Ironically Hall Thompson was prompted into action by a psychiatrist he had hired to test the employees at Thompson Tractor Company. When it was his turn to sit down with the “head shrink,” he was asked what he had never done but would like to do.
Build a golf course was his
reply. It was an idea he’d been kicking around for some time; one his
wife, Lucy, had heard one too many times when he mention it again after
his session with the psychiatrist. “Why don’t you stop talking about it,
and start doing something about it?” was here alleged reply.
so he did. Harald Lassen Jr. remembers the first day he Thompson and
Nicklaus looked at the property Thompson had purchased from Hugh Daniel,
contingent on it producing a “superior” golf course.
“It was a
ice cold December day after Christmas when Jack Nicklaus came winging
into Dunavant Road to meet Hall and me. We three had the first look at
what is now one of the premier golf layouts in America.
never forget that day. We rode the prospective property in my old
Korean War vintage Jeep. Hall had a miserable cold and Jack was
anything but enthusiastic on that frigid first visit.”
momentum slowly grew as Nicklaus reported to Thompson that first, he
could only find a lot of good par-3s on the property; second, that in
actuality, there wasn’t room for one course but two on the property; and
three, that they were routing the course the wrong way and hence the
majority of the holes were playing uphill.
Nicklaus soon got past
the first problem after reviewing aerial photography of the acreage.
This also led him to his announcement that two courses could be built.
Thompson quickly nixed this idea as he only wanted one course; one
superior golf course. And thirdly, the routing was reversed so there is
but one hole that plays uphill (No. 12), which is barely uphill.
factor that eased Nicklaus’ design was Thompson’s insistence that real
estate concerns were unimportant compared to the placement of the golf
course. Unusual that a developer would make this request more that 30
years ago, scarcely comprehensible that such a scenario would evolve in
todays dollar-hungry would.
Make no mistake there are many
houses sprinkled around the Shoal Creek zip code of 35242, you just
can’t see them from the golf course and this is exactly what Thompson
wanted and Nicklaus delivered.
Thompson wanted a “superior” golf
course and that’s undoubtedly what he got. So much so that three major
championships were played there in a seven-year span.