HOUSTON LINKS - The Club at Carlton Woods


HOUSTON LINKS - The Club at Carlton Woods

housTon links

The nation’s best local golf magazine SEPTEMBER 2011

Members and residents celebrate

10 years of the best of everything at

The Club aT

CarlTon Woods

Seven Days

In Utopia








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Kraft wins U.S. Amateur; two

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GOLF COURSE REAL ESTATE The Club at Carlton Woods

Members and residents

celebrate 10 years of

the best of everything at

The Club aT

CarlTon Woods

It started with dirt roads and a dream.

Ten years later, the Club at Carlton Woods has flourished

into one of the most celebrated, exclusive country clubs with

two of the most supreme golf courses in all of Texas.

not just the crown jewel of The Woodlands, Carlton Woods

represents all that is coveted in private golf. Flawlessly conditioned

golf courses. Perfect greens. Walking caddies. exceptional service.

First-class instructors. expansive practice area with the latest technological

advances. all of which has resulted in an exclusive membership

that includes some of the most decorated competitive

golfers in the state.

Carlton Woods is the only club in Texas—and just one of three

in the country—to boast signature courses from architectural titans

Jack nicklaus and Tom Fazio. Challenging, scenic and impeccable only

begin to describe the courses. The nicklaus Course’s putting surfaces

could be the fastest, smoothest bermuda grass greens in the state, and

the plush, Zoysia fairways on the Fazio Course rise and fall like something

commonly seen in the hill Country.

Those are just a couple of reasons why the usGa chose to hold its

Men’s and Women’s state Team national championships at Carlton

Woods just a few years into its existence. Carlton Woods has played

host to numerous u.s. open qualifiers; it was the site of the 2004

Texas amateur and has been the venue for the american Junior Golf

association’s hP boys Championship since 2009.

This month, the Texas Golf association’s state Mid-amateur championship

will be contested on the nicklaus Course. The events played

36 / Texas lInks www.texaslinksmagazines.com sePTeMber 2011

The Club at Carlton Woods GOLF COURSE REAL ESTATE

at the esteemed club keep growing in size and stature. The 2013

southern amateur will be played there, and the 2014 usGa Junior

amateur is set to come to Carlton Woods as well.

The best tournaments are played on the best courses, so it’s no

surprise to see Carlton Woods garner increased attention from the

usGa and others. For four years running, Golfweek has ranked

Carlton Woods among the best residential courses in america.

Those types of accolades are old hat by now. The club has

received more awards and honors than nicklaus has major championships.

Golf is king in The Woodlands, and the community is known

for having some of the finest, most enjoyable and well-conditioned

courses in Texas.

Photo: RichaRd L. Muniz

The Fazio Clubhouse and

expansive patio overlooks

the challenging 18th hole.

By Mark Button

Carlton Woods is simply the best of it.

The 560-plus members enjoy more than just two of the most sublime

courses in the state. The club has six championship-style tennis

courts, a tennis pro shop, 7,000-square-foot fitness facility, resort-style

pool with private cabanas, a full-service spa and a multitude of dining

options. From the adults-only bear’s den bar and grille to the ultrarefined

Tuscany room inside a private wine collection that features a

cigar terrace, everything from casual to elegant is available.

activities for the more than 750 kids of Carlton Woods members

also run the gamut. besides the popular pool area, there are junior golf

and tennis camps and clinics for all ages and skills. Camp Carlton is a

summer tradition and offers kids a mix of games, crafts, swimming and

field trips in addition to golf and tennis. seasonal events include easter

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GOLF COURSE REAL ESTATE The Club at Carlton Woods

egg hunts, Halloween and Christmas parties and back-to-school


Perhaps more than the spectacular golf and opulent clubhouses,

Carlton Woods is best known for its quality of service and attention

to detail. The best-in-class staff at the elite, full-service club spoils

its members, their guests and everyone lucky enough to pass

through the gates.

Believe it or not, the club’s earliest days can be traced back to

a double-wide trailer.

The year was 1997. George Mitchell had just sold The

Woodlands to investors Morgan stanley and Crescent Real estate.

The new owners wanted to take their investment to the next level.

Carlton Woods was front and center in those plans.

since its establishment in 1974, The Woodlands thrived as

america’s quintessential master-planned community, a perfect

place to raise a family. industry-leading companies such as

Chevron Phillips, Baker Hughes and CB&i, among others,

relocated corporate headquarters to the beautiful, wooded utopia 45

minutes north of downtown Houston. Those corporate relocations

infused The Woodlands with a kind of economic stimuli unseen in

much of the rest of the country.

There was only one thing missing.

“in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a number of the corporate

site-selection committees frequently would ask for a residential

community that was gated, thinking that their executives preferred to

live in a gated community,” said Tim Welbes, co-president of The

Woodlands Development Company. “Before Carlton Woods, we never

had that option. so besides the upscale club and two spectacular golf

courses, adding the gated component to the community was a real

difference maker.”

in 1998, The Woodlands contracted with nicklaus to build a

first-class golf course to accompany the new gated community called

Carlton Woods. Director of Golf Mark steinbauer, Director of

agronomy eric Bauer, membership director Terri kennedy and

38 / Texas Links www.texaslinksmagazines.com sePTeMBeR 2011

The Club at Carlton Woods GOLF COURSE REAL ESTATE

merchandise buyer Lynn Baer comprised the

original staff.

all but Bauer worked out of a trailer on the

corner of Woodlands Parkway and an unpaved

road about six miles west of interstate 45. That

dirt road is known today as Carlton Woods

Drive. While Bauer worked with nicklaus

on the golf course build, steinbauer and Co.

recruited and signed up new members.

One of the first efforts was an ad in the

Houston Chronicle. an hour after Joe and Judé

Compofelice saw the ad, Carlton Woods had its

first founding members. The couple made sure

it was documented, too. The check’s memo line

read, “This is for membership #001.”

“i was a member of nicklaus

signature Golf Course in Colorado,” Joe

The addition of the Fazio

Course in 2005, with its

beautiful Zoysia fairways,

put Carlton Woods in elite

status with two of the top

courses in the state.

Photo: Johnson Design

Compofelice said via email from italy.

“When Carlton Woods advertised for the

first time in the Houston Chronicle, i

jumped at the opportunity to sign up. The

opportunity to have golf of this caliber in

a club with a limited number of members

was very appealing.”

Ten others followed making up the

club’s 11 founding members. By the end

of 1998 the membership stood at 51. Over

the next few years, the trailer expanded,

moved and ultimately was replaced by the

palatial, 58,000-square-foot clubhouse at

the nicklaus Course. The original plans

called for a modest, 25,000-square-foot

Continued on page 42

Making of a Legacy

A look back at CW’s first 10 years

1998: The Woodlands Development

Company (TWDC) contracts with Jack

Nicklaus to build a signature golf course for

the gated community of Carlton Woods. In

September, Joe and Judé Compofelice

become the first members. The memo line on

the check read, “This is for membership


1999: Twelve founding members and 51

charter members commit to the club.

2001: Golf house, driving range open. On

June 5, golf course opens with inaugural

round played by Jack Nicklaus and head

professional Mark Steinbauer.

2002: Membership grows to 166 members.

2003: TWDC holds a job fair for 80 open

positions. More than 700 people showed up

to apply. On March 29, Nicklaus Course

clubhouse holds Grand Opening. On Aug.

28, tennis/fitness center opens. In December,

Nicklaus Course receives Audubon

Cooperative Sanctuary Certification.

Membership increases to 230.

2004: The Club contracts with Tom Fazio for

second golf course. Ends the year with 280


2005: In June, Fazio visits The Woodlands to

preview the new course. The Fazio Course

has soft opening in October. Dallas Morning

News ranks Nicklaus Course third in state

among private courses. Houston Chronicle

ranks it No. 1. Membership swells to 338.

2006: In five days from April 20-24, club

holds grand opening for Fazio Course and

breaks ground on Fazio clubhouse. Club

hosts inaugural CW Invitational and cracks

the 400-member mark.

2007: USGA holds Men’s and Women’s

State Team Championships held on both

courses. Grand opening for Fazio clubhouse

takes place Oct. 5. Membership exceeds


2008: In July, the Bear’s Den bar and grille

renovation completed. The Group Fitness

and Pilates addition was completed in


2009: Ladies Locker Room and Spa additions

and renovations completed in July.

Fazio Course receives Audubon certification

in September. The year ends with membership

at 523.

2010: Fazio clubhouse patio addition overlooking

18th green finished. Club continues

to grow, passing the 560-member mark.

2011: Club celebrates 10th Anniversary.

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GOLF COURSE REAL ESTATE The Club at Carlton Woods

Continued from page 39

The Club at Carlton Woods

opened with great fanfare in

2001. With a Nicklaus course

and a 58,000-square foot

clubhouse and the high-quality

service and amenities that one

would expect of a nationally

elite club, it has prospered

despite a slumping economy.

clubhouse, but after the “Type-a” owners and investors had their

say, the blueprints were revised.

so it goes at Carlton Woods, where expense is rarely spared

when it comes to giving its members the best of everything.

Throughout the past 10 years—during some of the rockiest economic

times in our country’s history—the club’s membership continued

to grow. not a year passed when Carlton Woods failed to

sign more members than it lost.

in June 2001, just a few months before the country was rocked

to its core by the first terrorist attack on american soil, The Club at

Carlton Woods opened with an inaugural round played by

steinbauer and nicklaus.

There was never a worse time to open a high-end development

club,” said Bill Langley, the club’s managing director.

“With all we’ve been through with the economy tanking over the

past 10 years, our success is not just a testament to this club or to

The Woodlands, but also to the greater Houston market. We’ve outperformed

the rest of the world in a time that some people call the worst

since the Great Depression.”

The numbers back up Langley’s assertion. as of august, the U.s.

unemployment rate was 9.1 percent. in Texas, it was 8.2 percent. at the

same time, the unemployment rate for the Greater Houston area stood

at 7.7 percent. Further, The Woodlands in 2010 was second in the

nation in new home sales. Welbes said TWDC this year is more than

20 percent ahead of that pace.

Life is good in The Woodlands. it’s even better at Carlton Woods.

42 / Texas Links www.texaslinksmagazines.com sePTeMBeR 2011

The Club at Carlton Woods GOLF COURSE REAL ESTATE

it stands to keep trending that way, too. Mega oil company

exxon announced in June its plans to relocate its corporate

headquarters to The Woodlands. Construction of the exxon

campus is underway.

a number of exxon executives already have moved to and

joined Carlton Woods. The option of living in a gated community,

combined with the luxurious lifestyle afforded to Carlton Woods

members, played a role in exxon’s move. The addition of exxon

to The Woodlands’ expansive corporate profile will be difficult to

measure in the short term, Welbes said.

“What i’m hearing from other executives in oil service companies

that are already here is that you can’t estimate how many

companies are going to want to relocate so that they are on

exxon’s doorstep,” he said. “it sounds like from a residential and

Photo: Johnson Design

Championship Venue

Carlton Woods has hosted

the following tournaments

Texas State Mid-Am, 2011

AJGA HP Boys Championship, 2009-11

Texas Shootout, 2010

U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier, 2010

U.S. Open Local Qualifier, 2002-03, 2006

U.S. Mid-Am Qualifier, 2005, 2009

USGA Men’s & Women’s State Team

Championships, 2007

Carlton Woods Invitational, 2006-11

CMAA National Club Championship, 2006

Texas State Amateur, 2004

commercial standpoint, the magnet that the exxon campus is going to

be will help provide an economic stimulation for our region for many

years to come.”

Langley talks about the “flight to quality” he sees in The

Woodlands. While people are spending less and holding tighter to what

they have, Langley noted, those with the means don’t mind spending a

little more if they know their investment is safe.

The Woodlands’ population recently topped 99,000. in the next 15

years, the city should max out at 125,000-135,000.

at Carlton Woods, we’re only looking at the top one percent of that

because we know that’s who we’ll attract,” Langley said.

Ray Wilcox, who moved to Houston from nigeria, is part of that top

one percent.

“When i first moved here, i wanted to find a first-class club to join,”

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GOLF COURSE REAL ESTATE The Club at Carlton Woods

Wilcox said. “I wanted it to have a golf course that, when I asked

someone to come play, they would say ‘yes’ first and then ask ‘when.’

Carlton Woods is that club. The addition of the Fazio Course has doubled

the enjoyment and appeal.”

By 2005, Carlton Woods swelled to 338 members. The Nicklaus

Course was racking up regional and national honors: Golf Digest in

2002 dubbed the Nicklaus Course as the “Best New Private Course” in

Texas and third-best in the entire nation. Both the Houston Chronicle

and Dallas Morning News lauded the course with top private course

honors, as well.

The membership, however, wasn’t content with the best golf course

in the area. They wanted the two best golf courses around. Carlton

Woods inked a deal with Fazio in 2004 to build another course on a

beautiful parcel of land about three miles away from Nicklaus Course.

In October 2005, the club held a soft opening at the Fazio Course,

which instantly was an exalted complement to the Nicklaus Course.

The Fazio Course features rolling Zoysia grass fairways, a rarity in

this part of the country. The conditioning mirrors the Nicklaus Course,

which is to say nary a blade of grass stands askew.

The man behind the resplendent conditioning of both courses is

Bauer, the club’s director of agronomy from Day One. Steinbauer

calls what Bauer does “magic,” but Bauer contends there is no secret


“I just love what I do,” said Bauer, a 1993 Michigan State grad

who got his start at Nicklaus-designed Shoal Creek in Alabama. “I

learned from the best: Jim Simmons at Shoal Creek and ed etchels

with Nicklaus Design. I have this director role, but I love being on the

course, teaching and mentoring. It rubs off on your crew and they’re

passionate about their jobs. We have a total buy-in here.”

Bauer has been with Nicklaus since he left college. After Shoal

Creek, he worked at the Golden Bear’s private home in North Palm

Beach, Fla. Bauer maintained Nicklaus’ personal putting green, his

grass tennis court and the entire estate. He’s worked at Nicklausdesigned

courses in Colorado, Hawaii and Memphis before taking the

job with Carlton Woods.

Bauer was there for construction of the Nicklaus Course, and he

worked side by side with Fazio on that course. In April 2006, Carlton

Woods held a week-long long party to celebrate the official opening of

the Fazio Course. Ground broke on the second clubhouse, and Fazio

came to walk the course with members while he detailed the sculpting

of his latest masterpiece.

That fall, both courses played host to the inaugural Carlton Woods

Invitational, a 54-hole amateur stroke play event that currently attracts

some of the best players from across the country. Soon after, the

USGA came to The Woodlands and visited both Carlton Woods courses.

They were chosen for the 2007 U.S. State Team Championships,

one of the USGA’s coveted national championships.

The Fazio clubhouse was finished just in time for the event, and the

club completed its quest for two courses, each with its own elaborate


The Fazio Course creates wonderful variety for the membership,”

said former University of Houston All-American Mike Booker, a

seven-time Carlton Woods club champion and four-time Greater

Houston City Amateur winner. “The Nicklaus Course is such a jewel. I

think it could host a U.S. Open. I think some of the players, like me,

favor the Nicklaus Course because he was a player. Fazio is more of

an artist, and many of our members love that course. The beauty is we

have both.”

By the time the U.S. State Team Championships rolled around, the

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The Club at Carlton Woods GOLF COURSE REAL ESTATE

club had grown to almost 500 members. Carlton Woods’ reputation as

one of the premier clubs in the Southwest was cemented and continued

to grow. It also proved itself as a community partner, far from an isolated

group that closed itself off to others.

That was the plan all along. Langley explained that Carlton Woods

was never designed to be a stand-alone, gated country club. It was and

is meant to be an amenity for The Woodlands. every event the club

hosts showcases the community, a fact that brings Langley and the

membership tremendous pride.

“For a club that’s only 10 years old, we’ve given back a lot to the

game of golf and helped grow the game,” he said. “That’s important

because it enhances our reputation.”

Booker agreed. For all the club’s glitz and glamour, it’s the way it

has embraced amateur golf that pleases him and the other high-level

players most. Booker, a past board member, said Steinbauer has been a

leader in the mold of a Jackie Burke regarding the push to attract state

and national amateur events like the Texas Amateur, U.S. State Team

Championships, the Southern Amateur and U.S. Junior.

“From a player’s standpoint, I’m really proud that we’re connecting

with amateur golf,” Booker said. “The members have really supported

Carlton Woods is country club lifestyle refined.

This private golf community is built around

world-class Jack Nicklaus Signature and Tom

Fazio Championship golf courses, providing

the backdrop for The Club at Carlton Woods,

a pre-eminent social community with two opulently

appointed clubhouses, spa, pool and more.

the concept of amateur golf, which is really great. The culture of golf

is the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods and all that, but we’ve made an effort

to embrace the amateur game. I’m more proud of that than anything.”

Carlton Woods has gone beyond hosting those big events, too. It’s

one thing for members to give permission to entities such as the Texas

Golf Association and USGA and give up their golf courses throughout

the year. Lots of clubs do that. Carlton Woods members take it further

by volunteering en masse at the tournaments.

Marijane Smith, a member since before the club opened in 2001,

heads up a roster of 50-75 members who routinely give up their time

to volunteer at amateur events.

“A lot of our members have had a lot of advantage in their lives,

and they’re willing to share that with those who might not have had

that,” Smith said. “They open their homes to house some of the participants,

particularly in the HP Boys Championship for the AJGA.

Some of the competitors wouldn’t be able to play in the event because

of the expense of having to stay in a hotel. We have volunteers who

open up their homes to them.”

At the core, that’s really what Carlton Woods is about. It’s the best

of everything Texan: forward-thinking, successful individuals and

families who exude hospitality and kindness to others. Because it’s

such an exclusive group, outsiders may have preconceived notions of

snobbery and elitism.

The truth is exactly the opposite.

The best thing about Carlton Woods is the relationship between

the staff, the members and their guests,” Steinbauer said. “The USGA

events and accolades are nice, but what I love most is that when

someone comes as a guest and leaves, they always say it’s a friendly

place to go. The culture we’ve created with the relationships between

the employees and the members is so special.”

From the start, the club adopted a simple, yet profound mantra:

Treat the members with respect. Treat the employees with respect.

Treat the courses with respect. everything else falls in line and creates

a warm atmosphere of giving, caring and mutual appreciation.

It’s a family atmosphere in the truest sense. The members are a

family, one that is proud of its accomplishments and prides itself on

being an active, supportive community leader. If the next 10 years are

anything like the first, the club is destined to raise the bar and set a

new standard for country clubs to aspire. tl

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