Playing Golf In The Piedmont
Golf In Grand Style - Grandover Resort
In 1996, people in and around Greensboro woke up to find something extraordinary had arisen in their midst: a world-class resort complete with a posh hotel, a spa, a magnificent restaurant, conference amenities and last but not least, golf. Thirty-six holes worth of golf, in fact.
Grandover Resort began over 30 years ago with the vision of a remarkable man named Joseph Koury.
Born in Burlington, NC in 1925, the son of Lebanese immigrants, Koury moved to Greensboro as a young man and rose to become one of the city's premier real estate developers.
From the outset, he had a dream of creating something extraordinary, even monumental to leave behind. Says Jonathan York, Grandover's Director of Golf, "He patiently began to acquire the parcels of land for Grandover back in the 1960s. So when the time came to make his vision a reality, he had the financial clout to really do it right."
Koury was an avid golfer so when he was ready to design the two courses he envisioned a two-man team was chosen: former U.S. Open champion David Graham and Gary Panks, a man known for his ability to expertly shape a plot of land.
To give you a sense of the style of golf that awaits you at Grandover, we thought we'd give you a quick tour of the perhaps more understated West Course. This sparkling layout ambles over, around and through rolling hills, tall Piedmont oak forests, wetland area, creeks and, on a hole or two, even gives you glimpses of mountain-type terrain.
The first hole gets you off to a gentle enough start, just 365 yards from the blues, requiring a slight draw around a lone tall tree on the left side of the fairway and a short iron to a green protected in front by a creek.
The only semi-frightening forced carry you'll find in the front nine comes on your tee shot on the 490-yard par 5 second hole about 170 yards over a small pond. (Again, this is from the blues. The white tees effectively take the pond out of the equation.)
One of the most visually stunning holes on the course is Number 4, a gem of a short par 4. From the tee, it appears to have been plucked from a mountain course and set down in the Piedmont.
Only 330 yards long, the grass-carpeted terrain tumbles vertically about 50-70 feet down toward a creek, which bisects the fairway, requiring about a 170-yard carry and then climbs just as precipitously back up toward a wickedly contoured green.
Like the best-designed short par 4s, it looks easy from the tee, but looks deceive.
For example, try to overpower it with too greedy a drive and three well-placed fairway bunkers are waiting to devour your ball to the right. Try to finesse it too much with a long iron or 3-wood, on the other hand, and yank it a little short and left, and the contours will feed your ball back down into the creek. And even if you split the fairway, you still have to execute a perfectly gauged short iron back uphill to get anywhere near the flag. The contours of the green protect par jealously if you're the slightest bit off-line.
The course really begins in earnest, however, on the sixth hole.
Number 6 is a terrific 490-yard par 5 carved through a thick grove of trees which slopes slightly uphill.
And then comes the most intimidating hole on the course, the 410-yard par 4 seventh.
From the tee, the landing area looks narrow, small and very exacting. That's because it is. After you drive, the hole doglegs left at about a 45-degree angle between two dense walls of trees. You're then faced with a long or mid-iron shot over a creek and slightly uphill to a deep, multi-tiered green with bulkhead on its left side (to protect if from erosion by the same creek). Fortunately, there's a generous bailout area short and right, but getting it up and down from there is no picnic.
Number 8 is not exactly a pushover, either. At 415 yards in length it doglegs gently from left to right through a towering oak forest.
The front nine then finishes with yet another tough par 4; yet, this one is dead straight, vey narrow (fairway bunkers pinch in from both left and right) and 395 yards uphill to a green that sweeps from left to right around a deep bunker designed to swallow any timid approach shots.
The first three holes on the back are case studies in the artful incorporation of Piedmont marshland into course design and reward precision and intelligence rather than brute strength.
On the 10th, the marsh runs from the foot of the tee, down the right side, and then cuts across to the left, guarding the front of the green. Only 380 yards long, it requires a gentle fade with whatever club will get you out there about 225 yards (it's 235 to the water), and then a good precise 9-iron or wedge is needed to reach slightly uphill to a subtly contoured green.
The 170-yard 11th, on the other hand, is virtually all carry over the marsh to an intimidating-looking green with a sharp slope on its left side leading down into a pretty deep bunker. The mounding on the right side could kick an errant shot left onto the green - but don't count on it.
Over the 550-yard par 5, 12th your tee shot must carry slightly uphill and over a deep hollow with a wetland marsh at the bottom of it.
From there, the course finishes with a lovely mixture of two more terrific short par 4s, a short par 3, a good, long par 5 and two par 4s in the 375-395 range.
On the last two holes, Mr. Koury's lovely hotel acts as the backdrop.
As you make your way around the layout, what's so impressive is not just the remarkable variety of the topography, but also the immaculate PGA tournament-caliber shape everything is in.
And the elegant detailing – including beautiful stone work on all of the bridges and brass-plated yard markers on the cart paths – does nothing but augment the natural beauty of the land.
Joseph Koury passed away in 1998; fortunately he was able to see his grand vision come to fruition. In spite of his absence, there's a special kind of freshness that still infuses Grandover Resort, from the grandeur of the environs to the spirit of the staff:
The freshness of the American dream.
added: January 17, 2011
updated: January 19, 2011