Zac Blair’s Buck Club almost has it all. The merchandise. The logo. The course routing. A big-time course design team. A growing group of believers. A magnetic vision. It’s also rich in the currency of the day – social media.
All the Buck Club is missing is the golf course.
It’s there on paper, all shapes and lines and schematics on a yet-to-be-purchased parcel of land in golf-deprived Utah. And it’s alive in Blair’s imagination, where the Buck Club has incubated, gradually growing into something close to a movement among like-minded golfers who are passionate about course design and pursuing the game’s joys at a spot where it’s all about the game.
What began as Blair’s dream – creating a top-level golf course in his home state of Utah, which he feels is lacking in quality courses – has become a calling of sorts for those who share Blair’s architectural bent.
If a movement needs a visionary, Blair is that person. An energetic, chatty PGA Tour player, Blair may be better known for his Buck Club dream than for his playing career. That’s not to be dismissive of his game but to illustrate how his devotion to his project has drawn fans.
During a recent visit to Scotty Cameron’s putter gallery in Encinitas, Calif., to browse the merchandise, Blair was approached by multiple people who recognized him as the guy behind the Buck Club. “Just random customers came up and told me how much they like the idea. We see that every week,” Blair said. “It’s pretty cool for not having it actually built yet.”
The son of Jimmy Blair, an excellent player who went on to own and operate golf courses in Utah, Zac grew up around the game, winning the Utah Amateur, playing at Brigham Young University and eventually making his way to the PGA Tour, where he’s in his fifth full season.
The more Blair traveled and the more places he played, the more he realized Utah didn’t have what other states have.
“I didn’t feel like we had anything like that, like a genuine golf club. A good golf course, a place you can go with all of your buddies and not worry about anything,” said Blair, 29.
“I’ve gotten to go to all these really cool places playing golf and you see a lot of really cool clubs and (are) invited to some awesome courses. Everyone I saw, you’re like, man, we just don’t have anything like that in Utah. We just want a place where a bunch of golf nerds can go out and have fun.”
It exists on multiple levels, just not on the ground – yet.
But it’s getting there.
A few years ago, Andy Johnson, who runs the architecture-centric Fried Egg website, introduced Blair to Rob Collins, one half of the King-Collins golf course design company who, along with his partner, Tad King, developed the immensely popular and respected Sweetens Cove in Tennessee.
“In my mind, I want it to be kind of a place when people get done, they say let’s go play some more. That’s one of the best compliments for a golf course.” – Zac Blair
“They met and talked and hit it off and shared a similar vision,” Johnson said. “(Zac’s) passion for the game is intoxicating and people can pick up on that and it drives this.”
When Collins and Blair walked a piece of property in Utah that could be home to the Buck Club, they envisioned the same things. “I always tell people Zac and I seem to share a brain on things. What he likes, I like,” Collins said.
Blair’s enthusiasm was infectious, and together the pair created a course design. Until the first load of dirt is moved, the design may change but there is a working plan in place.
It’s not exactly what Blair imagined. It’s better.
“I remember really well playing with Ernie Els in Malaysia one time. He’d heard about it, and having him tell me that your idea of what you want is going to change a lot. When he was telling me that, I was like, no, I know exactly what I want to do. But five or six years down the road, it’s crazy to see how much it’s changed,” Blair said.
“Originally, I wanted to make it really hard because I’m a good player. You want it to test you. The more I saw a lot of good places, it’s like, wow … I just kind of cherry picked from all these places I saw around the world.
“In my mind, I want it to be kind of a place when people get done, they say let’s go play some more. That’s one of the best compliments for a golf course. I play a lot of places where you finish 18 and you’re like, yeah, that’s it for the day. I’ve had enough.”
Ask Blair which courses most inspire him and he ticks off National Golf Links, the Old Course at St Andrews and Pine Valley immediately. Each has unique touches, and the experience reaches far beyond the shots that are hit. It’s about a feeling, a common bond that doesn’t need swimming pools, tennis courts and multiple dining rooms.
“He wants to introduce a certain set of values to the Buck Club,” Collins said. “He wants it to be about having an architecturally compelling course and playing games with your friends.”
Until then, Blair has created a club that exists through a network of followers who have added momentum to the project. Blair designed the club logo himself, and it’s available on head covers and other merchandise at the club’s website (https://thebuck.club/).
The name comes from Blair’s days as a player at BYU. During practice rounds in Park City, Blair noticed his coaches using binoculars to look at the deer all around. Hence the Buck Club, and Blair’s hope is to have deer roaming the property when the course opens.
It’s possible, Blair said recently, that the Buck Club could wind up some place other than Utah. His intention is still to build the club in his home state, but he also loves the idea of building on sandy soil and in a more accessible location.
One substantial hurdle remains: Financing the project.
Blair has had offers from developers willing to fund the Buck Club but to this point, he hasn’t found the right fit. He is patient enough to get what – and whom – he wants.
Getting it right is more important than getting it done fast.
“I always tell people it’s something that could happen really, really quick. You get someone who likes the idea and wants to do it, it could happen tomorrow,” Blair said.
“At the same time, I don’t want to make any big decisions like that super fast unless it’s the right fit. We’ve had people interested in the project that maybe wanted to change it or do things that we’re not really trying to build this for. You definitely need to find a unicorn. It’s a passion project for them. It’s a legacy. They want to do something cool for the game.
“We’re willing to wait it out and see if we find someone like that.”
The Buck Club has become Zac Blair’s dream and vision. Photo: Chris Condon, PGA Tour via Getty Images
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