Southern Hills Golf Club, in Gladewater, TX, closed its doors to a complete renovation late in 2016, and will re-open in 2018, as a completely new – and better – golf experience called Tempest Golf Club. The project sits just north of I-20, in a triangle between Longview, Kilgore, and Tyler, TX., just two hours east of Dallas and 45 minutes west of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Award-winning architect Jeffrey D. Brauer, who has twice won “Best New Public Course” in the US by Golf Digest, and whose designs include ultra- successful Cowboys Club in Grapevine, TX, which was Zagat’s Best New Course of 2001, is designing the course.
The new course will cost over $9,000,000 to re-build, including a completely renovated and expanded clubhouse, and a few hundred future luxury home sites. However, the golf course is definitely the star, by design. Owner Joe Bruno’s directive is to be the top course in East Texas, and he has given his team ample budget and free reign to achieve that goal.
Midway through construction, it looks like a contender for those type of honors.
“His building projects have won awards, he appreciates quality design, and he demands the very best, which set the tone for the project,” says Brauer of owner Joe Bruno. And, he says “golf is his number one priority.”
On his first site visit, he saw a spectacularly poor course on a spectacularly great golf site with rolling hills resembling the North Carolina Sand Hills, streams and freshwater lakes, and trees, most of which were not used effectively or ignored. There are also some parkland areas with beautifully scattered trees, where native grasses create links style holes and long distance golf vistas, all in one golf experience.
Brauer, noted for his ability to turn banal or difficult sites into memorable golf courses, was given a great canvas and told to bring out the best of it. Brauer has spent an extraordinary amount of time fashioning what has potential to be his best work yet.
Like many renovations, this one was spurred by years of financial struggles. Finally, owner Joe Bruno decided to “take a mulligan” on both the golf course and the community. “The former course was losing money and had become a nightmare,” he said. “I was ready to give up, but I walked the old course with Jeff, who was like a kid in a candy store. He was so enthusiastic and excited about the chance to make something special that I totally bought into his way of thinking and our collective vision for what was possible here came together.”
Tempest Golf Club will max out 7,068 yards and par 72, but will have five tees to accommodate all players. I don’t believe in designing tough courses,” Brauer said. “Very few golfers are enamored with extremely difficult tests of golf. I strive for interesting over challenging, and for a course the members and public can enjoy playing every day.”
The first six holes are routed over the footprint of the old course but the rest are completely new, built on land previously reserved for residential lots.
The 6th and 12th holes will probably be Tempest Golf Club’s signature offerings, with holes 11 and 16 along the lake, 17, 18 and 9 not far behind and every hole possibly the best hole on other courses. The sixth hole (a par 5) sees the most dramatic changes. It uses the same corridor as the old 15th, but transformed by moving 30,000 cubic yards of earth, removing previously blind areas and creating wonderful downhill vistas.
The 12th hole had originally been earmarked for housing but it was too steep for that, but perfect for a dramatic, downhill par 3 with spectacular 30 foot high wooden bridge over the creek.
The course and clubhouse are being constructed by Signet Golf Associates of Pinehurst, North Carolina.