Charting a New Course


THE WESTERN CAROLINA BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS: In 2013, South Street Partners, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina, acquired Kiawah Partners, the master developer of Kiawah Island and owner of the Kiawah Island Club and Kiawah Island Real Estate, as well as the majority of the remaining developable residential land on the island. Despite the partnership having substantial experience in the golf community development business throughout their careers, South Street Partners, as a company, was young and, as such, doubters surfaced on their ambitious goals. Suspicions linger no more. The investment firm has averaged approximately $300 million in annual sales at Kiawah, resulting in an impressive $2.3 billion in total sales since they took the reins eight years ago.

Success at Kiawah Island brought a conundrum. What’s next in the project pipeline? Two years ago, the answer was revealed. South Street Partners purchased The Cliffs—where one membership gains full access to seven luxury golf communities in the North Carolina and South Carolina mountains.

“South Street approaches private residential community investment and development with a unique blend of fresh ideas meant to continually improve and expand the member experience combined with a business plan grounded in financial fundamentals,” stated Chris Randolph, partner with South Street. “When we conducted due diligence on The Cliffs, two problems surfaced quickly. First, necessary maintenance and promised capital projects had been deferred and the membership had become disenfranchised by unfulfilled promises made by the original developer.

“When South Street came in,” continued Randolph, “the entire business model was changed in order to allow more autonomy at the club management level and less corporate oversight. New leadership was also brought in and that has already helped to improve the member experience tremendously which has translated to stronger real estate and membership sales.”

Over the past 24 months, South Street Partners has made significant investments at The Cliffs. “Our first order of business was to pay off all real estate encumbered by bank debt. In our world, bank debt on land is a risk we tend to avoid. We then turned our attention to ensuring the 4,000+ members that we were here for the long haul,” said Patrick Melton, partner at South Street. “Every step of the way we have been as transparent as possible with homeowners of future plans—both big and small. We have engaged world-class architects including Summerour Architects, Lake|Flato, and Hart Howerton for all new amenity projects, including what will be our biggest investment to date, the new clubhouse at The Cliffs at Keowee Springs.”

Results speak for themselves. Encouraging numbers include a 50 percent spike in real estate sales last year and, equally important, a net addition of almost 100 new members. “The growth in our membership base is impressive and important,” revealed Melton. “Those membership dues equal $1 million in new revenue, allowing us to expand services. It’s a virtuous cycle. Better service to our existing members attracts new members which, in turn, feeds additional revenue to expand services again. We want our members to be our best sales agents.”

Testing Your Boundaries

Roughly 50 percent of residents at The Cliffs are non-golfers. “There’s been a sea change of thinking at The Cliffs,” said Rob Duckett, president at The Cliffs. “Focus has changed and we are now one hundred percent committed to the lifestyle that The Cliffs creates for our members and future members to come. Our mantra is to be less transactional and more relational.

“Our strategic investments are not golf specific. One of our first significant changes was to have a manager on duty at each club until the last member leaves for the evening. This simple staff change has resulted in a more consistent level of service.

“Other additions include the purchase of a small fleet of Chevrolet Suburbans to provide airport shuttle service and a new caddie program at all seven of our golf facilities.

“We understand that not everyone utilizes our Outdoor Pursuits activities, but everyone eats,” smiled Duckett. “Although, like most private golf clubs, our food and beverage operations are a loss leader, we authorized our culinary teams to upgrade the cuts of meat, produce, and fish on our menus. The difference in quality is noticeable and appreciated.”

For more information on The Cliffs, please call 864-660-0787. Or visit their website at


The Cliffs at Keowee Falls

Considered natural nirvana with nary a home in sight from the course, the club is the only community in which The Cliffs doesn’t own the real estate. It does own the golf course and lake amenities. Its grand, 28,000-square-foot clubhouse features turn-of-the-century architecture with an Adirondack influence.

“The layout at Keowee Falls is everything you could want from a championship golf course. Falls Creek meanders throughout the Jack Nicklaus design and water comes into play on 12 of the 18 holes. Nicklaus provides ample landing areas from the teeing grounds, and well-positioned drives set you up for fun, but calculated approach shots to the greens. Great scores require a strong short game with a creative mind to use the contours on the greens to the player’s advantage.” — Julian Bland, Head Golf Professional

The Cliffs at Walnut Cove

With its prime location, only 15 minutes from the vibrant arts scene and historic architecture of Asheville, North Carolina, Walnut Cove has experienced explosive growth. Expanded clubhouse food and beverage operations will offer the ultimate indoor/outdoor dining venue—ideal on long summer evenings.

“Walnut Cove’s layout is a great example of a tale of two nines. The front nine plays amongst rolling hills of farmlands, while the back nine is carved out of the forest just below the Blue Ridge Parkway. Walnut Cove is truly nature’s amphitheater, surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains.” — Mike Steele, Director of Golf

The Cliffs Valley

Located in its lush namesake, The Cliffs Valley is playable virtually every day of the year. This parkland-style Ben Wright design follows the land’s natural contours and elevation changes, challenging members to play over and around streams, ponds and rolling hills.

“We are a magical place where members reclaim their youthful spirit by enjoying seemingly endless recreational and social opportunities. Friday nights are a time when members come together to enjoy our weekly happy hour followed by delectable culinary creations. There is always something to do and a friend to do it with.” — Jeff Tyrrell, General Manager

The Cliffs at Glassy

The first community to open under The Cliffs brand has a large percentage of full-time residents. South Carolina’s only true mountaintop course is also one of the state’s most acclaimed. The course sits more than 3,000 feet above sea level, offering majestic views from an incomparable perch. A newly renovated clubhouse bar with large bay windows overlooking the Blue Ridge foothills exemplifies what Glassy is known for.

“Choose your club wisely; well, let’s just say it’s quite a drop off the back.” — Kris Kleinsasser, Head Golf Professional

The Cliffs at Keowee Springs

A new Hart Howerton designed clubhouse and Lake|Flato designed Lake Club at The Landing will break ground later this year and be added to existing amenities including the Beach Club and The Bistro.

“Media outlets like to report golfers seek courses that are famous for being challenging and storied in history. At the end of the day, I think most members will find they would prefer a facility they can play every day. Keowee Springs has just enough teeth to test you and just enough freedom to play an errant shot!” — Scott Allen, Head Golf Professional

The Cliffs at Mountain Park

The newest community at The Cliffs, Mountain Park is the closest club to downtown Greenville. The Cabin, considered the lifeblood of activity, will undergo an expansion this summer and construction will break ground on a new Summerour designed Wellness Center.

“The way golf course architect Gary Player encompassed the North Saluda River throughout the links design makes it truly special and fun to play. The Cliffs at Mountain Park is a great walking course and place to call home for our members.” — Jeff Headman, Head Golf Professional

The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards

The community is all about water. With eight holes overlooking Lake Keowee and just about every tee box showcasing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the course takes full advantage of its magnificent setting. It should come as no surprise that Golf Digest ranked it among the best in the state.

“We enjoy a year-round golf season. In fact, one of our most popular events at Keowee Vineyards, The Couples’ Twelve Holes of Christmas, is played in the winter. Featuring a different format on every hole, the event is so popular we have a double shotgun. Mr. Fazio was given an incredible amount of freedom to route the golf course and expose the beauty of the property.” — Brad Fowler, Director of Golf