Golf With Altitude
The Hawtree Touch In NC
The name Hawtree Limited probably doesn’t mean much to most American golfers, but a little research reveals the English firm has been designing golf courses since 1912 under the guidance of three generations, and has over 750 projects in its portfolio. Among its credits are four prestigious Open Championship venues, including Royal Birkdale, and, believe it or not, two respected courses in North Carolina – in fact, two of just three courses with which Hawtree has been involved in the United States.
Central to the story is Jim Campbell who was links superintendent at St. Andrews in the 1960s when North Carolinian Verne Floyd visited Scotland. Campbell introduced him to Fred Hawtree, son of the firm’s founder, at about the time Floyd was involved with another family in the purchase of land nestled in a lovely valley beneath Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, that just cried out to be a golf course. Hawtree visited on several occasions and crafted a layout that curled around the relatively flat terrain and hugged the South Toe River on the back nine, bringing the river in as both a burbling backdrop and stealthy hazard. In fact, if you like a little fishing with your links experience, you can buy a permit in the pro shop and stalk monster trout after your round.
Situated just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mt. Mitchell Golf Club woos visitors with lush conditions, dramatic scenery and worthy challenge. And it’s general consensus that there aren’t many better places to tee up for fiery autumn color.
But that’s also true at the other Hawtree product, Reems Creek Golf Club outside Asheville, where Fred and his son Martin did the honors in collaboration with Verne’s son and several other partners. Both Hawtrees walked the hills and found routing that combined suitable challenges with pleasurable play, with Martin returning a number of times to oversee design and construction.
Well placed in a rolling valley, Reems Creek has a distinct taste of Scottish links with open fairways leading to testy greens. But there’s plenty lurking that requires attention and strategy. The par 5 18th was included among WNC Magazine’s most memorable holes in Western North Carolina as the one with the “most potential for embarrassment,” citing “an uphill third shot to a humped green surrounded by no less than five bunkers (that is, of course, after a blind tee shot and assuming you navigated around the lake at the bottom of the hill).” Anything short rolls back to you or into the sand, all under the amused gaze of bystanders imbibing on the nearby patio.
But no one said golf is always fair, and the Hawtrees were just doing their jobs bringing a little touch of old-world links to the mountains of North Carolina.
By Gary Carter
By Gary Carter
added: May 17, 2011
updated: May 23, 2011