Just as they have long embraced the game of golf, the Irish in recent years have driven hard into the business of the game.
And none more than the Kinsella brothers from County Meath who are combining their construction and design skills to give birth to White Oak, a retirement community in North Carolina which, as its centerpiece, will boast a par 72, 7,300 yard course designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer.
Viewers of the Setanta Sports network will be aware of White Oak, which is outside the town of Tryon in the southwestern corner of the Tarheel State, close to the border with South Carolina.
The project is being heralded in a current commercial on the network featuring Irish golf star and British Open champion Padraig Harrington.
Harrington, who spends roughly half his year playing in the United States, is going to have his American home and base of operations at White Oak.
So too is Des Smyth, whose already successful golfing career reached even greater heights once he embarked on the game’s senior, now Champions Tour.
White Oak is a dream turned into well-grounded reality by Gene Kinsella, whose family is from a farming background and has a deep-rooted knowledge of soil and sod.
Kinsella has been involved in the construction business in the New York area for years.
His brothers Patrick, Leonard and Fintan, together with Irish rally driving champion and builder Austin McHale, are together involved in the design and construction of what will not only be a golf course, but also an equestrian center and a complex of sporting and leisure facilities serving a new community spread over 1,100 acres adjoining White Oak Creek.
“The golf course will be in the valley with the homes on higher ground so there won’t be much chance of hitting a house,” said Gene Kinsella.
“The golf course itself will be on about 200 acres. We are planting 115 acres of sod as opposed to laying down grass seed. This allows the course to mature faster,” he told the Echo.
For the golf course aficionado, the course will be an undulating track composed of Zoysia fairways and hybrid bend grass greens.
According to Gene Kinsella, the idea is to give golfers a fair bit of room to wander off the tees.
As such, White Oak will be not unlike many Irish inland courses in that the fairways will have trees it will be an appropriate abundance without the sense of being hemmed in by them.
The same idea has been employed with considerable success and to wide acclaim at the Links at Union Vale, the Ireland-inspired course in Dutchess County, New York.
“The course will take the awe-inspiring views of the White Oak landscape, an array of natural hazards, elevations, varied shots lengths and a few surprises. The result will be a lifetime of challenging, dynamic golf for all skill levels,” the elaborate sales brochure for White Oak states.
The official opening of the course is scheduled for January 2009 but such is the rate of progress to date that it should be ready for play in the fall of 2008, said Billie Brown, White Oak’s Vice President of Operations.
The Carolinas offer some of the best land on the planet for the game of golf, a sport which stands alone in terms of being played off the planet – by astronaut Alan Shepherd on the Apollo 14 moon landing.
From the Atlantic coastline of both states to the Sandhills region in central North Carolina – the location of famed Pinehurst – and off into the yonder that is Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains, the neighboring states have seen the ancient game become an ever more intrinsic part of their expanding economies in the past couple of decades.
Now White Oak – 52 miles from Asheville, NC and 48 from Greenville, SC – is poised to further enhance golf’s positive economic impact in both.
A vast tract spread over 93,000 acres surrounding the settlement of White Oak was granted to a local family in 1743 by King George 11.
The Revolutionary War brought an end to English royal handouts.
The passing of years has, in turn, brought something new to this tranquil corner of the American South: investors with an eye for the green from Ireland’s Royal County.