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On a recent visit to Gulf

Shores, Alabama, I was

introduced to Robert Craft

and learned one of the great

stories in golf, plus it even

had an Arnold Palmer twist.

Mr. Craft recanted a unique

story of turning a sleepy

south Alabama beach town

into one of the most vibrant

resort areas in the country.

It revolved around a sewer

line and Arnold Palmer’s

relationship with Robert’s


The elder Craft, R.C, was

a farmer, who moved his

family from Ft. Myers, Florida

to southern Alabama, when

real estate development in

southern Florida made land

more valuable as condos and

strip malls. He did not attend

fancy schools and preferred

getting dirty from work, over

social functions.

The Crafts grew corn,

soybeans and Gladiolus. The

flowers took to the Alabama

climate and Craft Farms

became one of the leading

producers of these flowers

in the eastern United States.

Of course, every wedding or

funeral must have Gladiolus.

After graduation from Auburn

University, the younger Craft

returned to Gulf Shores,

but did not want to be in

his father’s shadow. He

succeeded in using a portion

of the family land to start a

sod business, which fit nicely

into the growing southern

Alabama economy.

Always looking for a new

opportunity and realizing that

the area could use more golf,

he set upon a plan to build

a new course on the family

farm. There was one minor

problem, however.

The property needed a sewer

line to permit development.

As you can imagine, the Gulf

Shores Town Council was not

overjoyed with the aspect of

spending a couple of million

dollars to accommodate his


A new plan had to be devised.

Seeking the help of a mar-

keting research professional,

Robert learned he needed a

“Marketing Accelerator.” He

didn’t know what that was,

but came to realize he needed

someone with a big enough

name, a celebrity, to add cre-

dence to his idea.

Arnold Palmer Helped Bring

Golfto SouthernAlabama

By Fred Altvater

R.C. Craft,

Arnold Palmer

NWO Golf Links