Vested in the Game
June 1 2001 by John Steinbreder
Thomas Capps chuckles at the irony of the situation. “It’s strange, isn’t it, that my company happens to own a golf course,” he says. “And that golf course happens to have my favorite golf hole: the 18th at the Old North State Club. And I would like it whether we owned it or not.”
Capps’ company is Richmond, VA-based Dominion Resources, which has more than 15,000 employees and annual revenues approaching $9 billion. Its primary business is providing electricity, natural gas, and related services to some 4 million customers in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. But there was a time in the 198os when Dominion diversified into real estate development, and built four amenity-oriented, upscale properties.
“Three of those properties had golf courses, and one was Old North State,” Capps explains.
“When we eventually decided to get out of real estate we sold everything off but that one place. We will sell that, too, one day. But even when we do, it will still have my favorite hole.”
The Dominion CEO likes the 18th at Old North State for a couple of reasons. “For one thing, it’s a real good test of golf,” says the 15-handicapper, who plays a few times a month during the warm months. “You have to hit a good tee shot and you have to keep it to the right because everything will feed to the left. Then you have to decide what to do with your second shot. If you’ve hit a good drive, you can go for the green. But to get there, you have to hit a long fairway wood over water, and it can be a real messy hole if you screw up. But I like that you have that option. If, however, you decide to hold back, you need to hit a second shot of about 160 yards, which will leave you another shot iron of perhaps 140 yards or so to the green, which has a lot of undulations. It’s a tough green, and most putts will break toward the water.”
Another thing about the 18th that Capps likes is its natural beauty. Running along Badin Lake, a 5,300-acre body of water, it is bordered on the right by woods and has spectacular views of the Uwharrie Mountains. “It’s great playing it in the afternoon, heading west and watching the sun go down as you finish up,” says Capps, a Wilmington, NC, native and father of four daughters. “It’s really something to see.”
And there is one last reason why the Dominion chief is so fond of No. 18 at Old North State. “It ends at the clubhouse,” he says. “And you know there will always be a beer for you as soon as you get off the green.”
THOMAS E. CAPPS
CEO, Dominion Resources
COURSE PROFILE. Old North State Club
LOCATION: New London, NC
HOLE: 18th, par-five, 568 yards from the back tees, 534 yards from he green markers, 511 from the whites, and 453 from the forward tees.
HOLE DESCRIPTION: A long dogleg-left hat runs along Badin Lake, it forces players to hit their drives to the right side of the fairway to keep their balls in play. Those who hit strong tee shots will have the opportunity to get on the green in two, but to do so they will need to hit a nearly perfect fairway wood of more than 200 yards over lots of water. The more prudent play is to keep the second shot to the right and then play a short iron into the green.
CLUB DESCRIPTION: A private club roughly 40 miles from Charlotte, Old North state has been rated the second-best course in the state of North Carolina, after Pinehurst #2. It’s a par-72 course that measures 7,102 yards from the back tees, 6,684 from the greens, 6,22o from the white markers, and 5,131 from the reds. It has some 500 members-the vast majority of whom own property there. Dominion Resources developed the 10-year-old club through a real estate subsidiary and plans to eventually sell the club to its members.
COURSE ARCHITECT: Tom Fazio.
John Steinbreder is a senior writer for Golf Week magazine and the author of six books, including Golf Courses of the U.S. Open and Golf Rules and Etiquette for Dummies.