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Sycamore Hills Golf Club: Small-town Charm with a High-end Touch

Cold and bitter winds blow mightily through Fort Wayne, Ind., every winter, but for five months of the year, the 77th largest city in the U.S. enjoys comfortable and warm sunny days—the kind of Midwestern days that beckon to be savored while in the pursuit of leisure in the fresh air, under a big sky. Head on over to Sycamore Hills Golf Club (SHGC) and you’ll behold 750 acres of the charm and refinement that defines a casually elegant private golf club: Polished, manicured, stylish and laid-back, it’s a club that relishes enjoying the finer things, appreciates a lush landscape, is passionate about its renowned culinary offerings, is steadfast in its dedication to growing the game of golf and continually strives to provide amenities and hospitality on par with the finest clubs in the country. Comfortable and confident in its own skin, SHGC is distinctly a golf and social club with a penchant for imaginative menus and creative social events. Its 450 members consider it the premier club in the Midwest, and its owners and leadership team intend to keep it that way.

The SHGC was founded in 1989 and owned and operated by a prominent local family. After the family patriarch passed away in 2005, a group of members bought the club, but needed renovations and expenses were mounting and, subsequently, ownership changed hands again. Today, it is privately owned by four members who support its mission and ensure the facility and grounds are impeccable while avoiding member assessments. Members of several other prominent golf and country clubs in Florida and elsewhere, the owners are dedicated to observing best practices and offering similar high-end experience at their hometown club.


SHGC’s 1989 Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course—the first of only two in the state—occupies 300 of the club’s 750 acres and is central to the club’s identity. SHGC has proudly hosted USGA Women’s Team Championships, Junior PGA Championships, U.S. Girls Championships, collegiate tournaments, and multiple Championships (now the Korn Ferry Tour), where amateurs vie for their PGA TOUR cards. To accommodate the players, spectators, media, and others who support these events—first and foremost, of course, SHGC members—the club built two luxuriously appointed 3,700-square-foot cottages adjacent to the practice putting green on the first tee. Each cottage contains four bedrooms with king-sized beds and full baths, plush leather furnishings, extensive interior and exterior entertaining areas, pool and poker table, office area, fitness room, media room and utility kitchen. Guests enjoy access to all club amenities, full-service housekeeping and the opportunity to tailor and cater their stays to include a personalized meal experience at the cottage.

Fourth-generation club manager Chris Hampton, who has been GM/COO at the club since 2019 and is convinced he has the best job in the industry, notes that the overnight accommodations are a member benefit that provide a getaway for golf groups, a venue for events such as wedding parties or bridal showers, and an option for hosting visiting family. In the 10 years the cottages have been available, the club has seen an impressive increase in the percentage of national members (who live 80-plus miles away) and regional members (who live 40-plus miles away) who are eager to play the course and enjoy the club when they travel to the Fort Wayne area.

Reservation pricing is competitive in-season, and the cottages typically see an 80% occupancy rate. In the off-season, rates are reduced by half and occupancy rates hover around 20%.

As an additional option, the club has partnered with a high-end hotel in town to offer SHGC members an affiliate discount. This enables large golfing groups or wedding attendees to get SHGC block room rates and is an enticing benefit to non-members looking to host events at the club. Hampton emphasizes SHGC’s commitment to the member experience and strictly limits sponsored events and golf outings to ensure that the pursuit of non-member revenue never infringes upon member access or impacts their satisfaction.

Hampton feels that with the year-over-year increases to cottage use and non-resident membership growth, the club will soon have to talk about adding additional lodging opportunities at Sycamore Hills. Golf and social memberships have flourished, and Hampton expects waitlists are imminent in both.

“It’s truly a testament to the owners’ vision and loyal commitment as well as the dedication of our grounds and golf departments and our stellar culinary program that a club with no pool or racquet program enjoys such a robust social membership. We have tried to foster a supportive team environment where employees are encouraged to develop their skills with training and education so that they can succeed here at the club and wherever their hospitality journey may take them. We enjoy little turnover, which helps with continuity in service excellence and contributes to the warm rapport that members and staff enjoy,” Hampton explained.


SHGC’s dedication to meticulously preserving the integrity of the course’s cherished Nicklaus design and maintaining the lush grounds entices golfers of all levels to enjoy its playability, variety, and distinct character. Combine that with first-rate hospitality and innovative culinary and suddenly this northern Midwest town isn’t a flyover, but a beloved destination in its own right for golfers and epicureans who appreciate the finer things in life.