The Challengers Zac Blair
On screen text: Charles Schwab Presents
Zac Blair: The par-fives are really cool. Not that we didn’t do good with the fours, and I think the threes are amazing, but the fives, I think, really stand out to me.
On screen text: The Challengers
A series about people who QUESTION. ENGAGE. SUCCEED
Zac Blair: I’m Zac Blair, and I’m a professional golfer. A few years ago, I tore my labrum in my right shoulder, kind of sucked, obviously. I had been a person that played golf literally every day for my entire life. So, for something like that to happen and then not get to play for seven or eight months was definitely a wild transition, but a lot of cool things came from that time off. Had a couple kids, got to spend a lot of time at home with my wife, and built a golf course.
Zac Blair: It really started right out of college when I got my PGA Tour card. Got to go to a lot of really cool places around the country. I was seeing a lot of cool clubs and golf courses, stuff that I hadn’t really seen in Utah. And I got this idea of building a golf course in Utah for me and my friends. We were just calling it The Buck Club, but kept hitting little hurdles and roadblocks. I’m not a multibillionaire that can just fund the whole thing by myself, and it’s not just going to be funded by selling hats and head covers and T-shirts. That’s where it turned into this idea of The Tree Farm here in Aiken, South Carolina.
On screen text: The Tree Farm
Aiken, South Carolina
Zac Blair: The big question for me was as a 30-year-old PGA Tour golfer, ”Why can’t I build the best golf club in the world?”
On screen text: Why can’t I build the best golf club in the world?
Zac Blair: For me, a good golf club is about the people and the membership. The thing that all the members at The Tree Farm have in common is they love golf. They believed in my vision even before the place was built, which was unique. I think it was a pretty old-school way of building the club. It was a bunch of people ponying up and buying into my vision and my dream. And so, the whole membership are people that love golf. I had conversations with everybody that got invited.
On screen text: I had conversations with everybody that got invited.
Zac Blair: It was easy to tell if it was just another person trying to belong to another club versus somebody that really had a passion for the game and wanted to share a special place with guests or family members.
Jay Washburn: My name’s Jay Washburn, and I’m a member of The Tree Farm. I joined the golf club before there was a golf course because of Zac. It was in his heart to build a great golf course, not because he wanted to make money or because he wanted his name and lights, but because he wanted to build something. He loves golf, he loves golf courses, and he’s also someone who creates goals and then goes and accomplishes them. He’s a tour player. He’s decided to build this course, and it took him a long time, and it was a hard road, and he’s done it. He doesn’t give up. Now that I’ve seen the golf course, I’m stunned. The best pictures in my head, the drawings, whatever I’ve imagined. It’s even better. It’s big, and beautiful, and just fun.
Kai Goldby: It’s actually better than I thought it was ever going to be. My name is Kai Goldby. I’m a golf designer and shaper. I think a lot of guys might think they could do it. What made Zac unique is he did this studying of the golf courses ahead of time. And when Zac first got out on the tour, he wasn’t eligible to play in the Pro-Ams and had to do something on the Tuesdays of the event. And instead of going to the range and working on his game, he would go to a local golf course that was of architectural interest and go check that out. I heard that he was at Hartford and he drove to Pine Valley, which is probably about a four-hour drive. I don’t think a lot of guys are going to be doing that on their days off from the Tour.
Zac Blair: Yeah. My first couple of years I would always try and scope out the best place around, see what makes it great, and was fortunate to go to a lot of cool places.
Kai Goldby: You meet Zac, and his age sorta becomes irrelevant. He is young, but the passion he had and the knowledge he had, the energy that he has, it’s infectious. And I knew we could work together.
Zac Blair: Oh, yes!
Kai Goldby: It starts with the land. Any good golf course, you need good land if you really want something great. So, we had some really cool elevation changes, and they were severe. But with getting Tom Doak to help us with the routing, we were able to overcome the severity and actually utilize it and enhance the routing through that severity.
Zac Blair: And I told Tom in the letter that I wrote him, I was like, ”You can do whatever you want. It can be as quirky as you want, as short as you want. I’m not trying to build this championship style golf course. I just wanted to make a fun place for people that loved golf.” I would’ve loved if it was like sub-70, I would’ve loved some weird, quirky, wild things, and then it just ended up being 18 really good holes.
Kai Goldby: Well, the first hole is a par-three. A lot of traditionalists in golf will think that’s weird.
Zac Blair: I think it’s really unique and different and people will definitely stand up to the first tee and know they’re at The Tree Farm. The drivable par-four at 18 was the only thing in the letter that was like non-negotiable to Tom. It was talking about North Barrack and just how fun it is to finish. Maybe making an eagle or an easy birdie instead of getting hit in the face and making a bogie or a double. That’s what I wanted. There we go. The coolest places I’ve ever been in the membership want to show it off to other people that love the game, and that was really the goal here—was making sure everyone feels like a member when they’re here. Because you might only come one time in your whole life and the last thing you want is someone to be like, ”God, that experience wasn’t good.” But hopefully, everyone thinks it’s as good as I do.
On screen text: This year Zac will finish up The Tree Farm while competing in 25 events on the PGA Tour.
On screen text: ASK QUESTIONS. BE ENGAGED.
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Zac Blair: Ultimately, the plan would be to take the proof of concept back to Utah and build The Buck Club. Yeah, that would be nice.
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THE TREE FARM
Why can’t I build the best golf club in the world?
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