Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ranking the top 10 N.C. golf courses


If you’ve ever seen the marvelous movie, ‘High Fidelity,’ starring John Cusack as a lovesick music buff, you know that guys love to rank things. Top 10 songs. Top 10 movies. Top 10 cheeseburgers.

The Golf Channel has a series of Top 10 shows running this summer and, seemingly every day, somebody has a list about something.

In that spirit, I’ve compiled my 10 favorite courses in North Carolina. It doesn’t mean they’re the best, though most are familiar, just that they’re courses I like to play when I get the chance.
Some familiar ones aren’t included because I’ve never seen or played them. Wade Hampton, the Country Club of North Carolina, Diamond Creek and Eagle Pointe are just a few of those. Everyone who’s been to Wade Hampton raves about it but it’s hard to include it if I’ve never seen it.

My top 10 is:

10. Cedarwood Country Club in Charlotte. OK, it’s my home course so I’m playing favorites here but it’s a terrific members’ course, originally designed by Ellis Maples then retouched a couple of years ago by Kris Spence. The last five holes are one of the best finishing stretches around.

9. Old North State Club in New London: Some lists have this course near the top in the state, though I can’t put it that high. It’s great fun to play, even if the par-4 ninth hole is harder than boot camp. The 16th, 17th and 18th holes play along Baden Lake and are as much fun to play as they are to look at. If anyone ever invites you to Old North State, go.

8. Elk River in Banner Elk: It’s a beautiful Jack Nicklaus design with two distinct nines. One plays through a meadow while the other climbs and twists along a hillside. It would be a great place to spend the summer.

7. Linville Golf Club in Linville: This is a classic, old-style mountain course that you could play every day without tiring of it. The par-4 third hole has been included on many best holes in the world lists and justifiably so. Linville doesn’t beat you up the way some courses can. It caresses you like a cashmere sweater.

6. Pinehurst No. 4: When this course was remade by Tom Fazio a few years ago, it went from good to excellent. It’s not unlike its sister, Pinehurst No. 2, in that it challenges you around the greens with its sweeping run-offs. The putting surfaces aren’t as contoured as No. 2 but reaching the greens asks a lot of players. There’s a reason the U.S. Amateur will use it next August.

5. Pine Needles in Southern Pines: Everything about Pine Needles oozes comfort. The lodge. The staff. The course. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy golf course. Pine Needles, as the Women’s Open showed, is a superb test that continually gives you fun shots to play.

4. Charlotte Country Club: It’s the old classic in Charlotte golf and figures to be even better when the current renovation is complete. With its huge trees and rolling layout, it has the feel of the clubs in the Northeast and it’s as good as anything you’re going to find. It tests every part of your game, charming you in the process.

3. Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte: There’s a reason the best players in the world play the Wachovia Championship every year - and it’s not the money nor the Mercedes they get to drive. It’s the golf course. Look at the list of winners in the five years of the Wachovia - David Toms, Vijay Singh, Joey Sindelar, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods. It’s major championship worthy.

2. Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville: For sheer beauty, nothing matches Grandfather. It’s gorgeous. It’s always wickedly hard. Don’t hit it sideways because you’ll never find your ball in the rhododendrun and mountain laurel. Putting the always-slick greens is serious business, and the only bad thing about the stunning par-4 18th hole is it means the end of your round at Grandfather.

1. Pinehurst No. 2 (shown in photo): It’s golf at its purest. It’s not filled with dramatic beauty. It has just one small pond. But it’s where every great American golfer has played and it’s better now than ever. The genius in Donald Ross’ design is in forcing players to play the correct shots into the greens, which are small works of art. It’s the kind of course where you can hit every club in your bag and the more often you play it, the more you appreciate it.

27 comments:

jimmy walnuts said...

you're still not richard davis!

Anonymous said...

One word, OK maybe two: Tobacco Road in Sanford, NC

Anonymous said...

Wade Hampton?


You must really know alot about golf.

Anonymous said...

Champion Hills in Hendersonville, NC. Fazio at it's finest!

Golfnut said...

Ron, agree with most of your list, but would replace Elk River with Roaring Gap. It's another Ross course in the mountains.

Pete said...

Aren't you mixing up #4 with #8?

Uncle Buddy said...

Anyone here ever play Cramer Mountain CC or know anything about the course and community???

Anonymous said...

I recently played Olde Bough golf course in Sparta and it is a magnificent mountain course.

Anonymous said...

Cedarwood? Puhleeze, that place doesn't even rank in the top 10 in Charlotte. Diamond Creek? Forest Creek? CCNC (Dogwood).

Anonymous said...

I have played Wade Hampton and I can't think of a course in North Carolina, besides No. 2, that could rival it. It has the look and condition of Augusta National and on top of that, it's mountain scenery is unlike anything you've ever seen at ANY course in the state.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I think we are missing the boat here. By my count I only see one truly public course on the list. And that is $250 per round. What about Bryan Park, Tanglewood, Magnolia Greens, Olde Beau? Or does the criteria include only courses for the rich and famous? This list was obviously composed by a Charlottean... the city where private golf is the only game in town.

Anonymous said...

When I played the Old North State, the course overlooked Badin Lake not Baden.

Anonymous said...

He mentioned that he had not played CCNC. It wouldn't even be top 5 anyhow. Diamond Creek is nothing special. Just because it has a six figure initiation fee, doesn't mean it's good beyond the clubhouse. Forest Creek isn't that special either. My only qualm is that Quail Hollow is one of the most overrated courses in the United States. It's in good shape 3 weeks out of the year, and that's not even for the members. The fact that the course is raved about speaks volumes about the quality of courses played on the PGA Tour. In regards to Tanglewood and Bryan Park, they are good public courses, but they aren't great golf courses. It's just a fact that most of the great golf courses in this state are private, it has nothing to do with the rich and famous. North Carolina has a lot of very good golf courses. There are only a frew truly great golf courses, those being Pinehurst #2, Charlotte CC, Linville GC, Grandfather and Wade Hampton.

Anonymous said...

Also, Pine Needles, Linville and Pinehurst #4 all have public access. They may not be as easy to get on, or as cheap as Charlotte Golf Links, but they are much better courses

Anonymous said...

I love the mountain courses (Old Linville, Grandfather, Elk River, Liville Ridge), but couldnt help but notice a few other great courses that didn't make his list Cape Fear, Raleigh CC, Treyburn, etc.

Also, for the person that said Forest Creek is "not that special"...you are an idiot. "Special" is one of the best words I can think of to describe Forest Creek.

Anonymous said...

I'm the person who said Forest Creek isn't that special, and I stand by it. I've played enough golf courses to know what I like and what I think is special. It's a good golf course, but it's nothing amazing. I wouldn't turn down another chance to play it, but I wouldn't seek one out either. I think it's top 10 in North Carolina, but like Diamond Creek, I think it's a lot of hype. That's just my opinion though.

Anonymous said...

What are the criteria here? Pretty to look at? Storied history? Good conditions? Pillar of the community? Without criteria this is a pointless debate. Do some research. Only 3 majors (i.e. the big four- men's pga) have been hosted in North Carolina. 2 were at Pinehurst No. 2. The other course isn't even on the list. Anyone have a clue where it was? Hint: It wasn't the Masters...

Anonymous said...

Tanglewood, PGA Championship, 1974

Anonymous said...

I would argue that the US Amateur is every bit as prestigious as the PGA Championship, and that was held at Charotte CC

Bill Coy said...

I personall love Crystal Springs in Pineville, the staff are truly professional, fairways in excellent shape, greens meticulous and they welcome all Postal workers

Anonymous said...

wOne private course near sugar mountain called, diamond creek, is one of the best courses I've ever seen. Just wondering if anyone has been to see it, because it's top 10 quality.

Anonymous said...

Another super course is River Landing down east in Wallace,NC

Greedy Developers Rule! said...

Didn't Crystal Springs close last October?

Van Down By the River said...

It don't gets any better than Fairfield GC in High Point...9 holes of heaven!

Joe said...

Cedarweed is special to me too because I grew up playing there. It isn't exactly for the rich and famous. But its very user friendly, and walkable with houses only on the fringes, which is getting rare.

Overrated, Charlotte and Quail, extremely nice but nothing special in just the golf in my opinion.

I agree with the rest on your list, the ones I've played, especially Old North State and Grandfather.

Just 10 minutes from Old North State is Mike Strantz's Tot Hill Farm. It's the opposite of "old school" but it is fun.

The view at Olde Beau off the green where the dog is buried in to the valley is wonderful. You feel like you are standing on a cliff. It might be the coolest approach shot in NC.

Anonymous said...

So, folks--what are the top ten courses in the Charlotte area, public and/or private?

Anonymous said...

I am from Sanford and play Tobacco Road Golf Course regulary. I have also played many of the beach courses in North Carolina and many of the mountain courses, i even worked at Blowing Rock Country Club. I have yet to play a course that tests your true golf skill while providing superb conditions year round the way Tobacco Road does. Too many people overlook it on their way to Pinehurst. Best course in North Carolina...