Course Reviews – Carolinas
Santee’s Secret is Out…
Great Value Golf Destination
By Martin Armes
When golfers find a “hidden gem,” they try not to tell anybody. Secrets like that are to be held closely. Fortunately or unfortunately however, golfers are only human, so word usually leaks out and when that happens, the hot spot becomes popular and everyone comes a-callin’.
Witness South Carolina’s Santee region, located near the heart of the state, now a veritable hot spot for Americans and Canadians for decades traveling up and down the I-95 corridor.
Where bragging-sized bass and monster catfish were once the talk of this quaint resort town, birdies and eagles have transformed a perpetually fertile fishing ground into more of a dual air-and-sea assault.
Play the land game around Santee and you will soon discover that each of the 16 layouts has been designed for maximum enjoyment and thrilling challenge. Golfers enjoy classic tree-lined layouts, traverse dramatic elevation changes and soak up views of beautiful Lake Marion.
Folks there will tell you Santee is hands down the best-valued golf vacation on the East Coast. Combine this with good old-fashioned Southern hospitality and you’ll come away with an experience that may have you actually laying up short of other destinations in the future.
A People Place – Behind golf counters, alongside first tees, inside restaurants, hotels and on the streets of Santee you will find friendly faces and welcoming hosts. It’s that kind of town.
“What makes us unique is the familiarity,” says Todd Miller, general manager of Santee Cooper Resort. “I have been on site for 16 years; my wife who runs the pro shops has worked here for 20 years; we have an employee at the resort that has behind the desk for 30 plus years. The groups get to know us fairly well. Even many of our residents started out by coming here on a package for golf and fell in love with the area and the people [and decided to stay.”
That same love for the Santee community goes for the golf trade’s supporting cast.
“Same thing with the hotels and restaurants,” Miller adds. “Our better restaurants and bars are owned and operated by residents. When you go to the Oasis bar and Grill, you may meet the owner Dennis and he will buy a drink. That’s all part of the charm.”
The welcoming feeling will even follow guests out onto the golf course. “At Lake Marion we have a starter that has been with us for couple of years and he is known as the one with the loud outfits,” says Miller. “No problem picking Dick out on the first tee.”
A great place to start your search for a memorable retreat is in one of Santee’s full-equipped villas. You can find units overlooking the beautiful Lake Marion Golf Course, situated alongside Santee National’s fairways or rising high above the big waters on Lake Marion’s north shore. There is also a wide range of local and chain hotels to be had.
No matter how inviting the accommodations are, resist the temptation to become a cabin dweller because right outside your door is maximum golf pleasure. In the case of the Lake Marion villas, a traditional Eddie Riccoboni-designed layout featuring outstanding Miniverde greens and pine tree-lined fairways is at your beckoning.
Several small lakes border the course at Lake Marion and 47 sand bunkers will test your golf course navigational skills.
Santee Cooper Country Club plays right next door to Lake Marion and is the venue you should never leave off any Santee itinerary due to its prime positioning on the big lake and dotted by smaller ones. Set among majestic pines, the classic George Cobb-designed challenge winds its way through a series of scenic dogleg holes and features some of the best par-3s in the region. Of course the par-4s and 5s are enjoyable too, though the best closing hole in Santee is unquestionably the par-4 No. 18 that provides a panoramic view of Lake Marion from its elevated green.
Another popular golf course on the menu at Santee is the Porter Gibson-routed Santee National Golf Club. This 6,858-yard offering is positioned in a truly natural setting filled with mossy live oaks and more highland terrain that what is found closer to Lake Marion.
Additional top-notch courses within proximity of the big water include Wyboo Golf Club, a Tom Jacksonsignature course, Foxboro Golf Club, another Porter Gibson creation nestled along the shores of Lake Marion, and the Players Course at Wyboo Plantation, perhaps Santee country’s most player-friendly layout.
Wherever you choose to “San-tee it up,” you’ll marvel at the beauty and downhome feeling found at one of the true gems of East Coast golf destinations.
And don’t forget the value you’ll get out of a Santee package. “Our prices are still reasonable, but we’ve also been able to improve our product playability-wise the past few years as well,” said Miller.
On the Way To or Fro’ – The folks at Santee Cooper Resort are working on partnering up with some courses in the Yadkin Valley and the Pinehurst Region for options for groups that may want to split their travel on the way north or south through the Carolinas. Stay tuned.
For sportsmen that like to mix golf with fishing, both Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie on the Santee Cooper lakes system have reported big catfish that many anglers only dream about.
Charter fishing trip can be arranged to provide your choice of daytime or nighttime fishing for Santee Cooper’s world-renowned Arkansas Blue catfish, Flathead catfish, and Channel catfish.
Both lakes have also been long-time favorites for bream, bass and crappie fishing as well.
Find more info at www.SanteeTourism.com. Specific golf packages are available at: www.GolfSantee.com, www.SanteeCooperGolf.com and www.ClarksInnandRestaurant.com.
A Mystical Golf Adventure in Myrtle Beach
Three Dan Maple courses with strikingly different personalities
Special for the Carolina Golf Journal
Have you ever had a witch determine the outcome of your golf score? Have you ever eaten lunch in a wizard’s castle after a day on a Scottish-type links course? Or, have you ever played an island par-four, yes the hole is an island on a lake disguised as a golf course?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “no”, the Carolina Golf Journal has found just the spot to enjoy each of the fun possibilities just a short drive from Charlotte.
Featuring three distinctively different golf challenges, the Mystical Golf courses: The Witch, The Wizard and Man-O-War are located along the US 501 corridor just minutes west of Myrtle Beach. Reaching 4-1/2 stars from Golf Digest and named both “Best Bargain” and “The Best Value in America” by GOLF Magazine, each course in the Mystical trio is designed by celebrated architect Dan Maples.
Excellent golf packages exist up and down the Grand Strand, but Claude Pardue’s Mystical Golf offers one of the best plans for two reasons. One, the three well-conditioned golf courses, all designed by renowned architect Dan Maples, are totally different layouts spread around eye-catching scenery, and, two, the whole experience, from the golf, to the pro shops, to the food and beverage services, to the lodging is extremely affordable.
Awarded 4-1/2 stars by Golf Digest; The Witch is a Myrtle Beach favorite. The challenging layout sits regally on 500 acres of tranquil cypress groves and wetlands teeming with flora and fauna. Well-placed tee shots to manicured fairways and razor-sharp iron approaches are awarded. With 4,000 feet of bridges snaking through a magnificent swamp and rolling hills, golfers may spy cranes, bald eagles, alligators and black bears. Holes are separated by deep swaths of forest promoting a glorious pure-golf vibe. The Witch is golf and Mother Nature in perfect harmony.
The front side plays much longer than the backside. The first couple holes required similar tee-shots, yet the approach shots were much different. The first par-3 was a mid ranged par three over a bunch of junk.
The angles were very different on each tee, but all appropriate for the skill level. The next stretch of 3 holes was somewhat difficult. The shorter par-4 4th hole has water down the left side of this hole almost the entire length with some very strategic bunkers on the right.
The par-5 5th hole is an S-shaped hole that is going to be a 3 shot hole for 99% of golfers, and the par-4 6th hole was one of the longest and most difficult par 4s on the course; requiring a long drive and then accuracy on the second shot.
The final 3 holes on the front side were more strategic than difficult. The par-3 7th hole is fronted by water, but there is more than enough green and rough to work with on this longer hole. The big bending right par-5 8th hole was not over difficult, just long, and the shorter par 4 9th hole was visually tricky, but played fairly tame.
The first 3 holes of the back nine wrap around the driving range. The par-4 10th hole is nothing too tough to start out the backside, while the par-5 11th hole runs along the road busy with traffic. While the road is not right next to the hole, the road sounds are very different than the tranquil sounds on the rest of the course. The par-3 12th hole is very simple, although fairly long.
The par-5 13th hole tees off right next to the clubhouse and for the next 6 holes you are back into the swampland again. The par-3 14th is the shortest hole on the course, but for some reason played fairly difficult for our group. The longer par-4 15th offered a generous landing area, which leads to a lower green fronted, by swamp and creek.
The final three holes are a great closing stretch of holes that aren’t too tough, but yet maintaining focus to the end is important. The dogleg right par-4 16th hole needs a well placed tee-shot in order to make par here. The par-3 17th needs the ball to stay away from the left drop-off and woods. The finishing hole is a very picturesque par-4 down hill right in front of the clubhouse.
The Man-O-War Jelly fish is best known for how dangerous and deadly they can be in the ocean or on the beach. Well, the Man-O-War golf course might better be named Man-O-Water for its ample amount of deadly and dangerous water.
Starting with a shorter par-5 wasn’t too bad, and really was one of the tamer holes of the day. The par-3 2nd hole just offered a hint of what was to come with water long of this green. The par-4 3rd and 4th holes were pretty much straightaway with a similar length. While they played opposite directions and on each side of the driving range they weren’t nearly as frightening as the holes to come.From the 5th hole until the finish of the front nine there seemed to be ample danger from water hazards. The long par-4 5th hole had water all down the left side. The decent length par-3 6th had water in front. The par-4 7th had water all down the left side and the long par-5 8th had water on the left, tree on the right.
The par-4 9th is a long island hole. There is water on both sides of the fairway and all behind the green.
While there is water on so many holes, at times it can feel intimidating, but actually there was more than ample room for tee shots and approach shots even for even high handicapper. From the women’s tee there were very few forced carries over water. Over all, the front side plays long enough and tough enough, but not abusive or unplayable.
The back nine has a little more war (water) in it. While it doesn’t play as long, there are a few more water hazards and island holes on this 9. Hole 10 is an average par-4 that has water fronting the green. The par-4 11th comes back with water fronting this green too. The par-4 12th has water in play on the left side, and the long par-5 13th doesn’t have much water, but plays long with OB all down the left side with houses.
The par-4 14th hole is the first island green. But this green and surrounding area is huge and doesn’t feel like a little island. The par-3 15th is also an island green, but this one too is very large with more than ample bail out area. The building was built on pillars in the middle of the lake. It is really a cool setting for a clubhouse.
Man-O-War’s commanding 141 slope rating is offset by massive, bent-grass greens – making putting a joy – and tantalizing par 5s begging golfers to go for glory. With no holes playing or even looking the same, the grand illusions and magic of Man-O-War make it a Myrtle Beach must play.
What Dan has done is transport the golfer into thinking he is in the Scottish Highlands or on the Irish coast, playing a classic, wind-swept, wide-open links course. Stone bridges like Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews are also part of The Wizard’s trademark. The par-72, 6,721-yards appear to be easy to tame as the golfer stands on each tee, but, once again, that is the illusion. Deep bunkers (many of them hidden from view); dry gullies and hidden burns, subtle elevation changes, mound-framed fairways, and fast bent-grass greens are the sorcery at work. Nothing that straight drives, crisp irons, and that wand on the green can’t ward off, of course.
The Wizard is a golf treat. You’ll think you’ve been transported to the Scottish Highlands with ever present deep bunkers, mound-framed fairways, dramatic elevation changes and dry gullies throughout. Golfers’ journeys crescendo with a one-two punch. No. 17 – a classic par-3 – requires a well-struck iron onto a Royal Dornoch-style green perilously flanked by water on all sides. The robust par-4 18th is a land unto itself with an island tee; island fairway and peninsula green testing your nerve and skill. Par these two stalwarts and you’ll moonwalk to the 19th hole in the old-world, castle-style clubhouse. The Golf Digest 4-star course is enchanting!
The Witch cuts into 500 acres of cypress groves, oaks with hanging moss, wetlands, and rolling hills and was the first of the Mystical Golf group finished in 1989. It soon became a favorite venue for tourists and locals alike, the par-71; 6702-yard layout received 4.5 stars (of 5) from Golf Digest and both “Best Bargain” and “The Best Value in America” recognition from GOLF magazine.
With 4000 feet of bridges through swamps and pristine habitat, almost every hole is secluded and is surrounded by forest and native flora. The golfer, who quickly realizes the beauty and challenge of the course, is also privy to the native fauna such as cranes and herons, bald eagles and other raptors, alligators and deer, and the occasional black bear.
As Pardue stated, “I wanted The Witch to be golf and Mother Nature in perfect harmony.” Pardue also wanted to expand upon The Witch theme in its “haunting” surroundings by building a Gothic gabled mansion for the clubhouse and devising a “spooky” logo for the flags and pro shop merchandise. The tee markers are small cypress stumps from the swamp that resemble a witch’s hat.
The Affordable Appeal of Mystical Golf Pardue, who is active in the day-to-day management of his properties and often speaks with his guests after the round, was much more effusive when asked why Mystical Golf has been so successful in an area that is teeming with competition. He said, “My product is not golf. I sell fun. I cater to the golfer who wants a vacation to get away from it all for a week—his home, his work, his other responsibilities—and play golf during the day with his friends, then have a dinner at a sports bar, and play poker at night. I know these golfers seek value, and we strive to provide our guests the best ‘bang for the buck’ in Myrtle Beach.”
For example, Mystical Golf is offering a three-day fall stay-and-play “buddy” packages that are hard to beat. Starting as low as $106 per person, per day—quad occupancy in a nearby golf villa—and replay rounds for cart fee only ($23), the golfer can play from sunup to sundown on all three courses, hit range balls, start the day with a complimentary IHOP breakfast, get a lunch and two beers on the course, enjoy one steak dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse, and receive a $15 gift card toward a golf shirt. If the timing is not right for a spring getaway, similar great packages are always available throughout the year on the website, www.mysticalgolf.com.
Back to Tradition!
Chechessee Creek Club – Okatie, SC
Special for the Carolina Golf Journal
The Chechessee Creek Club is a private Hilton Head-area golf course designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, a duo that has earned a firm reputation in the world of golf architecture as strategic minimalists.
They’re both old-school, heavily influenced by the masters of the so-called golden age of architecture, by architects like Donald Ross and A.J. Tillinghast, among others. The pair have done some heralded designs since teaming up in the 1980s, the Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Nebraska, probably being their most famous, along with their work to reconstruct the Donald Ross design at Pinehurst #2.
That pretty much sums up Chechessee Creek, which fits nicely in the Crenshaw-Coore portfolio.
“Our goal at Chechessee was to create a golf course of traditional character that would reward thoughtful, imaginative and precise play, while utilizing and showcasing the magnificent oaks and pines of the Carolina Low-Country.
We hope that the nuances of the course will reveal themselves over time, encouraging players to attempt a variety of shots and strategies to discover how best to reward their individual game.
Most of all, we hope that you enjoy your golf at this fine club with which we are honored to be associated.”~ Bill Coore ~ Ben Crenshaw
The club is located on a lonely piece of land bordering Chechessee Creek, which in turn feeds into the Chechessee River, which in turn flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Its official location is Okatie, S.C., about 10 miles from Beaufort and 15 from Hilton Head Island.
The way they built Chechessee is telling. The designers don’t like to work that much on paper, like most modern architects, they prefer to “feel” the layout of the land.
They do that by cutting narrow, center lines at first, rather than scraping out entire fairways like many cookie-cutter designers. Then they sit back and consider that for a while before cutting more. Where are the best playing corridors?
In effect, they built the course incrementally, adding, subtracting and changing as they went. Coore and Crenshaw can take the time to do this
sort of thing because they never work on more than two projects at a time.
The result is a course not so much carved through classic South Carolina; it’s more like it was a very expensive gardening project. Whereas Jack Nicklaus may have come through with hammer and tong, Crenshaw and Coore used surgical scalpels.
As might be expected, they moved little dirt. The tee boxes are only slightly higher than their surroundings, with no fancy flower boxes orornate steps. Only the pushed-up greens show evidence that dirt was moved around.
The course slithers through the pines and oak trees with a very light touch; when you first pull up and drive around the property; it takes a while, and some focus, to notice the course.
When you’re actually out playing, most likely walking, you have time to notice this minimalist approach makes stars out of the stately oaks and pines, not to mention the broad expanses of marsh that give way to the creek and river.
The trees are an intimate part of the course, not just lining fairways but also often as fairway obstacles and aiming points. They let the grass that tips the bunkers grow long, giving them a natural, unruly look and making them more well-defined from the tee boxes.
This low-key approach extends to the clubhouse, which is small but cozy, and even to the darn parking lot, with its shading oaks and irregular design – no cars baking in a big, rectangular asphalt lot.
Another throwback to the old days is length. The course measures 6,606 yards from the “championship” tees, and 6,285 from the back, or blue, tees. The member’s tees are less than 6,000 yards.
But, the length, or lack of it, is deceptive.
“The scorecard is short. The course is not,” said Franklin Newell, the Director of Golf. “There are five par-3s and three par-5s. You have some short par-4s, and you have some that are long. A lot of people look at the scorecard and say afterward they can’t believe how many fairway woods and long irons they had to hit.”
Chechessee Creek opened in 2000 and is considered by many golf publications one of the best golf courses in the Carolinas, and among the best in the Hilton Head-Beaufort area, if you like your golf of the traditional, strategic variety.
As compared to the other Coore & Crenshaw courses, trees play a fundamental role in suggesting how to play/shape certain balls: the lone pine in the fairway on the fifth, the pine 200 yards off the ninth tee, the trees tight down the right edge the twelfth fairway, the pine protruding into the fourteenth fairway, the live oaks on the fifteenth, the lone pine on the seventeenth, and a nest of trees on the inside of the eighteenth dogleg. They had no such decisions at Sand Hills but the use of select trees is a good example of Coore & Crenshaw adapting their style to take advantage of a site’s natural attributes.
It’s one of those courses that, though short by today’s standards, can be deceptively difficult. Bad shots here can put you in some very awkward positions, particularly around the greens.
“It isn’t real forgiving,” Newell said.
The course, in its relatively isolated location, is reminiscent of Old Tabby Links on nearby Spring Island. There are only 10 cottages around the Chechessee layout, most of them privately owned and for rent to members. The wide porches have barbecue grills, and they all have either golf course or marsh views or sometimes both. They come as small as two-bedrooms and as large as four.
Like the cottages, the clubhouse conforms to the aesthetic standards of the club, with hardwood floors, old-time fixtures and working fireplaces. There also is a newly finished lodge right at the clubhouse that is a delight to enjoy as a stay-and-play opportunity if you have an invitation from a club member.
This course is wonderful all around. It is very playable for all skill levels, some of the greatest driving holes. This course if very natural and works with the native landscape rather than moving around a ton of dirt. It is a shot maker’s paradise that is remarkably fun to play, and highly recommended if you can make it happen.
Chechessee Creek is what most architects talk about: a timeless, low profile course that is fun for all. The one difference is that Coore & Crenshaw and the Boys actually delivered the final product.
Shipyard Golf Club…
Classic courses with a new feel
Special for the Carolina Golf Journal
When Hilton Head Island began to develop a golfing personality in the late 60’s, golf course designers were looking to influence golfers with a variety of course layouts. History has proven that those early designs have stood the test of time, and the Shipyard Plantation courses, with their natural setting of majestic Carolina pine trees; flowering magnolias and moss draped oaks over the years have become some of the most popular.
The Shipyard Golf Club, named by Golf Digest as one of the “Top 75 U.S. Golf Resorts”, features 27-holes of championship golf. Adding to the beauty and character of these golf courses are many lagoons and ponds, which must be negotiated if you are to play to your handicap.
Named one of the best course layouts on the Champions Tour and the former home of the Hilton Head Seniors International from 1982 to 1984, Shipyard is located on the south end of Hilton Head Island in the Shipyard Plantation and adjacent to Sonesta Resort Hilton Head.
The course designers, George W. Cobb and Willard C. Byrd, inter-connected two of the three courses for a unique and challenging experience. The original Clipper and Galleon courses, finished in 1970, create an exciting combination of long narrow fairways and perilous hazards, while the Brigantine course, added in 1982, winds its way around lagoons and breathtaking terrain.
As a result of a comprehensive renovation project unveiled Labor Day weekend 2008, Shipyard Golf Club is better than ever. Shipyard now features Diamond Zoysia greens, surfaces previously unexplored in the state of South Carolina, which has improved year-round playing conditions.
The three courses, Brigantine, Clipper and Galleon, offer four tee positions to accommodate all levels of play, and there are ample risk and reward situations to allow optimal scoring opportunities. Accurate tee shots and well-measured approaches are a must on these championship courses. The greens are large and well bunkered with brilliant white sand, and their undulating surfaces demand a delicate, yet determined touch.
The courses play to slope ratings that measure between 118 and 124 for women and 114 and 136 for men, with the Clipper/Galleon combination providing the toughest test. There are 110 soft white sand bunkers scattered about the 27 holes, and all but four have water hazards in play in some shape or form as described in the following thumbnail review of each course.
Clipper Course: With plenty of sand and water hazards, the Clipper course may be the most difficult of the nines. This George W. Cobb design requires a good long game and a soft touch around the greens.
Galleon Course: These original nine holes of Shipyard Golf Club meander through large oaks and tall pines. Accurate placement of approach shots into heavily guarded greens is necessary on the Galleon course.
Brigantine Course: Alligators sun themselves along these scenic, water hazard filled nine holes of the Brigantine course. With slight dog-legs and well-placed bunkers, this course requires shot-making and a good short game.
On property is a clubhouse with pro shop and Reflections on the Green Restaurant/lounge, plus banquet/outing facilities that serve up to 288 guests. Practice facilities include a targeted grass range,short game area with sand bunker plus putting green.
Part of the exciting Shipyard “Stay-and-Play” packages, the Sonesta Resort offers relaxing accommodations set on 11 acres of beautifully landscaped beachfront property. This AAA approved Four Diamond family-friendly hotel recently completed a $30 million renovation and features a spectacular swimming pool complex, Arum Spa, casual and fine dining opportunities, on-site bicycle rentals and is just minutes from the first tee at the Shipyard Golf Club. The 340 spacious guest rooms and suites of this Hilton Head hotel offer views of the Shipyard Plantation grounds, lush tropical gardens, swimming pools, and the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to the short stays at the Sonesta Resort, Shipyard is a nice mix of full time residents living in both homes and condos and available rental properties. Set with-in the tree lined fairways are beautiful homes and villas with family friendly with pools just steps away.
Throughout the plantation are twelve miles of bike paths. They are set off the road and wind in and out of the beautiful tree lines, and can be used to-and-from the Shipyard Golf Club and Van der Meer Shipyard Tennis Club.
The Shipyard Beach Club, for private use of guests of the plantation, is just steps away from the Atlantic Ocean and the long beautiful beaches of Hilton Head Island.
Shipyard is part of the Heritage Golf Group, a leading owner and operator of golf facilities nationwide, which also features the two courses at Palmetto Hall, three more at Port Royal and the 18-hole Oyster Reef design. Shipyard Golf Club is committed to unrivaled golf and uncompromising service. And one visit to Shipyard will tell you that they have certainly hit the mark.
For more information on your next trip to Hilton Head and golf at Shipyard Golf Club, call (843)686-8802.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
Longtime Hilton Head fall favorite
Special for the Carolina Golf Journal
Sam Snead said the only reason he played golf was so he could afford to go hunting and fishing. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort — the venerable home of great golf on Hilton Head Island — overflows with reasons to play golf. And just to play, period.
A 2,000-acre resort stretching across three miles of Atlantic Ocean beach, Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort features three world-class golf courses and an award-winning tennis center, plus 11 miles of lagoons, an Outfitters Shop and one of the best beaches on the eastern seaboard. In addition, the resort’s Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina provides some of the island’s finest waterfront shopping and dining, along with seasonal entertainment and activities for the entire family.
Indeed, excursions to Hilton Head Island are never the same trip twice. For decades, visitors have come to Palmetto Dunes with their families as well as with their friends and business colleagues. But the combining appeal of its trio of premier golf courses plus three miles of the world’s most beautiful beaches has always truly stood as the difference-maker at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.
“The three Palmetto Dunes golf courses receive a lot of attention, not just from golfers but from the professional staff which keeps them immaculate,” said Brad Marra, Assistant Vice President of Resort Operations. “All the courses twist and turn among lakes, lagoons, marshes. It’s not a stretch to say that you have to see it to believe it.”
The Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course has been rated by readers of Golfweek magazineamong the best courses in the Carolinas and the Southeast. Its signature hole, the dramatic par-five 10th, offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and is widely considered one of the most spectacular holes in the United States. One of only two oceanfront holes on Hilton Head Island, the course’s legendary 10th delights golfers of every skill level. In addition, the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, an Audubon International program, has designated the Jones course a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” for its commitment to providing a sanctuary for wildlife.
The George Fazio Course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, the island’s only par-70 course, is regarded by many golfers as Hilton Head Island’s most challenging championship course. Designed by George Fazio, whose name it proudly bears, the Fazio Course has been ranked among America’s Top 100 Courses. The Fazio layout, which recently underwent a complete greens replacement, demands a combination of long play and precise golf shots. From its 432-yard 1st hole to its 462-yard 18th hole, the Fazio Course plays 6,873 yards from the championship tees.
The Arthur Hills Course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, where collegiate stars like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson honed their talents takes full advantage of the natural beauty of this South Carolina sea island. Named the 2009 Course of the Year by the South Carolina Golf Course Owners Association, this spectacular layout represents a careful blend of beauty and challenge. Stands of palmetto trees line the graceful fairway.
Built on a series of rolling dunes, the Arthur Hills Course presents many opportunities for off-balance lies, while ocean breezes add to the challenge. Ten holes on the water further encourage precision play. Additionally, Arthur Hills was named a selected course by Golf Digest in its ranking of Hilton Head as No. 9 on the list of America’s Best Buddies Trip Destinations for 2013. The course plays 6,651 yards from the back tees.
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort caters to golfers of all level, having installed permanent junior tees on its Robert Trent Jones golf course, while the George Fazio course caters to juniors with markings of 150 yards or less. In addition, kids play free at the Robert Trent Jones Hilton Head golf course and the Arthur Hills golf course after 4 p.m. with an adult paying regular rate. There are free club fittings performed by Rod Thompson and golfers can play the latest demo clubs from TaylorMade, Nike or Cobra.
Hilton Head Island is world-renowned for its golf and its beaches, and Palmetto Dunes has both in abundance. It also has Doug Weaver, a former PGA TOUR professional and the highly respected director of instruction for Palmetto Dunes. Doug Weaver knows golf – and Hilton Head golf – as well as anyone and his free Monday golf exhibition every week is a popular attraction.
Of course, golf is not nearly the entire story at Palmetto Dunes. Ranked as the No. 1 Tennis Resort in the Carolinas and one of Top 10 Tennis Centers in the United States by Tennis Magazine, this Hilton Head tennis resort was ranked No. 2 in the world for instruction and events, No. 3 in the world for junior programs and No. 5 in the world overall by Tennis Resorts Online.
Meanwhile, tennis, golf and fishing always seem to go together well — and red fish are abundant in Hilton Head in the fall during their mating season. For those who enjoy the distinct pleasure that only a fishing pole can provide, deep-sea chartered fishing excursions for game fish that ply the Gulf Stream are available at Shelter Cove Marina, while guests also may book nature tours as well as dolphin and nature tours.
For more information about Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort and its many different golf packages, call 877-567-6513 or visit www.PalmettoDunes.com. Three-round stay-and-play packages start at $131 per person per night (quad occupancy) and drop to $109 for two rounds over the three nights.
Blowing Rock Country Club
“Donald Ross design or not?”
By Bill Hensley
In the scenic North Carolina Mountains there are two intriguing, unsolved mysteries that create lengthy but futile—debates: the cause of the eerie lights on Brown Mountain, and who designed the Blowing Rock Country Club golf course.
The often-heated arguments rank with notoriety along with who shot J. R. on “Dallas,” and whatever happened to Jimmy Hoffa? Sadly, there are no answers.
For years, the question of the Blowing Rock course architect has been a cause of much discussion and research. All to no avail. Was it Seth Raynor or Donald Ross? Or neither?
The club lost all its records and documentation in a 1974 fire that destroyed the clubhouse and all files. Since then, historians have had a field day.
The course, a nine-hole layout known as Green Park-Norwood, was built in 1915. Another nine was added in 1922. Some even say, and it is possible, that Raynor did the first nine and Ross the second.
Circumstantial evidence points to Ross, the famed Scotsman, as the designer. In the 1920s he spent much time in the mountains designing the nine-hole Mayview course in Blowing Rock, which never opened; the nearby Linville Golf Course, and four projects in Asheville, including Biltmore Forest. In his book that lists the courses he designed, Ross includes Blowing Rock, where he redesigned nine holes and added nine in 1922
By the same token, some golf history books credit Raynor, a renowned architect from the Northeast, with the Green Park-Norwood course in North Carolina.
Raynor’s trademark was a “redan” on each of his courses, which is described as a “formidable fortress” marked by a severe green. Purists say that the second hole, a par three, at Blowing Rock is a perfect example.
Noted golf writer/historian Brad Klein is adamant when he says “Raynor did not do Blowing Rock.” He said that a definitive list of courses designed by Raynor is in a book entitled “The Evangelist
Of Golf” and that Blowing Rock is not listed.
Since the book was written, however, the author—George Bahto—has come up with new evidence, including a 1923 article from the Statesville, NC, newspaper which said, “based on his work in Blowing Rock, Raynor should be considered to design the new course in Statesville.”
The late Mrs. Joseph Lineberger of Belmont, who first came to Blowing Rock in 1922, recalled several years before her death that nine holes were added that year, and she remembered meeting and talking with Ross that year when he visited their home.
She also remembered that long time member David Craig, a club founder, had entertained Ross in the 20s when he was working on the Linville course, indicating that a friendship existed.
Course designer Kris Spence of Greensboro has stated in his history of the course that Raynor was the architect and cited the fine work he did on the historic course.
Blowing Rock Golf Director Wayne Smith, a 30-year veteran at the club, has studied and researched the question throughout his tenure and has come up with another mystery. Was a third architect involved?
Smith said that during the period between 1927 and 1933, significant course changes were made. This was after Raynor’s death in 1926. Evidence indicates that the work was done by Charles Banks, a Raynor protégé. Because of his extensive use of heavy equipment, he was known in the industry as “Steam Shovel Banks.” His work is evident on several holes, particularly the original third and 16th greens.
“It appears that Banks was continuing Raynor’s work,” Smith said. “It is possible that three of America’s great architects were involved.”
So the compelling arguments continue. Raynor? Ross? Banks?
Meanwhile, members and guests await the 98th year of the course’s colorful existence when the course opens in the spring. The classic mountain layout plays to par 72 over its 6,162 hilly yards. The slope is 69.4/126.
Regardless of who designed the course, the most talked about hole on the course is the par four
17th which measures only 311 yards. Two holes –in- one have been recorded but no one in either group saw the balls disappear into the cup because the green sits on the other side of a hill and isn’t visible from the tee.
And the guessing game continues……………….
Golf course “whims”
By Bill F. Hensley
Two of golf’s most nagging problems—slow play and crowded conditions—are the reason that two of North Carolina’s best-known courses now exist.
Ironically, both were built on a whim and both are in the mountains only a few miles apart.
The popular Hound Ears Club near Blowing Rock and Boone was built because of slow play, and Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville was created because of crowded conditions at a nearby course.
Both seemingly trivial decisions came about in the early sixties. On a busy Saturday in Blowing Rock, entrepreneur Grover Robbins, the developer of Tweetsie Railroad, was stymied by the snail’s pace when he was playing with his brother Harry.
“This is ridiculous,” the frustrated Robbins said. “We have waited on every shot. To heck with this. Let’s build our own course.”
And so he did.
The following week the Robbins brother set out looking for a suitable site and found a beautiful 300-acre plot at the bottom of Shull’s Mill Road bordering the Watauga River. The scenic location was at the base of the famed “Hound Ears rocks” so named by locals because two prominent peaks resembled a dog’s ears.
In due time the land was acquired and noted architect George Cobb was retained to design the course.
Work was begun in 1963 and the club opened the following year. The Hound Ears Club now features more than 700 acres and nearly 500 luxury homes and condos. The club will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2014.
“Hound Ears has proved to be one of the High Country’s best and most popular clubs,” said longtime member John Andrews, a summer resident from Charlotte. “I am delighted that Grover Robbins encountered slow play and decided that the remedy was to build a course of his own. The entire area has benefitted greatly by his decision.”
In addition to Tweetsie and Hound Ears, the Robbins brothers also developed Linville Land Harbors, Beech Mountain, the Land of Oz, and the Elk River Club.
The Grandfather Club story follows a similar scenario.
In 1952, Agnes (Aggie) Morton inherited nearly two thousand acres of gorgeous land at the western base of Grandfather Mountain. Over the years she rode horses and hiked the property often and marveled at its beauty.
At the same time, Aggie became one of the state’s top amateur golfers, winning four Carolinas Golf Association Women’s championships and at least 30 club championships. On a national level she was a quarterfinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Anxious to play the historic course at Linville, she tried several times to get a starting time but was told that nothing was available. Frustrated and disappointed, she told a couple of friends “you know- it’s about time I built my own golf course.”
And so she did.
Impressed by the work of Ellis Maples of Pinehurst, who had learned the trade from the renowned Donald Ross, she contacted him to discuss designing a course on the land she owned. “We had similar ideas,” she recalled, “and after he visited the property, he agreed to be the architect.”
When construction began it was quickly noted that costs ran more than twice what she had budgeted, so she turned to her brother, Hugh Morton, for financial help. He, in turn, also enlisted the aid of his longtime friend John Williams, and the project was completed in 1968.
Today, the Grandfather Golf and Country Club features hundreds of homes and recreational amenities in addition to the highly regarded golf course which is currently rated as the second best course in North Carolina by the NC Golf Panel.
Now in her nineties, Mrs. Agnes Morton Cocke Woodruff, is extremely proud of the Grandfather Club.
“It is a truly great golf course and club,” said with a smile. “It has everything. My dream really came true.”
And, thankfully, slow play is never a problem at Hound Ears and crowded conditions at Grandfather don’t exist
The success story at both courses has a moral: when mountain folks decide they want something, they are relentless in their pursuit. Just don’t get in their way……..
Mid Pines Makeover -
Restores 1921 Ross Classic
By Robert Eldridge
When people talk about great Donald Ross golf courses the first thought is of Pinehurst #2 opened in 1895, and still ranked in the top 1, 2 or 3 in the world. But, another Ross design nearby has been beaconing golfers to the Sandhills since it opened in 1921 – Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club.
When Ross was designing Mid Pines, he was familiar with the sandy ground, wiregrass and tall, slender pines that define golf courses in the region. Over the years, some of those features lost their distinctiveness, but thanks to a significant restoration finished this summer, the course’s early 20th-century look is back.
Kyle Franz, a course architect and shaper, was brought in to rebuild bunkers, restore original green contours and replace fairway rough with the hardpan sand and wiregrass that was part of Ross’ original 1921 design.
“What struck me looking at a lot of Sandhill’s golf courses was the beautiful sweep of the landscape, the sandy soils and the potpourri of colors you get,” said Franz, who has worked with such A-list designers as Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Gil Hanse. “The burnt orange of the sand, the pine needles and the sun light at certain times of day is a dynamic you don’t get anywhere in the world.”
All eighteen greens have been converted to MiniVerde Bermuda and the fairways with Bermuda grass. The course, ranked 183rd in the Golfweek’s Best Classic Carolinas Courses, should climb on that list once the golf panels have had a chance to play the finished product.
While working with Coore and Crenshaw on the renovations at Pinehurst #2, Franz had been sifting through file after file in the Tufts Archives in his spare time. With this knowledge he was waiting for the right moment to approach Pine Needles and Mid Pines president Kelly Miller about his plan to not only work on the greens that were untouched since the 1960’s, but also to restore Mid Pines to its original Ross ideals.
Franz restored about 25% of the original Ross greens that were lost to the dreaded riding mower over a 50-year period, but he also cut down 300 to 400 tall pines to open up the course’s corridors, started digging in the sand to make some dramatic flashes and massive waste areas that Ross once displayed at Mid Pines, and transplanted wire grass from elsewhere on the property for that “old-feel” look.
Exactly zero dirt or sand was trucked into the 250-acre property, and right before his eyes Miller was presented with virtually a new golf course for less than $1 million.
“I learned so much more about the golf course from Kyle,” added Miller, who has been with the courses since 1982. “He’s got this book and would whip it out and say, ‘You can see where Ross had this or that and this is the way he wanted it.’ He was great about the history, but aware of how golf is played today.”
“On #18, we added a bunker and he was asking the players, if we did this, what would you do off the tee. You want to restore it to what Ross’ intensions were, but you know if Ross were alive today he would be tinkering with it. Kyle watched, observed and listened.”
Mid Pines Resort is known as the “sister course” situated across the street from the more famous Pine Needles Resort, which has hosted three U.S. Women’s Opens and is the home of famed teacher Peggy Kirk Bell.
The play among members and resort guests had swung to about 70 percent in favor of Pine Needles over Mid Pines in recent years. The accomplishments of Franz could transpose those figures once stories like this one are read.
For more information about Mid Pines, and stay-and-play accommodations visit http://www.pineneedles-midpines.com.
Mountain golfers find new life
at Red Tail Mountain
By Sam Smith
It is interesting that the movie “The Lone Ranger” opened this summer to good reviews, and a lone ranger of sorts is also getting excellent reviews for breathing life back into a beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain golf course just minutes north of Boone, NC.
For the past four years Red Tail Mountain in Mountain City, Tennessee- formerly Roan Valley Golf Estates –has been struggling to find a new owner to restore this Ellis and Dan Maples designed course to its rightful place as one of the best public golf courses in the Boone area High Country. In the fall of 2012, the right owner was found in the presence of Lyle Habermehl.
After a tour of the site in October, Habermehl was convinced that the golf course and its 700-acres of ancillary properties was a perfect fit for his real estate investment; he then proceeded to call his sister Lynn, and her husband Vernon Brady, owner / operators of the Burke Manor Inn in Gibsonville, North Carolina.
“Lyle’s tone of voice told us that he wanted us to take a look as-soon-as-possible,” said brother-in-law Vernon. “We didn’t waste any time, we met with Sam Adams, Director of Golf and General Manager the next day and drove around the course. Lyle was correct – this was a beautiful place and had all the ingredients for a successful golf community.”
Red Tail Mountain was a little rough around the edges, but had been held together by Adams, despite the bank-imposed small budget. Adams, at Red Tail for three decades since its opening in 1982, always stayed positive about the course and the prospect of a new owner.
“Our golf course has been in good shape all along,” said Adams. “The bank had always given us what we needed to keep the course open. I am delighted that a gentleman like Mr. Habermehl bought the club, I was worried that someone would buy the club on a shoestring and be unable to operate things right. I’ve always wanted this place to reach its full potential.”
With Lynn and Vernon Brady running the day-to-day operations of the club, plans are being laid to reconfigure the condominiums on property into lodge-style accommodations for “stay and play” guests. Lynn, with 30-years of hospitality experience has reclaimed the clubhouse dining room. Enjoy a delightful meal before or after your round in the Vistas Restaurant – open for lunch and dinner seven days a week - you can dine alfresco on the terrace overlooking the beautiful Roan Valley.
Red Tail Mountain starts off nice and easy on the first four holes, but changes dramatically at the #1 handicap 5th hole, an uphill 346-yard par-4. From there, through the 15th hole, you will experience over 400 feet of elevation change with spectacular views and a great variety of challenging golf, before finishing the final 3 holes back in the valley below the clubhouse.
A major change on the course will be the reconstruction of the sand traps. Each will be dredged out, drainage pipes installed and refilled with the same sand used at Augusta National, which is mined in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.
Download their free mobile app to your Smartphone and use the GPS for directions to the golf course, keep your score, get tips from their pros on how to play each hole, or even order food from the kitchen.
So on your next trip to the Boone area High Country experience the renaissance of Red Tail Mountain golf by calling 423-727-7931 for tee-times, lodging, restaurant reservations or directions; or logon at www.redtailmountain.com
A dreamy experience –
Mt. Mitchell Golf Club
Compiled by Carolina Golf Journal Staff
Just imagine going to your favorite golf course on a cool spring afternoon and stepping onto a beautifully groomed green of bent-grass and playing on that surface all day. Wake up! After the club had you removed, you would still have a pleasant moment in your mind in hopes of finding something close to that dream.
What if that dream came true and you find a golf course that is wall-to-wall bent-grass. This beautiful mountain course sits alongside the pristineSouthToeRiverin a high valley at 3000-feet in the Pisgah National Forest with a backdrop of the highest mountain east of theMississippi River–Mt.Mitchell.
Just a five-minute drive off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western North Carolina near Burnsvilleis Mt. Mitchell Golf Club.
“We’re at 3,000 feet and the mountain range in front of the golf course rises very dramatically another 3,600 feet in elevation as the crow flies,” said co-owner Jim Floyd. “It makes for a very dramatic scene. The scenery is so good and the contrast with the traps and the green grass is pretty impressive.”
Mt. Mitchell Golf Club is wall-to-wall bent grass, creating a course with a lush look and soft feel most of the golfing season, running from April to mid-November. The Fred Hawtree design course, despite its altitude, will play a bit longer than its 6,495 yards from the tip because of the bent-grass softness.
“It makes for a great fairway surface and most of the time you can play the ball down,” Floyd said. “We think it makes the golf more enjoyable. The golfers know they have good conditions when they come here.
Normal summertime morning temperatures range between 55 and 60 degrees during golf season, with daytime temperatures consistently around 80 degrees. For spring and fall play, the weather requires a sweater till mid-morning. This mild climate produces blooming wild flowers from March to November. It has been said that this is where “springtime spends the summer.”
The front nine was built on an old cow pasture with meandering creeks and open areas. The back nine though wanders along the South Toe River, with occasional crossings at the signature 14th hole and again at the 15th. Trees shade the margins of the fairways, and there’s never a sense of any homes present at all, all being tucked way back in the trees – truly one of the most serene settings in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains.
The feature hole on the front side is #6, a 170-yard par-3 that offers a straight-on view of the towering mountain range as you tee it up. “Even though that hole is flat you really get a feel of being in the mountains,” Floyd said.
The back nine’s best hole is also the most difficult on the course, the 450-yard par-4 14th. Golfers must hit a drive far enough to get around the corner, then face a second shot over the South Toe River to a green guarded by two large bunkers
Waiting to tee off at the par-3 #2 offers an opportunity for many golfers to feed the many trophy-sized rainbow and brown
trout in a deep hole right next to the 2nd tee with packets of food purchased in the pro shop.
Running along 2-miles of the South Toe River, Mt. Mitchell Golf Club and the development added a catch-and-release program for trout fishing five years ago with permits for one day ($25) or three days ($50) sold in the pro shop. Anglers must supply their own fly rods. Trout as large as 28 inches have been caught in the river.
“We’re looking for true sportsmen who like catch-and-release,” said Floyd. “Some guys will golf in the morning and then fish in the afternoon, or vice versa. It has become quite a treat for people to come and do this.”
The beauty factor at Mt. Mitchell Golf Club is elevated up a notch or two from mid-to-late October when the peak fall leaf season hits its stride.
“This is a great spot to be in the summer time because it is cooler than places likeCharlotte,RaleighandAtlanta, but the fall is a special time,” Floyd said. “Its fun for us to see in early October the colors changing up high because it is so visible, and then the colors just work their way down the mountain and eventually get to the golf course. It doesn’t get much better than Mount Mitchell Golf Club for a three-week period in October.”
Mt. Mitchell Golf Club, one of the Carolina’s best mountain courses, offers two or three day golf packages with on-site lodging in new condos or homes along with discounted rates for golf. Normal weekday rates are $58, while weekend green fees are set at $88.
Mt. Mitchell Golf Club is pleased to welcome back Chef Teo as head chef. In addition to bringing his unique culinary style, he will be expanding dining hours in the Mt. Mitchell View restaurant. You can also enjoy great views of the course and Mt. Mitchell in Hawtree’s Pub where you can relax after a round with your favorite beverage.
An excellent golf course, comfortable lodging, professionally prepared food, a side trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the top of 6,684-foot Mt. Mitchell and a climate billed as “where springtime spends the summer” is not a dream it’s … Mt. Mitchell Golf Club.
For information on your trip to the mountains contact Mt. Mitchell Golf Club at 828-675-5454 or logon at www.mountmitchellgolf.com
National Golf Club – Southern Pines
New Greens and Other Renovations
Draw Rave Reviews
By Sam Smith
After celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2009 the management at the National Golf Club in Southern Pines felt that another renovation was needed to compliment the original design by Jack Nicklaus in 1989. And based on rave reviews from members and guests alike, since the reopening in March of this year, the changes have been well-received.
“The bottom line is that everything is similar to what we had, but better,” Course Superintendent Dave Bowbliss said. “Rebuilding the greens has made the course more playable. This is a course that Nicklaus built in 1989. With today’s modern game, it needed an update, and I think we succeeded in that plan to become on of the Carolina’s best courses.”
The completely new greens are A1/A4 bent grass, a heat-tolerant strand of bent grass that marks a significant upgrade from the Penncross bent used when the course debuted in 1989. The project reclaimed the larger footprints the greens had lost over time from encroaching Bermuda grass. It also opened up areas for pin placements that haven’t been available for years.
Updates to the course also include softening a heavily contoured elevated green on the first hole, the removal of trees surrounding the par-4 11th hole, and reworking the bunker face in front of the green on 16.
The first green has been restored to its original size and the edges and contours have been softened for a better playing surface. The changes have created additional pin placements, some of which will challenge even the best players if their approach is in the wrong place.
You never like to hear of trees being removed, but in the case of the par-4 11th hole at National Golf Club the decision was a good one.
“Without the dense trees surrounding the green, we were able to not only open up the green for more sunshine and better air circulation, but we added two or three new hole locations,” said National’s General Manager Ken Crow.
The short par-4 16th hole also has taken on a different look following the renovation and providing a better line-of-sight approach to the green.
“We reworked the bunker face in front of the green,” Crow said. “Before, you could only see about half of the pin from the fairway. Now you can see almost to the bottom of the flagstick. We also extended the green to bring back some of the architectural structure.”
In assessing the course overall, the front side represents the power game, particularly the first five holes. The theme: Big doglegs, strong slopes, carries over water hazards and shots to steep, elevated greens.
The back nine fits more of the local Sandhills terrain, with large waste bunkers, narrow fairways and subtle turns, and it demands more placement than power.
Nearly all the doglegs slide right and reward a power fade, which was Nicklaus’ signature shot. Most of National’s holes can look scary from the tee box. Some are tougher than others, naturally, but the first five holes are clearly the toughest stretch on this layout. The names say it all: The Knoll, Doon Carry,Narrow Way, Dogwood Bend and Batten’s Wall.
“The first five holes make you feel like, gosh, this is work,” says Tom Parsons, Director of Golf at National. “But it softens up a bit. The difference is that from the different tee boxes, there’s plenty of room, and it’s not too visually intimidating.”
Jack Nicklaus offers an early message, “It’ll hurt if you aren’t ready to play. You better hit a couple practice balls with every club in your bag and focus hard when you step to the tee at National.”
The National plays to a par of 72 and ranges from 5,378 yards to 7,122 yards. The slopes from the whites and tips are 132 and 137, respectively.
For information on National Golf Club “Stay-and-Play packages” visit www.nationalgolfclub.com or call 800-471-4339.
Golf in the Boone “High Country”
Boone Golf Club and
Red Tail Mountain Shine
By Sam Smith
The High Country around Boone, NC is blessed with great golf courses, many of which are on the Top 15 list of courses in the state. Names like Elk River, Grandfather, Blowing Rock, Linville, Linville Ridge, Beech Mountain, Diamond Creek and Hound Ears are among the best in the Carolina’s. For the general public the problem is that these top ranked courses are all private golf or country clubs.
The Linville Golf Club, a Donald Ross jewel, allows guests of the Eseeola Lodge to play, while the Beech Mountain Club has been entertaining the general public along with their member with a “stay-and-play” arrangement this year. But for the others listed above, you better have a very good friend as a member or know someone with good connection to get a shot at teeing it up there.
More than a hand-full of public golf courses serve the majority of the golfers in the Boone High Country, ranging from family owned tracts to resort and community run facilities. Two of these golf courses have leadership qualities family-style.
One of the “must play” standards is the Boone Golf Club, a 1959 Ellis Maples’ design that has had some revision over the years, but still remains one of the best and maybe the busiest public golf courses inWestern North Carolina. The addition of an expanded practice facility and a fourth set of tees for the senior players has improved the growth of the 60-year old course that now is a comfortable challenge for golfers of all levels.
As you exit Hwy 321 into the driveway of the Boone Golf Club, you will first notice the rolling hills that are a common sight in this mountainous region. However, once you are on the course it is almost surprising that elevation changes are not one of the factors that you have to deal with. Although the Boone Golf Club sits a stone throw away from the Blue Ridge Mountain Region, it is a rolling and relatively flat course.
The most challenging elevation change that you will deal with is choosing a beautiful view to take in when looking from the clubhouse perched high atop the golf course. You can choose from the mountains off in the distance, a beautiful manicured golf course, or the hustle and bustle of a small North Carolina town.
One other factor at Boone Golf Club can also be found in the club house, popular Golf Director Tom Adams. He has completed his 18th year at Boone following 19-years as the head golf professional at the Hound Ears Club.
“I have been fortunate to spend my entire career at home in the mountains,” he said. “I have never wanted to be anyplace else.”
To play Boone Golf Club make your tee times by calling 828-264-8607.
Interesting enough, Tom’s older brother Sam is the Head Professional at the Red Tail Mountain Golf Club just 30 minutes up Hwy 421 north of Boone inMountain City,TN.
A former PGA Tour player, Sam is one of only eight left-handers, and the first in 1973, to ever win a PGA Tour event. Sam has been the Red Tail head pro since the course broke ground on construction in 1979. Play started in 1982.
The Red Tail course was formerly known as Roan Valley Golf Estates before new owners took over in 2004. The burst of the real estate bubble put the Ellis and Dan Maples collaboration back in the hands of the financial institution in 2009.
Golfers expecting the worst for the golf course have been anything but disappointed, as Adams and his staff have kept the course in great shape and the number of golfers has remained steady, but not heavy as it should be based on the layout.
“They’ve given us an ample budget so the course is in good condition and our players appreciate it,” saidAdams. “There’s been plenty of interest and some offers but in this buyers market the offers haven’t been what the sellers are looking for.”
After starting on the first four holes in the Valley below the clubhouse the par-72RedTailMountainoffers a true mountain course experience. An impressive 400 feet of elevation change allows every hole to offer a unique challenge, spectacular mountain vistas and dramatic backdrops.
To get more details on the Red Tail Mountain Golf and tee times call the Red Tail Clubhouse at (423) 727-7931.
So for two excellent places to play golf in the Boone “High Country”, join the Adams family at Boone Golf Club orRedTailMountain. You will not find Lurch, Uncle Fester, Morticia or Thing, but you will find Tom and Sam Adams ready to give you a great day of golf on two public courses that are “standouts” among the peaks of theBlue Ridge Mountains.
Kiawah’s Ocean Course:
A Beauty and a Beast for Golfers
By Bob Spear, Re-printed from The State, Columbia, SC
To be labeled with “potential” is, as Dickens would write, the best of times and the worst of times.
Deliver to expectations produces the obvious reaction. Of course he did; he had such great “potential.”
Fall short and the critics howl and talk about what might have been. Too bad; he had such great “potential.”
Imagine, then, the challenge that faced architect Pete Dye in August 1988. The owner pointed to a piece of land sandwiched between theAtlanticand saltwater marshes, and said he wanted a golf course. The designer loved the property and its great “potential.”
Oh, and by the way, the owner added, the Ryder Cup will be played on that course … in three years. Think about that — the Ryder Cup in three years on a golf course still in the architect’s mind.
Nevertheless, Dye accepted the task, overcame a visit from Hurricane Hugo and delivered to potential — and perhaps beyond — on schedule. The Ocean Course made its debut on the world stage, and one of the most memorable Ryder Cup competitions assured its legacy.
The golf world will drop in for another visit in August 2012 for the PGA Championship. The tournament comes with a couple of guarantees: the wind will blow and the Ocean Course will win again. With help from Mother Nature
Golf Magazine’s biennial rankings of courses, and the Ocean Course occupied its usual prominent place as one of the best courses in the Carolina’s. The first South Carolina layout on the list, the Ocean Course came in 27th nationally and 45th worldwide. Given the challenges golfers faced in the 1991 Ryder Cup, the Ocean Course’s reputation for difficulty needs no embellishment. One publication ranks it the toughest test in theU.S.
But one of the beauties is the multiple tees make the course playable and enjoyable for golfers of all abilities — if they check their egos with the starter and play the yardage suitable to their skills. A fore-running for the PGA’s campaign to “Play Forward”
The PGA Championship will be set up in the 7,600-yard range, a distance worthy of the world’s best players. Other tees range from 5,327 yards to 7,356.
“Over the years, Pete Dye has refined the course,” Roger Warren, president of Kiawah Island Golf Resort, said, “but the skeleton and heart are still there.”
Notable changes are grassed-in areas and firmer bunkers to prevent plugged lies, and longer tees on the par-3 14th and par-4 18th. A shorter tee on the 12th provides the option for a drivable par-4. Mother Nature has made some changes with the wind continually reshapes dunes and can play havoc with sand.
The wind increases the challenge. Generally, golfers will play nine holes into the wind and nine with the wind. If a weather front comes through, mid-round adjustments will be required.
“What we will face this year is setting up the course for all-day play in the PGA Championship compared to four matches at a time in the 1991 Ryder Cup,” said Kerry Haigh of the PGA. “We will work with the weather team in setting up the course, but on the ocean, there’s always a chance the wind can turn 180 degrees during the day.”
The wind turned in the Ryder Cup, presenting a different course from what players had faced in practice. The golfers struggled and the Ocean Course’s reputation grew.
The par-3 17th hole, playing in the 195-yard range, became the focal point of the Ryder Cup and almost certainly will be for the PGA. The area surrounding the hole has become spectator friendly andWarrenexpects up to 10,000 fans to congregate there each day.
“We believe the hole will be a place-to-be, like the 16th atPhoenix, the 17th at Sawgrass,” said Brett Sterba, championship director of the 2012 PGA.
From an elevated tee, No. 17 plays across a lake to a narrow green. Divers once recovered 42,000 balls from the lake, a believable number considering the difficulty the pros experienced on the hole in both the Ryder Cup and 2007 Senior PGA.
But the Ocean Course is more than the 17th. The balance, Dye said, “makes the golf course.”
“Golfers have to shape the ball both ways,”Warrensaid. “You can’t get in a groove by just hitting a draw or a fade on every hole. You have to work the ball, and the course give you options.”
Haigh liked the “exciting green complex” on No. 11, which has been altered over the years and now has a large swale 6-8 feet below the putting surface. “That creates choices of how to play the shot and also increases the challenge,” he said.
The sand base is a plus that architects seldom have the opportunity to work with, Dye said, noting the ball reacts differently and greens can be firmed up without using artificial methods.
“One thing different is the paspalum grass on the greens,”Warrensaid. “It doesn’t have any grain and it’s more difficult to read.”
And there is the ambience on every hole. Thanks to his wife’s suggestion, Dye raised all the fairways to provide ocean views — which created picture-perfect scenes and, as an unintended byproduct, increased the course’s challenge by bringing the wind even more into play.
“I have always said that you have three backgrounds — the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Ocean and theAtlantic Ocean– that can make a golf course great,” Dye said, “and at the Ocean course we have one of those three. You have those views everywhere, not just one a few holes.”
The PGA’s stroke play format will be different compared to the match play of the Ryder Cup, and that likely will mean less heroic shots. But if the wind blows — and the wind always blows at Kiawah — the layout will live up to its potential and the Ocean Course will handle the challenge well.
Restoring the Standards
of a Donald Ross Course
Grove Park Inn Getting Rave Reviews
By Sam Smith
Playing golf in the mountains of North Carolina has become a very special time for golfers of all levels. Many older mountains courses have revamped their
original designs to accommodate the low-handicap players by adding length, but maintaining their playability by adding more forward tees for the average
One mountain course, in particular, has made many changes. However, their goal was to rekindle the spirit of its original designers and to give golfers a relaxing, but challenging Blue Ridge Mountain experience.
The golf course at the Grove Park Inn Resort in Asheville, NC opened for play in 1899 as the Asheville Country Club. Several designers were involved in the first course layout including Willie Park, Jr., Herbert Baker and Russell Breeden.
But not until 1924 when Donald Ross added his magical touch to this land beneath the crest of Sunset Mountain did the course, by now owned by the Grove Park Inn, catch the eye of golf travelers and personalities that helped spread the word about the mountain course “you have to play”.
Over the years the Ross design was watered down a bit with changes in the “tortoise back” greens, moving or eliminating bunkers and making tee-box modifications.
But in 2001, the Grove Park ownership made the commitment to a $2.5-million “retro-design” of the old course by Kris Spence of Greensboro, returning it to the original Donald Ross plans of the late 1920’s.
Considered one of the best courses in North Carolina before the restoration, afterwards the Grove Park Golf Course began a string of rave reviews, not only in the Carolinas but nationally as well.
Golfweek proclaimed the course as the “Best Restoration” designation in 2002. Golf Digest listed the course as “One of the ten best courses in the United States that is 100 years old or more” in 2004. In 2005, the North Carolina golf magazine vaulted the Grove Park course thirty seven spots from the previous year, to #32 in the “N.C. Top 100”
Also in 2005, Golfweek magazine included The Golf Course in its 2005 “America’s Best” listings. Currently the Golf Course is rated in the “Top 10” North Carolina Mountain courses, and this year Condé Nast Traveler Magazine included the Grove Park Inn in its “Top 20 Southern U.S. Golf Resorts”.
The 6,720-yard, par 70 layout is a shot maker’s challenge with emphasis on accuracy rather than power.
The players’ ascent from the somewhat flat, yet undulating front nine to the
gentle slopes and sometimes steep inclines and descents of the back nine
playing closer to the Grove Park Inn, all offer spectacular views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
By today’s standards, the Grove Park Golf Course is on a very small piece of land, only 80-acres, with the holes running parallel to each other. But, the layout doesn’t seem tight or suffocating, with tree lined fairways, golf holes separated by elevation changes, natural areas filled with tall fescue grass roughs or meandering streams that will dissect a fairway bringing water into play on six holes.
The famed rounded greens of Donald Ross are bentgrass now and a little larger and flatter than in the past, but with some of the original contour restored, the approach shots and putts can be just as tricky as the original ones.
Club selection is at a premium due to the famous “false” fronts, making
greens look a little closer than they really are, along with the hidden fairway
and green-side bunkers that are a staple of a Donald Ross design.
No trip to the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa would be complete without an after-golf evening at the Sunset Terrace Restaurant in the main building of the Resort. Watching the sunset, enjoying good company and food may just make you forget about that bunker you tangled with on #16 earlier in the day.
You can pamper yourself and your family with a trip to the famous Grove Park Spa before or after your round of golf. Located below the Grove Park’s stately façade and massive lobby fireplaces, this underground facility covers more than 43,000 square feet of treatment rooms, mineral and lap pools, waterfalls, saunas, steam rooms and men’s and women’s relaxation lounges overlooking the resort’s grounds and golf course.
Located just 2 ½ hours from Charlotte the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa Golf Course is waiting for you to enjoy the changes and the atmosphere. For information, reservations or tee-times call: 800-438-5800 or visit www.groveparkinn.com
Outer Banks Golf
By Bill F. Hensley
North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks has long been one of the nation’s favorite—and most unique—travel destinations. The reasons are simple: rare beauty, a historic past, barrier islands, fishing, swimming, boating, hunting,
sightseeing, hang gliding, bird watching and dozens of other assets. It’s a
“don’t miss” kind of place.
In recent years, another amenity has added to the OBX’s tremendous popularity and has played a key role in attracting visitors. It’s a simple four-letter word: GOLF.
In the past decade a number of fine golf courses have been developed in the area much to the delight of the homefolks as well as the traveling public.
“Golf has become a major part of the Outer Banks mystique,” said golf pro Bryan Sullivan, who grew in the area and played at UNC-Chapel Hill, “and it gives visitors another outdoor activity in this enchanting and exciting destination.”
Currently, there are eight courses in the area centering around Nags Head that offer a variety of seacoast terrain and challenging holes. On occasions, a stiff ocean breeze can make play more demanding over the sand dunes, wetlands, sea grass, and maritime forests.
The courses (and designers) are:
Nags Head in Nags Head (Bob
Moore); Sea Scape, Kitty Hawk (Art
Wall); Duck Woods, Kitty Hawk (Ellis Maples); Goose Creek, Grandy (Jerry
Turner); Currituck Club, Corolla (Rees Jones); Kilmarlic, Powell’s Point (Tom
Steele); The Pointe, Poplar Branch
(Russell Breeden); and the Carolina Club, Grandy (Russell Breeden).
All are open to the public and are open throughout the year.
“The Outer Banks is becoming well-known for the best beach courses in the Carolina’s,” offered Kevin Brafford of Greensboro, director of the North Carolina golf panel. “Players of all skill levels can find excitement and challenges on the courses there and enough scenic beauty to last a lifetime.
Believe me, it’s an enjoyable and memorable experience.”
A number of top tournaments have been played on the Banks in recent years, including the North Carolina Open which was played at Kilmarlic in 2004 and 2009.
In addition to golf and a wide assortment of seafood restaurants, the Outer Banks offers a variety of accommodations, including local and chain motels, country inns, B&Bs, cottages and small family establishments. Many are located on the beach and offer spectacular ocean views.
A special favorite is the stately Sanderling Resort and Spa in Duck, a 13-acre beachfront property that is highly regarded for its excellent rooms, cuisine and service. There are 88 spacious and well-appointed guest rooms and suites and five rental homes with sweeping vistas. The resort has two fine restaurants and a full-service spa. Several golf courses are nearby.
For more information on golf, accommodations and things to see on the Outer Banks, contact the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau at 1-877-629-4386 or log on to www.outerbanks.org.
Special golf package information is available by calling 1-800-916-6244 or logging on to www.PlayOBXGolf.com.
Primland Resort Steals
The Hearts of Carolina Golfers
By Sam Smith
From your first shot of the day, to the spectacular final approach high above Meadows of Dan,Virginia, your scorecard will take a back seat to the splendor of the golf experience of the Primland Resort.
Located in the mountains of southern Virginia just across the state line from Mount Airy, N.C., Primland’s Highland Golf Course captures your attention with its thrilling golf and stunning views as you play across mountain ridge tops and over valleys forged by the Dan River.
Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame inductee, journalist Howard Ward of Fayetteville echoed the thoughts of all of those who have played at Primland in one of his recent columns.
“Primland is a real treat for golfers. Architect Donald Steel created a sweeping ridge-top golf experience that is a ‘must-see’ in my book.”
Primland, owned by the Primat family of Switzerland, opened the highly acclaimed Highland Course in 2006. Scotsman Donald Steel was one of four architects considered for the job of designing the course, but was the only one that recognized the beautiful mountain-top landscape as the site to build the owner’s “dream” golf course.
The sheer magnitude of the land used for the course is staggering, as almost every hole runs along the natural contour of its own ridge top with only four holes running side-by-side each other on the entire golf course with no houses or obstructions to block the scenery.
“Primland sits on top of the world, enjoying scenic views that stretch the vocabulary and with a design that is very different,” said Steel of his creation. “There is a sense of remoteness about Primland, a sense of escape that is special. Golf courses have been built in every landscape imaginable, but rarely on mountain peaks.”
Primland golf, directed by Head Golf Professional Brian Alley, will certainly test middle and high handicappers, but the holes usually feature enough leeway to allow players to hit driver without holding their breath, though it is imperative to drive the ball well. The natural terrain off the fairways and greens are punctuated by the use of tall fescue grass that will gobble up any errant shots that can usually only be found by stepping on the ball.
Regardless, even less accomplished players will enjoy the scenery, playing on turf “maintained in pristine condition”, hitting from atop the golf course’s numerous elevated tees, and the secluded holes that provide, “a sense of solitary communion with nature”.
The 12,000-acre property atop Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains offers an array of outdoor and indoor activities in addition to golf including hunting, fishing, sporting clays, tennis, ATV, horseback riding, mountain biking and nature trails to a health spa, fitness and entertainment center, dining options and, of course, the ultimate star-gazing opportunity.
The stunning 72,000-square-foot luxury lodge puts this property firmly into the class of top-level golf and sporting destinations. The lodge features 26 guest rooms that offer nine different floor plans – all with exceptional views from the mountaintop retreat. There’s also an observatory for viewing the stars that are usually shining brilliantly in the crystal-clear night skies over the mountains.
The resort’s various accommodations, from the lodge to cottages throughout the property, and its range of activities present nice options for couples, families, buddy trips and even small corporate groups.
The players that have all shared their experiences at Primland with their friends, family and fellow golfers, will never stop talking about the memories that will last a lifetime at a place that seems to be on “top of the world”.
Open to the public – Contact Primland: 866-960-7746 or visit www.primland.com
At Attention and Ready –
By Martin Armes
As proud home of the 82nd Airborne, Fayetteville, NC is America’s first name in defense.
This is truly a city that knows what it means to be ready at a moment’s notice. Lending their support, many of Fayetteville’s finest area golf courses and best hotels have enlisted this fall by offering some of the fastest tee times, best deals and easiest accommodations along I-95 and the East Coast.
Davis Love III, Dan Maples, Ellis Maples, Stewart Gooden and Willard Byrd — some of golf’s top commanding officers — have left their legacy in Fayetteville with a variety of challenging and unique Fayetteville golf course designs that offer every golfer a chance to earn their stripes on some of the best in the Carolina’s.
Previously rated the No. 3 hidden gem in the Sandhills by the North Carolina Golf Panel, Anderson Creek is Davis Love III’s first signature course in his native North Carolina. This traditional layout reflects all that is great about golf in the renowned Sandhills – rolling emerald fairways lined with longleaf pines, natural areas highlighted with love grass and perfectly manicured course conditions. The greens feature large roll-off areas and significant undulations that offer a glimpse into the classic Donald Ross architecture seen throughout the region.
A Golf World Readers’ Choice award winner, Bayonet Golf Club at Puppy Creek is a Willard Byrd design sculpted through the rolling hills surrounding Puppy Creek. With five sets of tees, this championship course has been created for golfers of all skill levels. Bayonet also offers the region’s largest and best conditioned practice area, including a 20-acre golf practice facility featuring 10 target greens and a short-game area.
As an original home to the Floyds (Raymond and Marlene) and located just off I-95 exit 41, Cypress Lakes challenges and delights the most avid golfers with championship-caliber greens and prime playing conditions nurtured over the past decade. Stretching from 5,800 to 7,000 yards, Cypress Lakes is an extremely fair course to play with no blind shots to the greens.
The Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has partnered with GolfSwitch to help plan golf missions to the Fayetteville area, witha custom golf reservation and package builder found on-line at GolfOnTheReady.com
or by calling 800-805-5031. Assisting in the decision-making process, this
cutting-edge Web site includes videos of the participating courses.
Rumbling Bald Resort
on Lake Lure
By Sam Smith
Looking for an all-encompassing golf resort in the Carolinas is not difficult to find. However, finding one with beautiful scenery, comfortable lodging, excellent amenities and two highly-rated golf courses on property is a different story.
Less than two hours west of Charlotte you will find the Rumbling Bald Resort on Lake Lure, with all of the requirements for a family-fun vacation or weekend getaway there for the taking. This timeless 3600-acre resort sits at the base of the towering cliffs of Rumbling Bald, a mountain with its sheer granite face keeping a watchful eye on the happenings below.
Golf Digest readers gave Rumbling Bald Resort’s two beautiful mountain golf courses a 4-star rating in 2010. With Lake Lure’s perfect natural setting for golf, combined with its exceptional climate year-round, you have something truly special among the best golf courses in the Carolina’s.
Bald Mountain is the Resort’s first course, originally built in 1968. The course has four sets of tees for golfers of all levels, and plays at 6,283 yards from the back tees. Natural beauty tree-lined fairways makes this layout the tightest of the two courses, but not uncomfortable. Elevation changes from tees-to-greens add to the appeal of the course, punctuated with streams and ponds. Both resort courses feature bent grass greens and Bermuda fairways. The Course Rating is 70.9 and the Slope Rating is 128.
On the back nine you will find where a scene from the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing” was filmed at the par-3 16th hole, and a copy of the movie is found in most of the resort lodging, condos and homes.
The Dan Maples designed Apple Valley course has been called one of the most beautiful mountain courses around by Golf Digest’s “places to play.” Opened in 1986,Apple Valley is slightly longer thanBaldMountain, stretching 6,756 yards from the longest of the four tees. However, the mostly tree-lined fairways are more forgiving letting you “grip-it-and-rip” it a little more often. Well positioned re-defined bunkers guard the large undulating greens that will test your “merit” in reading the breaks. The Course Rating is 73.2 and the Slope Rating is 140.
Art Colasanti took over as Director of Golf at Rumbling Bald Resort in 2004 after seven years at Raintree Country Club in Charlotte. An opportunity to be a part of the multi-million dollar renovation at the resort, and share that with golfers from around the world was too much to pass up.
“Seeing golfers and their families enjoying the beauty and the facilities at Rumbling Bald makes my day,” said Colasanti. “We have worked hard to improve the two golf courses by widening fairways, lowering the rough and correcting drainage problems in the traps. Superintendant Matt Lavell and his assistant Brent Ward have done a great job in preparing A he courses for a busy golf season.”
Rumbling Bald Resort is located on the north shore of crystal clear Lake Lure, called by National Geographic “one of the most beautiful man-made lakes in the world” with its 27 miles of shoreline. The ‘Maltese cross’ shaped lake is home to a bevy of water sports – fishing, canoeing, kayaking and leisure boating. The resort has a 120 slip marina, various boats and gear for rent, and a large private beach area is located just below the resort’s main building.
The other outdoor activities at the resort include four swimming pools, miniature golf, basketball, tennis and pickleball (a paddle game played with a waffle ball over a regular tennis net).
The Wellness Center features the Spa & Salon, Fitness Room for individual workouts or daily fitness classes, saunas, steam room and weight room with a large selection of workout equipment, Indoor pool with water aerobic classes and Business Center.
A wedding is a special weekend to cherish forever with family and friends. Whether you are planning an intimate wedding or a grand reception for several hundred guests, Rumbling Bald Resort will manage everything to make this a memorable day for you, your family, and your friends with a perfect setting onLakeLure.
Two side trips within a short driving distance of the resort are:
Chimney Rock is a mere 20 minute drive and offers the most spectacular high altitude view of Hickory Nut Gorge and miles of hiking trails. Cool off in the mist of the Hickory Nut Falls.
The Biltmore Estate, America’s Largest Home, is a short drive away in Asheville, or take the Biltmore Estate Shuttle, which leaves every Tuesday and Thursday morning, returning that afternoon after your tour.
The resort features three excellent restaurants to ensure you don’t have to leave the property to enjoy a great meal.
Legends Bar & Grill at the Bald Mountain clubhouse has seating inside as well as outside overlooking the 9th and 18th greens offers delicious sandwiches and salads along with a full service bar. If you are staying on property, they have pizza delivery service throughout the resort.
The Lakeside Restaurant, overlooking Lake Lure has a delicious menu featuring the freshest seafood, steaks and pasta for lunch and dinner.
Luna del Sol Restaurant at the Apple Valley Golf Course clubhouse is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner serving excellent Italian favorites. Located within the restaurant is the quaint and funky Bedrock Lounge, a “one-of-a-kind” place to visit and enjoy your favorite drink and live entertainment.
Both Lakeside and Luna del Sol restaurants offer theme nights, including a Prime Rib Buffet at Lakeside every Wednesday during the high season.
And if you want something really special for your family or group of golfers, enjoy a three course meal aboard the Lake Lure Dinner Cruise. This leisurely two-hour early evening experience will not only finish your day, but the history of the lake and of Rumbling Bald told by your skipper will plant a lasting vision in your mind of one of the most beautiful spots in all of North Carolina.
So as you can see, playing golf at Rumbling Bald Resort is just part of the trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains at Lake Lure. For more information call 877-868-9940 or visit at www.rumblingbald.com
Blue Ridge Mountain Golf –
By Bill F. Hensley
About twenty years ago, a visiting golf writer wrote an interesting article about golf in Avery County. He began by saying that the county had only two stoplights but four of the best golf courses in the Carolina’s.
The golf courses he was referring to were Grandfather (#2), Elk River (#7), Linville (#13) and Linville Ridge (#42), all ranked highly in North Carolina as well as nationally. (North Carolina rankings in parentheses)
But things have changed in two decades. There has been steady growth, and the county now has nine golf courses, five of which are nationally prominent. Current tally: golf courses 9, stoplights 7.
In a state with approximately six hundred courses, it is unusual that five of the best are within a ten-mile radius in sparsely-populated Avery County, which is also a hub in the North Carolina Christmas tree industry.
“It just shows that we have our priorities straight,” smiled Mrs. Deka Tate, the former mayor of Banner Elk. “We have become a leading vacation home area.” And that’s not hard to understand considering the county’s immense beauty amid the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, its cool summer breezes, its friendly people, and its elegant but casual lifestyle.
History indicates that the High Country area became popular after visits by Hernando DeSoto in the 1500s, the Moravians in the 1750s, and Cherokee Indians seeking to escape the heat of the lowlands. After the Civil War, troops from both the North and the South returned to the area they discovered and liked during the conflict.
Avery does indeed rule supreme when it comes to golf. Linville, Grandfather, Elk River, Linville Ridge and Diamond Creek rank among the nation’s elite as clubs and as golf courses, playing second fiddle to none. All are private clubs although Linville is open to guests at the Eseeola Lodge.
The county also has a private course at Linville Land Harbor and an executive course—called Mountain Springs—at Grandfather. There are two fine public layouts, Mountain Glen and Sugar Mountain that are challenging, scenic and fun to play. Both are popular with visitors throughout the season.
The Linville Golf Club is the state’s oldest course having been started in 1895. By the turn of the century the club had 14 holes, a full-time golf professional and was hosting tournaments. The old course was replaced in 1926 with a classic design by the famed Donald Ross.
This traditional Ross course is located in a valley beneath Grandfather Mountain and features many changes in elevation. The fairways are severely sloping, and the small greens are fast and slightly undulating. A creek meanders through the course and must be crossed at least 14 times.
“GOLF Magazine” ranked Linville GC 25th in the category of the “Top 100 Courses You Can Play in the U.S.”, and “GOLFWEEK” named it 88th among “America’s 100 Best Classical Courses”.
After Linville’s success more top designers were drawn to the Blue Ridge Mountains to build award-winning courses; Grandfather Golf and Country Club (Ellis Maples) in 1967, Linville Ridge (George Cobb) in 1982, Elk River (Jack Nicklaus) in 1984, and Diamond Creek (Tom Fazio) in 2003.
Nicklaus’ Elk River design deliberately integrates with the natural topography and beauty characteristic of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The meticulously maintained mountain course winds around the Elk River, shimmering lakes and tree-lined fairways.
“This unique property has allowed us to create a truly dynamic golf course with varying golf strategies that are enjoyable for members yet challenging enough for world-class tournament play,” said Nicklaus. “I am pleased that Elk River has been ranked
among North Carolina’s finest and has played host to the North Carolina Open, as well as a number of charity events.”
The Avery county clubs boast a number of distinguished members from all walks of life including corporate CEOs, politicians, athletes, celebrities and business leaders.
That makes golf a huge economic factor with several thousand members and homeowners at the county’s golf course communities. Property within the communities, represent almost sixty per cent of the total tax base. These communities also provide over ten per cent of jobs within the county.
In the small mountain towns of Banner Elk, Linville, Newland and others, visitors and club members find a variety of things to see and do, enjoying a number of fine restaurants, interesting shops, galleries and attractions.
In addition there are outstanding outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, cycling, hunting, fishing, rafting and canoeing, all in the shadow of historic Grandfather Mountain.
North Carolina’s two largest ski areas—Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain—are near by and provide winter sports activities. Cultural activities are numerous at Lees-McRae College and nearby Appalachian State University, and there are festivals, theater and musical entertainment galore throughout the year.
“We couldn’t survive economically without our fine club members,” said Tate. “They play key roles in our total existence, and they have helped us grow and prosper. Throughout our history, people from other areas have invested in our natural resources, creating success for us and for them.”
And it all started in 1895 when golf was new and horses and buggies didn’t need stoplights.