By Stephen Smoot
He hails from the low lying hills along the Mid Ohio Valley in Wayne County, just west of Huntington.
She spent her childhood halfway across the world, in the highlands of myth shrouded Transylvania.
Together, Will and Lavi Adkins bring a love of mountains, beautiful countryside, good times, and, of course, a spectacular golf experience to their dream and goal of fully developing The Highlands at Fisher Mountain.
Throughout the summer, Troublesome Valley’s most famous center of recreation and fun has seen a hornets nest of activity. Work trucks and earthmoving equipment have made tangible the promises of investments and upgrades in the same year that an NBC Sports story highlighted the course as the second best in the nation.
Will Adkins, along with his brother, Mark, who own North Carolina based Waterfront Group, explained that “we’ve upped the budget to renovate the course and the clubhouse.” Much of the initial work has gone into renovating the clubhouse. “We want to bring it up to date,” Lavi Adkins shared, “It has good bones. It just needs some TLC.”
The Adkins’ plans for the course cleared a major hurdle recently. Will Adkins stated, “We recently signed an agreement with the county to get water out there.” That will enable the facility to expand in a number of ways to best attract and keep the attention of tourists and locals alike.
One of the first steps lay in removing a stone fireplace that dominated the room, but blocked spectacular views of the course from many parts of the space. The bar area has been extended by several feet and will receive a complete aesthetic modernization. A new fireplace will grace the corner opposite the bar by the front door. Much of the room, however, will keep the “focus on the golf course and views.”
Plans also include giving guests better access to the pro shop by providing a large entranceway from the clubhouse.
Those used to squinting into the distance to see a ball hit on the driving range will appreciate an addition coming soon. Will Adkins escribed the TopTracer computerized driving range system. According to the company that builds it, the engineer who designed the system struggled to see his golf ball after he hit it. Consequently, he “spent the next several years tinkering with a new kind of camera with sensors that could detect a golf ball flying through the air.”
As the device improved over a decade and a half of use, it offered data and analytics to help golfers improve both their swing and their strategy. “You can adapt wind speeds on it,” Will Adkins said, adding that “you can even manipulate the surroundings.” The device also works with an app that can be downloaded onto a phone.
The TopTracer range helps the facility start to take advantage of two trends described by Will Adkins. As he explains, the pandemic pushed many to try activities outdoors and also with opportunity to safely separate from others. At the same time, younger adults are “devouring data” in many aspects of their lives.
He stated, “It’s a little more technical than a guy like me would use, but kids like it.”
Overall, the Adkinses have a vision that centers around creating a full experience that goes beyond playing great golf in a spectacular setting. “We want to do an affordable, but luxurious place to come,” Will Adkins said, then added, “We want to make a happy place.” Currently he is trying “to find a chef that can work in the restaurant.”
Part of the vision also involves “not going over the top and promising what we can’t deliver.” Other economic development plans and ideas over the years have met the unfortunate fate of doing too much, too fast, especially in terms of the residential community they also have started developing in the area.
As the website for The Lodges at Eagles Nest, a mountain development in North Carolina, states, “So much of what Will and Mark do is about creating multi-generational, legacy communities that can be enjoyed by families generation after generation.” Will Adkins stated that “not going too crazy with promises,” and “letting the natural amenities do their thing” will provide a sustainable pace.
On Aug. 26, the Adkinses will host an event sale for potential purchasers of lots that will coincide with a golf tournament. Scott Rightsell will bring his smoker and feed attendees barbeque while a band will provide traditional music. As Ms Adkins says, “we want a taste of West Virginia” to offer those coming for the sale.
The Adkinses expressed appreciation for help from Bill and Chris Ward “who know where every pipe is” and also Jerry Landis who has “been very loyal to the past people and a great asset for us.”
Will Adkins also praised the Pendleton County community, especially its government officials. He said “It makes us want to do even better here because everyone seems to be on our side.”