Cheekwood Golf sign

Nearly three years after essentially getting the green light from the city of Franklin to expand, the Cheekwood Golf Club appears close to having a plan to develop a “cutting edge” facility that would go well beyond its current setup. 

Located on Spencer Creek Drive in Franklin, Cheekwood has operated as a nine-hole golf course since 1993 and was formerly known as The Fairways at Spencer Creek. It changed ownership in 2015, and two years later the city of Franklin selected the golf course as the entity to develop the 54-acre, city-owned property located on the southwest corner of Mack Hatcher Parkway and Spencer Creek Drive.

There have been various meetings between city staff and owners and stakeholders of Cheekwood in ensuing years, but a presentation by the golf club owner at Tuesday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session seems to have spearheaded the project. Todd Jester, owner of Cheekwood along with partners, and his consultant, Greg Gamble of Gamble Design Collaborative, presented an expansion proposal Tuesday night and promised to have a development plan and lease agreement with the city within the next couple of months.

When completed sometime in 2022, Cheekwood will bring to Franklin a high-tech modern golf course, clubhouse and training academy, according to Jester.

“In researching this the past 18 to 24 months, we’ve found there’s a handful of these products in the country,” Jester said at the work session. “We are definitely on the leading edge and cutting edge combining an existing golf course with the modern technology and innovations that are continually changing practically monthly.”

Through expansion of the golf facility to the other side of Mack Hatcher Parkway, with access coming from an existing greenway that will double as the cart path, the entire layout will consist of a nine-hole championship course, a six-hole par three course, practice facility, golf academy, driving range and clubhouse with a pro shop, restaurant and event space.

Jester, who is a golf course architect, designer and course renovator, said a couple of factors have been a particular boon to the project. One is the involvement of Nicklaus Design, a southern Florida-based company that has designed more than 425 golf courses across the world.

“With Nicklaus on board,” Jester said, “they not only bring huge resources as far as with the design, they bring their experience from all over the world.”

Another advantage comes from the investment of two local businessmen and golf enthusiasts, Paul Pratt and Jimmy Franks.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Franklin,” Franks, a third-generation custom homebuilder, said through a Zoom call at the work session. … “We feel like we can deliver a high-class, quality venue that Franklin will appreciate, and be another amenity like the Park at Harlinsdale Farm and Main Street Festival. I appreciate the opportunity to be involved.”

Aldermen, for the most part, seemed supportive of the plan. Once the details are worked out between the city and the golf club stakeholders, the board will vote on a resolution to move the project forward. It will basically be an amendment to the resolution from September 2017 that gave Cheekwood the go-ahead to expand.

“There is a community of people who really miss the opportunity to publicly play golf [in Franklin]," Alderman-at-Large Brandy Blanton said during the work session. “So I think you’re really hitting a strategic place there. I think you’re heading in the right direction and hitting all the bells and whistles.”