AT CHAMPION HILLS CLUB, THERE’S FAZIO GOLF, AND SO MUCH MORE
The “Goldilocks Zone” refers to the habitable range of a planet’s orbit around a star, where it’s neither too hot nor too cold to support life as we know it. In the golf world, the Goldilocks Zone might very well be the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, and in particular Champion Hills Club.
Located at an elevation of 3,000 feet in the town of Hendersonville, Champion Hills Club is a 730- acre residential community with a Tom Fazio-designed golf course with 300 members plus spouses, including Todd and Julie Headley. In their mid-50s, the Headleys moved to Champion Hills from the Washington, D.C. area in 2015.
“We pinch ourselves all the time,” says Todd, who worked in cyber security. “You get all four seasons, but the winters are pretty mild. I’m a fair-weather golfer who only plays a couple times a week because there’s so much else to do here, and I typically play a dozen times each in January and February.”
Year-rounders like the Headleys make up more than 60 percent of the membership at the club because the Goldilocks Zone doesn’t just apply to the weather. It also very much applies to the community and surrounding area, too. The club’s director of membership and marketing, Heather Myers, calls it “the illusion of seclusion.”
“It feels like you are in your own little world, far away from the hustle and bustle, but you are eight minutes away from a charming downtown,” she says, referring to Hendersonville’s historic district. “You can be at excellent medical facilities in a few minutes, Asheville in 30 minutes, Greenville in 45, Charlotte in two hours and Charleston in four hours. It’s literally a perfect location, safe from big city troubles, with natural beauty and an easy vibe.”
Friends from D.C. will visit the Headleys and in 20 minutes, they’re hiking past waterfalls at DuPont State Forest. “You live here?” the friends invariably ask. “Yep,” the Headleys say. “Right
here.” Hendersonville and the surrounding area host so many big events, like the North Carolina Apple Festival and FEI World Equestrian Games, that there’s always something going on.
“When you buy at Champion Hills, you’re not just buying this beautiful community, you’re buying western North Carolina,” note Myers. “One of the programs I launched was our Discover Local series. It’s a way for our members to explore and connect with the vast array of activities and attractions beyond our community such as food tours, winery visits, or trips to the BMW plant. The more I can get you into the tapestry that is Champion Hills, the longer you stay and the happier you are.”
With 18 miles of hiking trails right in Champion Hills, the community makes good use of the natural beauty, as does the golf course. Players find elevated tee boxes on 14 of the holes, and for some reason they never seem to be in much of a rush to hit their drives as they eye the mountains in the distance or Fazio’s sculpted design below. Each hole sits in its own little valley, with the homes hidden in the woods along the hillsides, so even wayward drives are typically diverted back into play.
“It doesn’t play like a traditional mountain course,” says general manager Dana Schultz, PGA.. “It’s very playable. There are only four uphill shots on the whole course. It looks challenging, but plays easy with the concave fairways. You can play off the land a little with the bumpers. Plus, with five sets of tees plus combination tees, the course is fun for literally every skill level. ”
That playability is one reason why the club has so many female players, 120 at last count. “A lot of the ladies who play didn’t play before tried our ‘Get Into Golf’ program, and now they feel comfortable playing,” says Schultz. “It’s a huge selling point I see with couples moving here.”
WHEN YOU BUY AT CHAMPION HILLS, YOU’RE NOT JUST BUYING THIS BEAUTIFUL COMMUNITY, YOU’RE BUYING WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA,”
One of the coolest holes is the 196-yard ninth, which drops 125 feet from tee to green with the tee
located right next to the clubhouse. Another memorable hole is the 332-yard 15th, which has a boulderstrewn stream running down the left side before cutting back in front of a green cut into a hillside — shades of Augusta.
The holiday events on Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Halloween are the most popular tournaments. The Headleys dressed up like Jake from State Farm Insurance and Flo from Progressive Insurance last Halloween. Many members dress up their carts, as well.
“I look at Champion Hills as a mountain golf community more than a country club,” says Todd Headley. “It’s a blend of people from all over the country [37 states], from all different careers and the spectrum in terms of political views and religion. It is such a great mix of fun people who are enjoying retirement.”
Much of the enjoyment — like the ever-popular card games — happens in the modern lodgestyle clubhouse, which features panoramic views of the Blue Ridge mountains, exposed wood beams and stone work, and a big U-shaped bar. The recently remodeled fitness center is also a popular gathering spot with enlarged group fitness, cardio, and strength rooms. The club also expanded the pool to include a lap lane. Two lighted HarTru tennis courts are also part of the fitness complex.
Another big change recently was Troon Privé taking over management of the club, which has resulted in a number of improvements, according to Headley, who sits on the membership committee.
“I give Troon an A+ grade, and they did a lot of it just by listening,” he says. “They listened, acclimated, and then they made some suggestions. I love their management style. I’ve been in business for 30 years and it’s the power of suggestion and leadership rather than, ‘Hey, I’m smarter than you about this stuff, so let me just tell you how you need to do it.’”
The real estate market at Champion Hills, which includes 350 homes and less than 100 undeveloped lots, is pretty varied in size and price, from 2,000 square feet to more than 10,000 and from the mid-$400s to over $3 million. Most homes in are Arts & Crafts style, but Country French, European, and Shingle style blend seamlessly with the mountain setting.
The Headleys weren’t even looking for a golf community when they stumbled upon Champion Hills three years ago on their way to look at a home for sale. Driving up the main entrance past a few of the holes on the course, Julie said, “Well, this is it,” to which Todd responded, “You don’t even play golf!” Julie nodded and said, “I know, but the feel of this neighborhood is just what I’m looking for.”