WEST POINT, Miss. — When you hear the name Mossy Oak what do you think of? Camo, right? After all, that's where the term began more than three decades ago, when Toxey Haas took a bag of dirt to a fabric factory and said he wanted to create a pattern to match the dirt.
He got more than he bargained for.
Mossy Oak is one of today's iconic outdoor brands. With beginnings as a maker of camouflage clothing for hunting, Mossy Oak has grown into a family of brands.
Today, Mossy Oak includes not only Mossy Oak brand camo but also a membership club that is a thought leader in preserving and nurturing natural habitat and wildlife (Mossy Oak Gamekeepers); a real estate franchiser focused on helping consumers find and preserve land (Mossy Oak Properties) and a horticultural company (Nativ Nurseries) and a suppliers of wildlife seed and management products (Mossy Oak Biologic).
On the multimedia side, there's Mossy Oak Productions/Moose Media, one of the nation's largest independent outdoor production companies. Mossy Oak produces and directs the popular Outdoor Channel series "Hunting the Country."
And now, we've got the newest member of the Mossy Oak family: Mossy Oak Golf Club, a 7,400-yard, par-72 golf course, clubhouse and cabins set to open in September 2016.
The George Bryan family, founders of nearby Old Waverly Golf Club, and famed golf course architect Gil Hanse have partnered with Mossy Oak to build what will be known as Nature's Golf, a sustainable approach to course development that leaves a gentle footprint on the local habitat while delivering world-class golf.
"People have told me that they didn't know I had a desire to be in the golf business," Haas says. "Well, I don't, but I am in the West Point (Miss.) business. That is the primary thing about this project. It is right under our nose. I am not sure I would not have been as eager if George Bryan wasn't involved. He is 15 years older than me, but I have known him forever. George Bryan does not miss."
Not long after graduating from Mississippi State, Haas went to work for Bryan Foods, a division of Sara Lee in which his father, Fox, was the senior vice president of production and procurement. Bryan, a former Memphian, was president of Bryan Foods until 1983 and senior vice president of Sara Lee from 1983 until his retirement in 2001.
Bryan's playground, as some have called it, is Old Waverly Golf Club, a private club on the outskirts of West Point that he and his wife, Marcia, and family have owned and operated since its creation in 1988.
"It (Old Waverly) has been a labor of love," says Bryan, who moved from Memphis to a home at Old Waverly in 2013. "We always said we wanted to build another course. We looked at it six or eight years ago, but the timing wasn't right."
When the 180-acre property located across the road from Old Waverly became available, Bryan and a friend began negotiations to purchase the land, the site of an old dairy farm.
That's when Bryan brought in Hanse, who was Golf Magazine's Architect of the Year in 2009 and whose company was selected to build the course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. His company recently completed the Doral renovation for Donald Trump.
"We didn't want to go over there and mix a lot of dirt," Bryan says. "We wanted it to be very natural. We brought in Gil and he walked it. He came back within six months and walked it again. He said, 'I think I can do something special.' We elected to bring in 76 founders to put up the cost of the construction."
The next step was easy.
"The Mossy Oak name came about because once you see the land and the property, it makes you think about nature, and we've got one of the top nature companies right here in West Point."
Bryan called Haas' longtime business associate at Mossy Oak, Bill Sugg.
"I asked him what he thought about the name Mossy Oak Golf Course," Bryan says. "I could see it kind of hit him pretty quick. He said he'd go back and talk to Toxey and get back to me. Toxey got the idea pretty quickly, too. He saw that we were trying to create a nature golf course with minimum style; very natural."
Thus was born the course's slogan: Nature's Golf.
"We (Mossy Oak) were honored and flattered that George would consider us," Sugg says. "Nature's Golf, to me, has that perfect name; not because you might see deer or turkeys or mallard ducks, but just by walking the property it looks like God said, 'This looks like it ought to be a golf course.' "
You might say it was love at first sight for Hanse.
"We saw in the landscape (rolling terrain) that there would be a great opportunity to build something special," Hanse says. "When we saw the land we were sold. One of the great things about this job is that we would have Mossy Oak's assistance to make the landscape feel like we are in Mississippi. I think the land will be the star."