A good golf writer will travel anywhere to bring a story to his/her readers. Ernie Wang of “Golf Magazine China” found himself recently in the Appalachian Mountains, being toured by ASGCA Immediate Past President Rick Robbins. The article on his Tar Heel experience was printed in the magazine’s July 2014 issue.
Following is the article in full. It was translated from Chinese to English, so please forgive any unintended translation errors.
“Amazing North Carolina”
2014 US Open was back to Pinehurst No. 2 , North Carolina, which is abundant with golf courses, and many of them are works of great architects. Visiting those courses, perhaps you can encounter more surprises than from the US Open course.
After four years, I set feet on North Carolina once again, still could not conceal the excitement. Not only because of the 2014 US Open immediately past, North Carolina native , well-known golf course architect Lao Luo ( Mr.Rick Robbins) will lead us to the hinterland, to discover the mystery of N.C. courses hidden under reputation of Pinehurst No. 2 .
N.C. is located to the east of the Atlantic ocean, west to the Appalachian Mountains. The most changeful topography gave birth to fertile soil for golf. Emmy Award winning TV series “The Sopranos” story — was set from second generations of Sopranos from Italy Sicily, who settled down in the Appalachian mountains after getting rid of the family business.
North Carolina has a total of more than 550 golf courses. Among them, ranking after Pinehurst No.2 is Grandfather Golf & Country Club, which locates in the western mountainous areas, can most representative the quality of Mountain Golf course.
Top Golf Course in the Mountain
It is 200 miles away and takes 3 hours driving from capital city Raleigh to the mountains, without feeling tired. The car is speeding in the sightseeing Avenue, towering trees clouds on both sides , just like regular mighty soldiers phalanx escorting us. With the elevation rising, summer fade slowly along the way, finally stopped at the altitude of 2000 meters of the Appalachian mountains.
The mountain’ s natural beauty , highest quality magnificent scenery, pleasant climate, make this paradise for outdoor sports. You can overlook from the Blowing Rock; hiking at Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoying Christmas trees woods; riding a horse to enjoy a leisurely mountain stroll, breathing green air..Of course, you can go golfing which offering fun and challenge.
Before playing Grandfather Golf & Country Club, we continually received a warning “it will be tough”. Therefore, I did some homework. The Grandfather Golf & Country Club is a tribute to Augusta. The design concept exactly copied Augusta, including the composition of the course— a standard 18 hole golf course and a par 3 9 hole (later expanded into 18 holes).
Like Augusta, Grandfather Golf & Country Club is a typical championship course, the turtle small greens and traps around are testing golfers. However, this course has its unique character different from Augusta, — its par 5s, among which the 585 yard 17th hole is the most cunning. It is a serious dogleg left hole with a stream truncating dogleg corner, insufficient driving distance or landing deviation will seriously affect the next stroke .
On a whole, this course is a challenging course, even for a tour pro. Every hole is unique and impressive. Presumably it is the important reason for its being a classic course and ranking North Carolina No.2 .
As for such an exciting and impressive course, firstly due to its incomparable scenery, also benefited from the architect who was pursuing the perfection. Grandfather Golf & Country Club is named after Grandfather Mountain. Designer Ellis Maples used the two elements of nature: mountain and lake to the extreme, creating challenge and preserving natural beauty maximally as well.
Even judging from appearance only, this course also be a perfect replica of Augusta. Azalea makes Augusta live and splendid, also a feature of The Grandfather. This time of the year is the season of azalea, all kinds of azalea flourishing, red fire, white snow , violet like rosy clouds…… This rich multicolored decorations from afar is so beautiful that you don’t want to leave. Grandfather also won the “Augusta Summer Palace” reputation.
The first surprises from N.C., made us more looking forward to the next stop. After 15 minutes driving away from Grandfather, we arrived at Elk River Country Club . Elk River was opened in 1982, it is can only be regarded as a new star in golf history of N.C., while as North Carolina’s first Nicklaus signature golf course, it is combined rich experience of the master Jack with the magnificent scenery panoramic from the southern end, highest point of the Appalachian Mountain — Blue Ridge Mountain. Once opened, it stood itself out from numerous courses, quickly jumped to ranking No.7 among North Carolina courses .
Elk River Country Club covers an area of 1800 acres, widely open, it is the best place to overlook the mountains. The river Elk meanders with beautiful flowers at its banks. Low-key timber roof clubhouse is in harmony with the green natural scroll. Only thing draws player’s attention away from the magnificent beauty are ups and downs fairways among the tall pines, Nicklaus symbol bunkers, stimulating the golfer to enjoy vitality and challenge.
Elk River Country Club is a pure membership club, which implies strict membership application and selection, limiting membership sales, at present they will only accepted 265 members, so limited number of golfers are playing here. After a round, you will feel so pleasant and comfortable.
Elk River Country Club has a lot of other reasons worth patronizing: quality and professional golfing services; first-class American villa suites; wide Race course and a 5000-foot length aircraft runway. It was said that Jack Nicklaus’s jet was parked there.
Elk River Country Club also leads to endless aftertastes cuisine. There may be no top chefs, but here, each dish, from fried tuna of Sorrento ‘s Bistro Italy restaurant to American brand steak of Steak Walls, etc, all for your taste buds feast.
There are a dozen of top quality, private courses like Grandfather, Elk River in Appalachian Mountains area. Rick, who was born and raised in the mountains, has all those at his fingertips. The day we left the mountain, Rick took us to nearby Hound Ears Dog course, the oldest course in Appalachian Mountains. It was built in 1960 and locates on a piece of high ground. You do not feel the slightest traces of artificial while playing golf here. Fairway undulating without any carving, natural streams scattered in mountain all covey a look of the primitive breath. Playing through the jungle, being blindly aggressive or conservative hesitate are not desirable. To think before acting, acting according to one’s capability is the key to success.
Hanging around the town, which was decorated with all kinds of unknown flowers. Being here, we felt exceptionally bright, no wonder it considered as North Carolina’s most prestigious health care destination. The town has only one main street, on both sides are shops selling all kinds of small objects, which is a great place to spend an afternoon. Summer is tourist season of this small town, Blowing Rock, so tourists holding the camera is everywhere. The town was holding a parade the day we arrived: antique cars, off-road vehicles, roaring Harley motorcycles breaks the tranquility of the small town, overflowing dense festive atmosphere.
Quail Hollow Club, Let time Stay
Charlotte, where the Quail Hollow Club locates, is the largest city of North Carolina ,and one of the nation’s financial centers: Bank of America, Merrill Lynch headquarters are here. In addition, because of the large number of the church, Charlotte was known as the “City of churches”. Then at the street corners, you can often accidentally across various churches in this modern city stands high-rise buildings: grand, elegant, solemn, or plain, offering solace in the busy city life, return to the harbour of the soul. People of Charlotte are fortunate, and this fortune seems to be continuate to all aspects of their lives, including golf.
Charlotte is selected as “National top ten most suitable health care & Golf destination” by a well-known media, the urban area and its surroundings densely distribute over a hundred courses, 14 of which are completely open to the public. But in holidays, public golf courses are very crowded, high-end private golf course like the Quail Hollow can meet all the ultimate dream of golfers.
Quail Hollow Golf Club’s history can be traced back to 1959, in a businessman James J. Harris ‘s initiative, 21 golf enthusiasts initiated the establishment of the Quail Hollow. The construction of the Course had been put on the agenda. In 1961, the club invited the famous George Cobb, designer of Augusta Par 3 Course, to design the first 18 hole; since then, Arnold Palmer, ASGCA Fellow and Tom Fazio, ASGCA respectively renovated the course in 1986, 1997, which made it more with quality for top tournament.
In fact, Quail Hollow Golf has been holding important tournament events. The PGA Tour, Kemper Open, in the second years of its founding, came to Quail Hollow in 1969, and then held this tournament for 10 consecutive years. The PGA Tour, another important event Wachovia Championship (later renamed Wells Fargo tournament) had been here since 2003, till today. Remarkable Tiger Woods, Rory Mcllroy, Vijay Singh ever to win here. It is reported that the PGA Tour has signed with Quail Hollow golf a 5-year contract, this event will stay here until 2019. In addition, Quail Hollow is ushering PGA Championship in 2017, then there will be unprecedented spectacular event!
Every Wachovia championship, Quail Hollow golf course are crowed with fans and photography lovers. Especially at hole 14,15,16 built around the lake. Don’t let the sparkling lake distract you, after all, this is a championship golf course, challenges is everywhere. First of all, a total length of 7446 yards will let your feet fatigue. Secondly, the fort greens with large floatings, will make you shudder. Asking for a caddy who is familiar with the course is obviously very necessary for your first play .
The caddie service here is absolutely worthy of esteem. In fact, everyone here is warm and friendly. They can accurately greet you by name, and moreover every sound information, every movement, all the care, all make you feel at home.
As the founder James expected, Quail Hollow Golf Club becomes a course about golf, more about the people plays golf, it brings player double pleasantness of mind and body.
The day we arrived at the Quail Hollow, the sunlight was very good. Through the dedicate decorated club, we came to the restaurant patio, enjoyed the delicious lunch, while overlooking the beauty of course against blue sky and white clouds, so comfortable! At that moment, I wished that time just stay at the Quail Hollow!
Left Charlotte, we went back to the capital Raleigh. For Chinese tourists, Raleigh has a special affinity.Lenovo moved the headquarters from New York here second year after its acquisition of IBM. In a sense, this city, with a population less than 400000, with less state temperament. However, it is on the most livable city lists of US for its perfect affiliated facilities, excellent economic performance, advanced higher educations, and very low crime rate.
As the capital, Raleigh is also less crowded and noisy, even for the youthful vitality of the the University City depicted in Nicholas Sparks novel “My dear!”, is also calm and quiet. Walking inside, relaxed naturally, this is perhaps best gift from Raleigh to city people from all the way afar. With such a good relaxed mood, we set foot on challenging Prestonwood Highlands Country Club.
54 hole Prestonwood Country Club is only 30 minutes drive from Raleigh International Airport, is a real city oasis. PrestonWood Meadows Course recently attracts much attention for its renovation. In this process, all 18 holes greens were re-done, and bent grass more suitable to local climate was applied, partial bunkers was filled or was transformed to rough, for creating the playability and fun.
At first glance, the renovated Meadows Course, fairway are actually wider than than before, tall pine trunk into the clouds, add a rare sense of vision to the golf course. Therefore, the course is easy to be underestimated. In fact, most of the greens are very difficult, ingenious bunkers and water hazards cause no small trouble. Especially for the longest par 3, the green was moved back 30 yards to be more close to the side of the water hazard, the other side is rounded by 3 big bunkers like fiercely tigers, ready to devour your little white ball.
The renovated Meadows course, ushered a most strict appraisal today. 60 expert panelists from North Carolina Golf Panel came to test and review every detail, for its ranking among NC courses. The final evaluation results still need some time to publish, but the good news is that the Meadow Course is recognized by panelists .
In North Carolina, golfers can experience all kinds of golf courses styles: beautiful and challenging mountain courses, seaside course accompanied with strong winds, tranquil city courses……
Are you attracted by NC ?