Friday, May 23, 2008

Balsam Mountain: Enjoy the view ...

Perhaps the most challenging question about the new Balsam Mountain Preserve golf course located six miles outside Sylva and about 4,000 feet above sea level is how best to describe it.

Spectacular comes to mind.

So does unique.

If you haven’t heard of the new Arnold Palmer design – and chances are you haven’t – you soon will.

It is sure to get plenty of national attention when the various best new course awards are being handed out at the end of this year.

And as more people get a look at it this summer, the word will spread.

After spending two days there this week, lamenting crooked tee shots and admiring the scenery, I can’t think of any golf course like it.

There is a thrill to playing it because the setting is so dramatic. It is perched atop and between mountain slopes, affording a collection of views that continually divert your attention from the course.

But only for a moment.

The course, designed primarily by the late Ed Seay, is relentlessly unforgiving though the landing areas are generous. There is room along the sides of most holes to miss, but there’s not much room. You can find a fade. You lose a slice.

If you go, take a camera and plenty of golf balls. The good news is the local rule plays everything lost off the fairway as a lateral hazard. Drop a ball, take a penalty stroke and keep going.

Several shots give you a thrill.

The par-3 third hole measured 209 yards Wednesday morning but the fall from tee to green meant it was only an 8-iron shot – and a nervous wait that felt like 30 seconds while the ball was in the air.

At the fifth hole, the green sits perched on a hillside you’d love to have as a homesite.

The half-mile ride from the fifth green to the sixth tee is as good as anything on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The par-5 14th hole is as naturally beautiful as any hole anywhere. Standing on the tee, it feels as if you’re hitting your drive into the sky. Then the hole turns left and plays along a mountain top, offering an unobstructed view of another set of mountains nearby.

The only thing missing from the 14th hole is an Adirondack chair and a cocktail.

It is not a golf course for the timid. It’s penalizing enough that will shatter your confidence in a hurry.

If that happens – and I speak from experience – you can still enjoy the view. There aren’t many like it.


Anonymous said...

play Wolf Laurel near Asheville. its a very fun quirky mountain course that has been around 30 years or so. it too has a 190 yd par 3 where you hit 200 ft down a hill with your 125yd club.

Anonymous said...

Trillium right up the road is one of the best around.

Anonymous said...

Played Balsam several weeks ago, and what a treat. A high mountain course that plays relatively flat landing area to green. Can't wait to visit again in the fall!

Anonymous said...

Balsam Mountain Preserve is the best course I've played in western NC. The course presents a great test of golf while remaining very fair. The course condition was superb and the views were simply breathtaking. It would be a difficult task to pick a signature hole at this course!