by SouthCarolina Magazine

South Carolina has a celebrity in its ranks, and he speaks with an accent as intriguing as his unparalleled enthusiasm. Gary Player, golf’s famed Black Knight and winner of 18 major golf championships including the Grand Slam, made South Carolina proud when he announced in April that he would soon call Greenville County home. It will be home not only for him and some of his family, but also for the headquarters of the Gary Player Group and many of its U.S. employees. 

The idea was conceived and nurtured, naturally, around a game of golf. Gary Player and son, Marc, CEO of the Gary Player Group, visited the Upstate in April 2003 to play in the BMW Charity Pro-Am. In their foursome was Ken Costanzo, then Chief Operating Officer of The Cliffs, on whose courses the internationally televised event is annually held. It was the start of a relationship that, over the following two years, led to a remarkable layering of possibilities for both the Player organization and developer Jim Anthony’s Cliffs Communities. The resulting collaboration is The Cliffs at Mountain Park in Travelers Rest, where Player will, among other endeavors, design a golf course, develop Gary Player Estates and build the company’s headquarters. 

As Gary Player and his executive team got more involved with The Cliffs, the commonality of interests grew: from golf course design to real estate development, relocation of corporate offices, charity tournaments, golf performance centers, and more. This truly was a case of shared personal and business interests of two organizations and their leaders. Costanzo teamed with Player on his love of golf and residential real estate; Anthony with Player on his passion for hunting, fishing, wellness and philanthropy. 

As plans moved forward, Costanzo, who once lived in southern Florida, passionately promoted the South Carolina lifestyle to Gary, Marc and other Black Knight personnel who were raising young families near their corporate offices in Palm Beach. “We don’t have the traffic issues. We don’t have the doubling of our population from summer to winter,” he says. “Among so many benefits, we have great weather, conveniences that do not exist in more heavily populated areas, and crime is not a problem. There are few better places to raise a family.”

Central to the evolving negotiations with The Cliffs management team was the Player Group’s long-term business strategy to grow its high-end real estate business around the world, a focus of extending the Player brand to residential properties around some of Mr. Player’s best golf course designs. The Cliffs, with its newest 5,000-acre community in early planning stages, presented a wonderful opportunity for Gary Player Real Estate to establish its initial U.S. venture. 
“From a personal perspective, the love of the land, the lifestyle, the opportunity to have work and family so close by to key operations were exceptional considerations,” says Marc Player. Nonetheless, a decision to move company and family must be based in business terms. “In that sense,” Player continues, “it is certain that there was no part of the arrangement more critical than the real estate program.” 

The Plan
The Cliffs at Mountain Park will encompass approximately 5,000 acres and 1,500 home sites featuring the new Gary Player Signature golf course where the annual Gary Player Invitational charity tournament that supports the needs of underprivileged children will be played. In addition, the community will include the Gary Player Life Performance Center, wellness amenities, 1,000 undeveloped acres for trails, an organic farm that will supply The Cliffs’ clubs and dining facilities, an arboretum developed with Clemson University, and a commercial pedestrian village where the Gary Player Group headquarters will be housed. 

The Cliffs at Mountain Park is expected to have a total economic impact of $2.4 billion to the Upstate, generating hundreds of new jobs and $21 million a year in property tax revenues for Greenville County. This is the seventh gated residential community for The Cliffs, with properties built since 1991 between Asheville, N.C., and Greenville, S.C., and bordered by over a million acres of national forests and state parks.

The Player Group will initially move 26 of its employees and families to Upstate South Carolina. According to Marc Player, about half of the staff will remain behind, unable to make the move, so the company plans to hire additional staff, having over time a total workforce of about 50 people. Gary Player will become a spokesman for The Cliffs Communities and will own a home at The Cliffs at Mountain Park, though the native of South Africa will retain his 12,500-acre ranch there where he raises over 200 horses. Marc Player, his wife, Claudia, and their two children will live in South Carolina full-time.

The Gary Player Group’s core business has always been golf course design, with over 250 courses worldwide, including several South Carolina locations among the 44 completed courses in the United States. In addition to that and Gary Player Real Estate, the company has an Enterprise Division, which markets the use of the Gary Player name through product endorsements and corporate relationships, and runs a Golf Academy, which teaches playing skills along with mental and physical aspects of the game. The Gary Player Foundation has a mission to provide quality education and a future to underprivileged children globally and has raised over $20 million for these worthy causes.

Bottom line, the international Gary Player Group, with a world of choices, has selected South Carolina as its home. “Maybe we can bring some more recognition to just what a beautiful part of America this is,” says Marc Player. “And hopefully we can help with tourism, with some investment into the state. Time will tell how much we can really do, but we’re looking forward to it.” 

Points of the Deal

The move to South Carolina will introduce Gary Player Group’s first high-end residential development in the United States, “Gary Player Estates,” at The Cliffs.

Gary Player Design will create a signature golf course at The Cliffs at Mountain Park.

Gary Player Group, Inc., will relocate its corporate headquarters to the Village at The Cliffs at Mountain Park from Palm Beach, Florida.

The highly successful Gary Player Invitational charitable golf event will be moved from South Florida to the Gary Player Signature course at Mountain Park upon its completion.

The Cliffs will establish the first Gary Player Performance Center, which will comprehensively focus on both the physical and mental aspects of golf.

The Player organization will entertain its worldwide client base at the new corporate headquarters – alongside Mr. Player’s signature golf course, Gary Player Estate homes and the Player Performance Center – in a community where he and his family also live.

Gary Player will act as spokesman and ambassador to all 
of  The Cliffs Communities on tour and across America.

© 2007 South Carolina Magazine. To read more articles in South Carolina Magazine, click here

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