At age 50, Quail Hollow never better

Special to the ObserverMay 6, 2010 

Quail Hollow Club, one of the major players in Carolinas golf, is celebrating its 50th birthday this week.

Talk about aging gracefully, Quail Hollow never looked better. In fact, never looked this good.

It's a Charlotte course but it's a source of pride for the region because it has been, over the years, host to most of golf's top stars, first with the PGA Tour's Kemper Open, then for many years with what is now known as the Champions Tour and recently as home to the Quail Hollow Championship, regarded as one of the best tournaments in pro golf.

Sir Nick Faldo, multiple major championship winner, told a TV audience that Quail Hollow and the tournaments are "like a mini-Augusta," a reference to the Masters, golf's grandest stage. High praise. Tour players often mention the course as one of their favorites, a reason to keep coming back year after year.

With its big, old trees and immaculate fairways that flow around gentle slopes and past a pretty lake, and with undulating greens perfectly carpeted, it is a lovely showplace. With a bite. It is already a major player in the national golf scene but it may eventually host one of the four major championships, most likely the PGA Championship. It's that good.

And it was born 50 years ago partly out of frustration.

James J. Harris, a member then of Charlotte Country Club, offered to sell some 230 acres of his family's property to Charlotte for $1,000 an acre. That would be enough property for a clubhouse and two courses, he pointed out, the second course opening the way for at least 300 new members. And Charlotte Country Club could keep its original course.

The idea was kicked around privately for about a year. Harris' attorney at the time, Irvin Boyle, said several years later, "It didn't meet with very much approval from the Charlotte Country Club group. It just hung there and eventually Jimmy let it drop."

He let it drop after he learned that his proposal was causing controversy among Charlotte Country Club factions.

"We had talked many times about how the city was growing and how clubs like Charlotte and Myers Park and Carmel were filled up," Boyle said later. "When the Charlotte Country Club idea fell through, he decided to build Quail Hollow."

The club was exclusive from the start and has remained so but it has not stood still in improving its course. It has undergone a number of renovations, driven largely by James J. Harris' son Johnny. The changes have transformed it from a good but ordinary course into one of the very best in the Carolinas, one worthy of mention on national lists.

The club is holding a number of events this week to celebrate.

Happy birthday, Quail, and thanks for half a century of bringing the top players in the world to perform for us. We'll raise a glass to you.

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