I have history with McLemore. In 2009, the course was called Canyon Ridge and it was one of the 20 or so courses I featured on my Hidden Fairways web site. At that time the course was only lightly played and in stellar condition. I fell in love with the place and some of my best early photographs were captured there. In fact, it was because he had seen those photos that the original designer, Rick Robbins, called me. He was very complimentary about my images and asked how he might get copies. That problem was easily solved and Rick and I became friends. Much of Rick’s course design career was spent working in China, and he seemed certain that he had some clients who would want to hire me. Paint me a very happy photographer at the prospect. For 5 years, Rick and I would talk from time to time and he always thought he would someday get me to China. Finally, midway thru 2014, he called to say, “Dave, I finally have a client who wants to hire you. How soon can you get here? 2 1/2 weeks later I landed in Beijing, and over the next 9 days I shot one course in Beijing and one in Wuhan. Great fun, and an experience I might never have had without my connection to Canyon Ridge.
McLemore, as Canyon Ridge, fell on some difficult times after I first photographed it. The developer’s idea that it would become a bedroom community for Chattanooga never came to fruition and as cash flow suffered, so too did the course. Over the next few years, the property changed hands a few times. Each time there was hope, but each new owner failed. In fact, at one point an owner fired the superintendent to save money!
The one constant thru my relationship with McLemore has been Director of Golf, Doug Amor. If dedication and loyalty count, Doug should be mayor of McLemore. He’s seen owners come and go, and he’s always been there. Good times, bad times. He’s been the rock of McLemore. When Scenic Land Company took over the property, Doug was cautiously optimistic, but he’d been down that road several times and was understandably keeping his fingers crossed.
The good news is, Scenic Land Company is totally committed. The clearest sign of that commitment Duane Horton and Scenic Land Company brought to this project was their hiring of Bill Bergin and Rees Jones to renovate the course. And their choice of designers couldn’t have been better. Rees is well known as a dean of golf course design and no designer today is busier or more dedicated to his craft than Bill Bergin. Together, they’ve made what was once a beautiful, challenging and somewhat quirky golf course into a spectacular golf property. McLemore is for real.
A final note: For my money, it’s great to see the smile on Doug Amor’s face these days. Through the ups and downs of Canyon Ridge/McLemore, he’s often said, “I’m either a fool, or a genius”. Today, my money’s on “genius”. So do yourself a favor and put McLemore on your bucket list. All your golfing friends already have!
© Dave Sansom Photography