Weatherford Democrat

Local News

August 10, 2012

Family prepares for golf, ranch auction

WEATHERFORD — 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.”

Building dreams

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.

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