Thinking Back and Looking Forward

Celebrating the 10-Year Anniversary & Anticipating a Bright Future

By Matt Magallanes

Since committing to build the Westhaven Golf Club as part of the Westhaven community, Southern Land Company CEO, Tim Downey, has had to navigate many hurdles to realize the dream. Along the way, the club weathered a severe recession, a flood, a hard freeze, and a shrinking golf market. It would have been easy to simply abandon the project and build houses on the land, as many other developers of the time did. But a promise had been made, and Tim’s belief in the benefits to the community and members remained strong. Today we are a prosperous and growing club celebrating our 10th anniversary.

It’s a busy day as I enter Tim’s office to discuss his thoughts regarding the anniversary of the golf club. Sitting down he says, “OK. Yes, we are here to talk about the Westhaven Golf Club’s 10th anniversary. I’ve been looking forward to this.”   He leaned back in his chair and remained silent for a moment. And then he asked the first question. “Why the heck did we build a golf course? You know, EVERYBODY always asks me that, and I understand why. It is a tough business. There were some compelling technical reasons, such as utilizing the land on the flood plain and keeping our promise to the City of Franklin that fifty percent of the land be open space. But I also really believed a golf club would add a lot to the community”

“What is it about developing a golf club instead of something else?”   I asked. “Well, I always thought golf courses were very beautiful, even though I was not a golfer myself. The tranquility of golf courses has always drawn me to them. The land along the Harpeth River where it turns around holes 4, 15, and 16 seemed the perfect golf setting as we walked the property before developing it. That is my favorite part of the course, by the way.”

As we continued our discussion, I then asked. “It is a beautiful course and setting, but what makes the game special?”  He responded, “My vision for the Westhaven community was that we were building something to last for the ages, where family generations would live in the same community at the same time. Well, golf is one of the few games we can actually play with our kids and not just be spectators. It is something a parent can do WITH their kids. Golf clubs also create legacies. Golf is a life sport as well. You know, I have personally seen three generations of one golf family playing together at Westhaven.”

After a reflective pause in the conversation, I asked, What is your favorite feature of the course?  He said without hesitation, “Not building homes between the fairways was a great decision. It gives our course unique character and peacefulness not typically found in residential golf developments.”

The conversation gradually turned on its own to the hundreds of practice golf rounds at Westhaven on which Tim had accompanied his son Connor, who went on to play college golf at Villanova. He said, “Junior golf builds character and develops integrity and manners.” We talked about the gradual progress of the facilities and the challenge of opening without a clubhouse. He added, “We had no choice, but to just keep on keeping on, and our investors hung in there with us. We now have the best team we’ve ever had for operations, turf, dining and golf services. The course looks great. The new clubhouse décor and outdoor areas are beautiful, and the food keeps getting better and better. More importantly, I am thankful for the members; many of whom have been with us from the beginning.”  It was at this point it seemed we both better appreciated the relevance of these first 10 years.

And then, as those who know Tim would well expect, he shifted to the future, adding,  “You know, it was not easy, but today, I’m proud of the course and am glad we built it. I am excited about the club and intend to keep improving the overall experience from both the golf and social perspectives. My dream is to expand the clubhouse, add more beautiful course elements, and maybe even change the layout on a few holes to improve play. I suppose I’ll never be done improving the club.”

When sitting to write this story, Tim’s thoughts made it clear: Celebrating the Westhaven Golf Club’s 10th Anniversary is not about the past.  It’s about the future. Cheers!