Monday, May 17, 2010

Linville: A beautiful place to play golf


There are more famous neighborhoods in American golf -- the sweet spots surrounding Shinnecock Hills on Long Island come to mind, as do the classics in and around 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach -- but there aren't many better than the collection of golf clubs in and around Linville.

With the exception of the forever charming Linville Golf Club which allows some public play through the adjacent and equally charming Eseeola Lodge, they're all private clubs, which means most of us only hear about them. But if you've ever had the good fortune to play Grandfather Golf and Country Club (in photo above), Linville, the Elk River Club, Linville Ridge or Diamond Creek, you know you've had a good day regardless of how many golf balls you may have lost among the rhododendrum.

There's an old-world mystique to the North Carolina mountains around Linville. They've been rounded by time and when the clouds cling to them on gray days, it's like pieces of the sky are dragging on the hills.

The essence of golf isn't so much the shots you hit but the experience you have and at Grandfather or Linville or Elk River, it's a good walk that even a couple of double bogeys can't spoil. They're the kind of places where you find yourself looking up at the mountains around you, suddenly staring at a hawk gliding in the distance. It's where you stop the cart and before you hit a shot, you hear a brook gurling down the slope beside you. Glance over and you might see trout in the stream.

Standing on the eighth tee at Grandfather, you may not want to leave. It's among the prettiest par-4s in golf, playing up the hill with the top of the famous mountain rising in the distance is as dramatic as the 18th tee at Pebble Beach, maybe moreso on a perfect October afternoon.

At Linville Ridge, you can play along the mountaintop and look across at Grandfather, a view that never gets old. Just a few miles apart, Linville was designed by Donald Ross and Elk River was crafted by Jack Nicklaus, both giants of the game. Ross may have spent only a day or two walking the property at Linville but he designed a work of art that has aged beautifully. Nicklaus spent plenty of time at Elk River creating his own bit of art.

At the clubs around Linville, golf is a six-month sport. The game is just coming out of a long winter thaw and it will go back into hibernation by Thanksgiving. For this part of the year, though, it's golf in full bloom. It looks different and feels different.

The fairways are soft, surrendering divots the size of footprints, and the greens are subtly sloped and dangerous. Tee shots hang in the air, framed against a mountainside, and thunder rumbles over a hill many afternoons. There's a richness to golf around Linville, both in the literal and the physical sense.

In a quiet corner of the world, just two hours from Charlotte, the game has reemerged from another winter, as beautiful as ever.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I doesn't get any more perfect than a round of golf at Linville Ridge

par said...

Great course with old world charm. However, a hidden gem open to play to the public is Apple Valley Golf Course at Lake Lure.

Anonymous said...

Could you write an article about public courses in th mountains. I'd lik to find a place to play.

Anonymous said...

tell us about a course the public can actually get into and play. several of the courses you have noted are about impossible to get into and are reserved for rich land owners in the area. mountain glen at newland is a short drive from linville. this is a nice course that the public has access that i would recommend.

Anonymous said...

My favorite is Mt. Mitchell Lands and Golf Club cut in the valley below the mountain range, South Toe River and Blue Ridge Parkway. Spectacular !

Anonymous said...

Boone Golf Club is a beautiful course designed by Ellis Maples, the same person who designed Grandfather Golf and Country Club. It is open to the public. Also check out Mountain Glen in Newland.

Fiz said...

Why are you writing about places that 98% of us will never get to play?

RCM said...

In my experience, the two best public courses in that area are Boone Golf Course and Mountain Aire in Jefferson. Playing Mt. Aire when the leaves are changing is probably one of my highlights of the season, and I believe Boone is where the App State golf team plays. Hound Ears Club in Boone and Jefferson Landing in Ashe Co are two great places to play in that area as well, though you have to be staying at their lodges to play at either.

Anonymous said...

The Elk River Club in Banner Elk is my favorite of all the mountain courses. Jack Nicklaus exceeded all expectations on his first North Carolina Signature design.

Anonymous said...

Mtn Glen in Avery County is a nice place to play, and its public.

Anonymous said...

Having been a student at Lees-McRae in Banner Elk I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to play all of these courses at one time or another and I agree they just can't be beat. Not to mention the temperature hardly ever creeps is above eighty during the summer which certainly enhances the experience.

Jim Pomeranz said...

I'm fortunate to have played Linville, Grandfather, Linville Ridge and Elk River (with Bob Griese), and they're all good. What puzzles me, though, is how in the world anyone could hit a tee ball so far left off the 2nd tee that his second shot would be played from the middle of the 17th fairway. Believe me! It's true. Saw it for myself just Sunday. I was on 17 when the ball came zooming through the woods from the 2nd tee. Twice. And I thought #2 was a dogleg right. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Ron Green Jr., why don't you go there and play with yourself. Who cares? Get a real job. The Charlotte Observer sucks.

Anonymous said...

Why would it not surprise me to find out that Anon 10:40--our resident lurker hater--was one of those self-hating bullies that may have picked on other kids in junior high school. Too bad he never grew out of it.