As he competes this week in Las Vegas, we hear from a longtime friend of the pod, PGA Tour pro Zac Blair. Soly and ZB catch up on the latest with Zac's golf course in South Carolina - The Tree Farm - and the path from his initial work on a site in Utah for The Buck Club to what was ultimately built outside of Aiken, South Carolina. We also get into his road back from a shoulder injury that led to surgery, playing on tour under a major medical exemption, and a lot more.
Here’s a sneak peek of the convo with Zac... (Note: Full answer edited for clarity and conciseness.)
Soly: This is maybe my favorite part to ask you about, 'cause I've seen you do it in person. I've watched you sketch it in person, kind of taking all these influences and watch your brain work when you go somewhere to see, see cool things and, and kind of have it contribute towards your dream of building something. What's something specific that you've taken from a certain hole or a certain place you've seen that you're like, "Ah, I want to emulate this on this tee box or this shot from this fairway or this green, this little slope here reminds me of blah blah blah." There's gotta be something that's like, that has driven a specific image or something that, that has played out in this dream that you've built.
Zac Blair: Yeah, I mean a lot of 'em. I would say the easiest one to pinpoint would probably be the 18th hole loosely modeled after North Barrack. That was the only kind of thing that I gave Tom like any sort of direction to: "Hey, the 18th hole has to be drivable." That's one of my favorite things ever is getting up to the 18th tee at North Barrack and every single person getting on the tee, realistically thinking "Man, I could make a two and make an eagle here to finish my round."
So that was something that I was super keen on doing. And in his first variation, the 18th hole was 345 downhill and I was like, "Tom, who do you think is who's driving? I want it like 240 from the normal tee, it plays like 265 right now." So you know, like a lot 90% of the people step up to that tee and they're like, Oh, I can, I can make a two. We've had two hole-in-one on it since we've been open, which is crazy to think and so awesome. Hopefully, that trend continues. So it's been cool. There's like the 15th hole is like a redan, you know, so you obviously see the similarities in that, but there's, you know, the tee markers are like modeled after Pine Valley's.
That was something that I always thought was cool. There's a ton of little things that can kindly be loosely traced back to things that I've liked. I've got a very long list. That's what I did for like three or four or five years, just go to places and see what makes them great. The one that I'm maybe most proud of has nothing to do with golf and everything to do with just the experience itself, just the whole atmosphere, and the whole vibe that the staff brings day in and day out.
That starts with a little bit of how I wanted it, but certainly, Drew and his whole staff and everyone involved on that side of it does a really good job of making people feel — trying to make it special and making it a cool place and somewhere that they want to be hanging out.