grille House that provides breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as special event catering.
Champions Retreat exists as a private enclave within a larger gated community, but has been constructed in such a way to offer scenic, serene seclusion, in fact, there are no homes to be observed when playing The Bluff Course or Island Course as both are situated within a wondrous setting of pristine nature. Peace and quiet, as well as privacy, adds to the popularity of Champions Retreat. Yet, for all these benefits, Fitzpatrick says the southern charm imparted from the hospitable staff is what makes the club particularly special. “Our service ethic is also unique … our first response in everything is ‘How may we help you?’ … we do whatever we can, and everything possible to ensure that our guests’ are happy and that their needs are met,” says Fitzpatrick. “We want people to come here and not have to feel like they have to make a decision … if they need something, we’re here to provide it … if that means preparing and serving dinner in their cottage, we’ll do it. Or, if it is a couple who want to have a romantic dinner on the river, we’ll set it up, our focus is to be in tune and to be responsive to whatever our members or guests want and to deliver it with the true southern hospitality that exists here.”
As the former Director of Operations for Arnold Palmer’s golf management company, Fitzpatrick has had the opportunity to experience some of the world’s greatest encounters with golf, but when he was selected as COO/General Manager at Champions Retreat, he says he immediately recognized that this was a very special place. “From the moment I was exposed to this environment, I knew it had great possibilities, not only as great place to golf, but as a great place to entertain.” Over an era which has seen some private clubs struggle to increase membership, Champions Retreat has grown to more than 400 members, a composite that includes professionals from some of the most dynamic forces of industry throughout the world. Several corporations use this venue as a place to interact with high-end clients as well as a means to reward their top producers by treating them to a stay here. During the week when Augusta National hosts The Masters Tournament, Champions Retreat plays hosts to members and guests from many countries including China, South Africa, Ireland, Australia or as Fitzpatrick says, “from all over the world.” Atypical of some private clubs, Champions Retreat doesn’t mandate that members accompany invited guests; Fitzpatrick says services have been structured to accommodate the needs of working corporate executives.
Champions Retreat enjoys a certain cachet of exclusivity, a sort of golfing secret to those “in-the-know” and to be sure, Fitzpatrick says the strategy here is to remain a private club. “Our growth has come from word of mouth; we don’t advertise or beat the gong on all that we have to offer.” Fitzpatrick says growth has occurred from those who have had an opportunity to visit, either from attending during Masters Week or from participating in events such as a recent tournament conducted with the Georgia State Golf Association, yet by and large, growth has come simply from referrals from the club’s members. “The word gets out that we have a fabulous place with great golf, great accommodations and the greatest staff you can meet, and that makes people want to come here.” To Fitzpatrick’s point, Champions Retreat has achieved year after year of consecutive growth, and that trend is anticipated to continue.
As for the future, he says the plans include expanding the national membership program. He also notes that there are plans to expand infrastructure in a distant future, but more immediate priorities revolve around simply maintaining the quality in golf and guest service operations. “We do have plans for expansion, but that’s down the road, and we’re thinking about how we can provide greater service for larger groups,” says Fitzpatrick. “Whatever we do, we’ll do it the best we can. We’re not interested in getting ahead ourselves … our plan is to grow methodically and intelligently with the needs of members and guests first in our mind.”
For more information, please visit their website at Champions Retreat
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