By Ken MacLeod
It’s been a circular road culminating in a dream scenario for brothers Tim and Todd Graves, founders of the Graves Golf Academy, one of the nation’s busiest and most successful golf schools.
Proponents of the single plane swing popularized by Canadian legend Moe Norman, the Graves brothers began teaching that method at what was then Coffee Creek Golf Course in Edmond in 2000. They expanded with academies in Florida and Arizona as their client base grew domestically and world wide. Now with a staff exceeding 40, they teach thousands of students annually including many who fly in from overseas.
At home, however, it’s been a rough ride. Coffee Creek closed in January of 2017, one of more than 20 courses to close in Oklahoma between 2012 and the time Covid dramatically turned around the golf market. The Graves relocated to Rose Creek in Edmond for three years and later conducted schools at Oklahoma City public course Lincoln Park. But they didn’t have a place that was truly their own since leaving Coffee Creek.
That is all changing now. The Graves brothers secured a loan and purchased an 80-acre middle section of the defunct Coffee Creek course and are building a dream project that will include a 135-yard wide driving range, one of the largest in the state. It will have a 4,000 square foot teaching center with indoor and outdoor hitting bays and a classroom. The 7,000-foot clubhouse will include a 2,000 square-foot lounge with televisions and refreshments, a simulator, exercise area, locker room, a tribute area to Norman, the Graves Golf headquarters as well as cart storage.
In addition to the huge driving range, the outside teaching area will include large practice greens for chipping, sand shots and putting. An adventurous six-hole golf course is being finished, with three holes projected to be done in the spring and the second three in a Phase Two development late in 2024.
Architect Colton Craig of Craig + Coyne firm in Oklahoma City is doing the design work on the project and has employed a rectangular shape to the greens and bunkers reminiscent of early design work on the east coast and other courses sprinkled throughout the northeast. He calls it “pre Golden Age architecture“ and it will certainly give the facility a distinctive and unique look for Oklahoma. Craig said the simple geometric design fits in well with the simplicity of the single plane swing. JonesPlan of Tulsa is building the course and practice facilities and had more than 40 employees busy on a recent visit.
Buildings are expected to be completed this winter with an opening at an undetermined time in the spring.
Not only will the new Graves Golf Academy teach the fundamentals of the single-plane swing, but it will sell memberships as well to golfers of any swing persuasion who want to hit balls, play the Challenge Course (working name), or have a drink and snacks and watch golf or other sports in the clubhouse.
“We see it as a great place to come after work, hit balls, play a few holes and unwind,” Tim said. “The course Colton has designed is going to be a lot of fun. Hard, but fun. He said it’s always easier to start hard and ease up. I see the course as a place with no par, but one where you can practice any number of shots from multiple angles. Just a great place to work on your game and get better.”
As mentioned, the Graves’ business has been booming despite the lack of a home base in Oklahoma They have done schools in Australia and China in addition to their strong business in the U.S. The single plane swing has been boosted by the success of Bryson DeChambeau and he triggers far more requests for information now than does Moe Norman.
“A lot of the younger golfers are like “Moe who,” says Todd, who emulated Norman’s swing to such an extent when starting this venture 23 years ago that he was nicknamed Little Moe. There will be a Moe Norman museum in the clubhouse to enlighten those unfamiliar with the eccentric Canadian ball-striking machine.
Tim said the Edmond facility will be open year round with golf schools from April through October. He expects to sell 300 to 400 memberships and expects a lot of them will go to the more than 4,000 students they have who are on video training packages and fly in from time to time. Those interested in memberships can get more information on www.gravesgolf.com or by calling 866-377-2316.
“We’ve been pursuing this for a long time and there were many times we were ready to drop the project and do something else,” Tim said. “We need a home base, a true single-plane swing facility. To see it coming together now is pretty cool.”