The silence surrounding Canyon West Golf Club is, ironically, almost deafening.
Every time a grasshopper hops, you can hear the whirr of its body. When the wind blows through the bushes and trees, their leaves create a crackling symphony. Stan Mickle, who created the golf course with his father Wes, recently moved to the area and noted that the silence itself seemed loud.
All the better to hear your thoughts — and, as it turns out, all the better to hear the Lord’s call.
The Mickles, who opened Canyon West in 1997, have been praying over a tough decision for some time. The result is a decision to sell the golf club property, as well as Mickles’ Valley View Ranch. Though the family has looked for a private buyer for a few years — coming quite close to a sale a few times, said Wes Mickle, there will be a public auction Sept. 27.
“We have reached a point where we feel it is time to write a new chapter,” wrote Mickle in a letter to friends and customers. “We believe that the course can and will have a bright future, however, it is time for us to explore new vistas and reach new goals.”
A futuristic-looking putter could be one key to the Mickles’ future. Wes Mickle created it and it recently received U.S. Golf Association approval. But, that venture is just one of several that the family is considering as they look toward their next steps. The elder Mickle knows he’s not getting any younger (though he says with a smile, “I don’t FEEL any older”) and there are things he wants to do while he’s still able. For a man who has led what he describes as a “blessed life,” there are still plans to be fulfilled.
Growing up in Phoenix, Ariz., Mickle lived across from a golf course and remembers dropping off his textbooks after school and hurrying out to the course. Active in sports, he won a state tournament in his teens. He remembers, with love, his family growing up — and a special gift his grandmother gave him. While checking her mailbox one day, his grandmother met a young girl named Judy and set up a blind date with Mickle.
“At first I thought, ‘Oh,’” Mickle remembered, with a slight roll of his eyes. “But, I thought my grandmother hadn’t done anything like that before, so I agreed.”
When Judy opened the door, Mickle took one look and knew that he would marry her. He and Judy moved to Weatherford in 1974 and bought 227 acres between Weatherford and the Brock area of Parker County.
“We just fell in love with Weatherford and moved all our horses here. In the years that followed, we bred more than 10,000 cutting horses and racehorses, including many great champions. The owners of some of the finest horses in the world trusted our breeding and training programs,” said Mickle, who, prior to the move, owned a ranching operation in Arizona.
Later, a nearby resident offered to sell Mickle about 30 acres on which most of the golf course now sits. The Mickles continued to add to their property until they had about 1,000 acres.
“Breeding fine horses had been a longtime passion I shared with my wife, and when she died in 1994, it simply lost its appeal for me,” said Mickle.
Although the first great love of his life is no longer with him, the memories remain. He still tears up recalling some of the moments they shared together — like sitting on one of the many hills that overlooks what is now the golf course and talking with his wife about a dream of creating a course.
It would be with his son, Stan, not his wife, that Mickle would achieve that dream. It took about a year to get the funds together and, by then, the course designer that Mickle had originally wanted was busy designing another golf course.
So, father and son took on the project themselves.
They first searched for water and found they had access to the Trinity aquifer. After digging a pond one day, they came back the next to find it filled with the “most clear, green, pure water you can imagine,” said Mickle.
The pair also decided they’d build the course themselves. That meant unearthing and carting tons — upon tons, upon tons — of large rocks, many of which remain on the course as walls decorating the greens or as part of the rustic scenery along the course.
“It was probably the most fun thing I’ve done in my adult life,” Mickle said, chuckling at the memory of using heavy machinery to move the rocks and make the course. “Stan and I had a lot of fun putting up this golf course.”
Of course there were times when the pair didn’t get along as well. Mickle pointed to a tree on the back nine Thursday afternoon, noting that his son wanted to remove it but he wanted to keep it.
“We ‘compromised’ and it stayed,” said Mickle, noting that when he plays the hole, he often hits the tree. “Sometimes I think we should have gotten rid of the tree.”
In constructing the course, the pair took a very natural approach. They simply went to each area where they envisioned a tee and took their clubs and hit balls, noting where the balls would naturally land. They built the course that way, adding doglegs, sandtraps and ponds to increase the challenges. The rolling hills and open space really demanded a recreational area, Mickle noted.
“The views are really what makes it out here,” he said, looking out over the course.
“My favorite is number one,” Mickle said of what hole he likes the best, adding with a smile, “I play it the best.”
Yet, all the holes on the course hold special memories.
There’s a dead tree that can be seen from the tee of the third hole. When Mickle saw it, he told his son that he had to have it. He even helped the man who was removing it, pluck it from the ground. When his son planted it in the ground along the green of the third hole, however, Mickle decided he wanted it turned around. Wayne Jones from American Concrete in Weatherford had to come out with a special piece of equipment to lift the tree, which weighed several tons, while the Mickles turned it around so the eerie, Legend-of-Sleepy-Hollow-esque tree sat with its branches overhanging the golf cart path.
There’s a waterfall that Karbo Brothers Pools helped install — and which helped use up several of large rocks that the Mickles unearthed. The waterfall is one of the places that people fall in love with when they see the course and the family has rented out the area for several weddings, holding the receptions back up at the golf club.
At the eighth hole, up the steepest of inclines, Mickle stopped the golf cart.
“You have to get out and see this view,” he said.
From the tee area, one can see clear to the the hills by the Comanche Peak Power Plant in Glen Rose, as well as the heart-shaped sand trap that waits below.
Next to the club sits a large pavilion that also offers stunning views of the area. It was at that pavilion that Mickle married his second wife, Mary Kay, and there have been several weddings there, as well.
Though Mickle said he thought the entirety of the course and ranch would be left to his family as a legacy, he knows what is really important is that he and his family were able to accomplish so much.
His son, Stan, feels the same.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better business partner and an amazing father, all in one. We have accomplished more than I could have ever hoped for and now as we focus on our next endeavors, I am excited to see what awaits us,” Stan Mickle said.
It may be difficult for community members to say goodbye to Canyon West, after all it’s been helpful to many organizations.
“We’ve enjoyed what we do and we’ve done a lot of tournaments and fund-raisers,” Wes Mickle said, noting the many nonprofits that have used the course for charity tournaments.
Not that saying goodbye will be easier for the Mickle family. As Mickle drove around the golf course Thursday afternoon, he pointed at different areas, “We’d thought about putting in some tennis courts there,” “We wanted to make that lake a little bigger.” After each statement, he’d note that what happens next is not up to him and his family now.
“In our dreams, we would love to see the golf club continue to succeed and for the ranch to be brought back to life under the new owners,” Mickle wrote in his letter to friends and customers. “But, we can’t control that, and the future of the land will be up to those who purchase it.”
The family will remain in their homes on the property and will remain active in their church and community, Mickle noted.
“We don’t know what the next step is going to be,” he said. “We’re on a journey and we don’t know where the Lord’s taking us.”
The silence surrounding Canyon West Golf Club is, ironically, almost deafening.
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