By Scott Kauffman, Contributor, Golf Business
One of the early 20th-century novels by writer/playwright Thomas Wolfe is titled, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Apparently, course owner Lex West and his family did not heed this aphorism associated with North Carolina’s noted native son.
At least that’s one way to describe how West wound up some 30 miles southwest of Wolfe’s hometown of Asheville as the new owner of Springdale Resort – a golf course development West, his parents and now wife, Sherry West, often would visit, considering their longtime family vacation home was adjacent to the property.
Situated in the rolling hills of Cruso with gorgeous views of Cold Mountain, Mount Pisgah and Pigeon River, this small-town western North Carolina setting was always a favorite destination growing up for Lex West. And playing Springdale’s 18-hole championship course that dates to the early 1970s was one of the top pursuits for father and son.
“As a young man in my mid-20s, my dad and I would come down to play golf, and my mom and then-girlfriend Sherry would meet us for lunch or dinner afterwards (at the original clubhouse grill),” West says. “We just loved the valley. It always felt like time slowed down. It was the perfect vacation spot, so yes, we had an affection for it early on.”
Indeed, so much so that Lex West’s parents first planted roots in the mid-90s when they purchased property on the other side of nearby Rocky Face Mountain. Then, in 2018, West followed suit and ‘came home again’ when he purchased Springdale Resort.
West acquired Springdale from the long-time owner’s widow he had befriended from prior years after she realized it was time for someone else with more capital and newfound vision to revitalize the resort. Also a factor were the modest small-town communities neighboring the large master-planned residential resort development.
West initially ran the dated property and course just as they were purchased, but he quickly realized Springdale needed to “change with the times” and the amenities and overall development were in dire need of a major modern makeover that would continue to attract more golfers and non-golfers alike.
And just as important to the phase-one round of capital improvement projects, according to West, was repositioning Springdale’s traditional golf/country club-inclusive roots into a more family-oriented resort-style destination where the main amenity in many respects was the surrounding natural beauty that drew his family to these North Carolina mountains in the first place.
The initial architectural firm hired by West to reimagine Springdale drew up a traditional 20,000-square-foot clubhouse structure with a banquet hall and big connected rooms. After Covid forced a pause in construction, however, West scrapped the original clubhouse concept and “completely changed gears” after meeting industry leader Kuo Diedrich Chi Architects and being won over by the Atlanta-based firm’s innovative resort village concept consisting of a cluster of smaller buildings that accentuated the indoor-outdoor lifestyle so appealing today.
As noted architect Mark Diedrich puts it, the driving force behind his firm’s creative clubhouse plan was designing a place that was comforting/welcoming to everyone, from groups of transient golfers staying at the 17 cottages to longtime club members to multi-generations of local clientele enjoying a day at the pool, working out in the new Wellness Barn or having a nice meal at Rocky Face Tavern, the resplendent new showcase building where outdoor living is center stage.
Diedrich adds: “Our client’s decision to build this cluster of resort-style amenities in private club fashion, yet accessible to the public with a casual/friendly feel, results in a much higher energy overall to the village than any one traditional singular structure could have ever created.”
By most accounts, Springdale’s newly built intimate 12,000-square-foot Rocky Face Tavern has been a colossal clubhouse hit, from growing year-over-year business to widespread industry recognition, including clubhouse of the year honors by one national magazine.
Perhaps the epitome of this new energetic all-inclusive place is the free-standing Welcoming Center that checks in stay-and-play guests adjacent to a large event lawn. Indeed, this old but newly reimagined property is as welcoming as ever for the next generation.
As for West, he couldn’t be happier about his Springdale Resort and his foray into the golf business.
“I’ve been working with my family business all my life and there’s nothing more fun or more rewarding than being a part of the changes that have taken place here,” says West, who hails from Hartsville, S.C., where his family started a successful oil-related business and chain of convenience stores in the mid-1960s. “Getting to know another group of individuals out of the local Haywood County area and working with families and the new team that we’re putting together has truly been the time of my life.
“These last few years have been more exciting than anything I’ve done before. … We all are dreamers, and we all have things we want to see come to fruition, I guess. And to be able to find multi-million-year-old mountains and valleys and be able to kind of put your footprint on it. Then you watch it just come out of the ground. I mean, how can that not be exciting? I can’t think of anything better to do.”
This article was featured in the July/August edition of Golf Business magazine.