The Cheekwood Golf Club was discussed during the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting July 13. According to the city of Franklin, the course has been in the works for the past four years; however, the scope of the project has changed to include elements that brought objections from the board.
The course is proposed to include a nine-hole golf course, a seven-hole training facility, a putting green and 74 hitting bays, according to company representatives. According to City Administrator Eric Stuckey, the plan previously proposed an executive golf course with a smaller clubhouse.
The hitting bays brought some objections from alderpersons, who cited the concept is similar to Top Golf, an entertainment venue that serves food and drinks.
Paul Pratt, a representative for Cheekwood Golf Club, said the course is intended to cater to younger golfers who may not have as much time to play 18 holes of golf.
“Golf has evolved,” Pratt said. “What we’re seeing today is that people who have small children or are busy, they don’t have 4-6 hours to go out and enjoy a round of golf.”
However, Pratt said while the scope of the project has changed over the year, it is still a course with instructional areas and new technology. Developers with the project said they intend to work with nearby schools to allow youth golfers to use the facility for training and practice.
Pratt said it is “offensive" to call it a Top Golf due to involvement with Nicklaus Design, founded by pro-golfer and course designer Jack Nicklaus.
“Top Golf doesn’t have a training facility—one of the deals that we have here is we’re going to have a training facility that will be run by PGA professionals to bring in any-age people. It could be kids who are beginning; it could be a high school kid who wants to get professional training; it could be a 45-year-old male or female who wants to be fitted for clubs,” he said. “Top Golf doesn’t have nine holes. ... Their hitting bays and our hitting bays are two different items. We’re a golf-centric program, we’re not a party-centric program.”
However, alderpersons brought up the facts that the facility intends to serve alcohol and stay open after dark as a concept that might bring more of an entertainment atmosphere to the site.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with what we approved on the front end,” Alderperson Margaret Martin said during the meeting. “This is huge business full of technology in a residential area, and there will be homes around it. We are here having approved a golf course that was the least invasive or obtrusive [option] that we could have in this area to save the land and here we are with this huge business. We’re just a little town wanting a golf course.”
The city has yet to reach a lease agreement, which would allow Cheekwood Golf Club to operate on the site for 50 years.
Alderpersons and city staff expressed concern that the proposed lease agreement is too wide in scope, which might allow for developers to change the project from what was proposed.
“My biggest concern is with the lease itself,” Alderperson John Schroer said. “There’s things in that lease that are critical to the city of Franklin. You have complete flexibility to do whatever you want to do in that particular site, and I’m very concerned about that. The city still owns this property and we have the right to put anything in there that we want to. You don’t have to sign it ... but there are many things that we’ve talked about that I would like to see in the lease.”
However, Pratt said some items in the proposed lease agreement are too restrictive, such as limiting operating hours to daytime, which he said would not apply to most other business in the city.
“When the lease says that we have to cut it off at dark, that’s not normal operating hours for us, that’s not what works for us,” Pratt said. “I don’t want to stay open until 2 a.m. I just want what the normal [hours] the city of Franklin has.”
Stuckey said the lease agreement needs to be more specifically tailored to Cheekwood’s proposal before the city can move forward with the project.
“What is here is a tension between what was presented and what the board directed us to work on four years ago,” Stuckey said. “We’ve heard more specifics tonight from Mr. Pratt on what it will be and what it won’t be than we’ve heard in months and months of discussion, and I appreciate that, but that needs to be translated in the lease document. The inherent problem we’ve had is extremely broad language that could allow almost anything on this site, and once we sign the lease, it’s done.”