Golden Oldies of Golf in the Piedmont

Tanglewood ParkGolden Oldies of Golf in the Piedmont

Tanglewood Park in Clemmons

There’s undoubtedly something wonderful about a golf course with a rich history, and, not surprisingly, North Carolina boasts a fine portfolio that exudes history and maturity. This is especially evident in the Piedmont region, which includes the state’s largest cities and the venerable Sandhills area known affectionately as the “Home of American Golf.”

When golf came to America in the late 1800s, it wasn’t long before the game spread south and took root in North Carolina. In the early years of the 20th century, private and public courses opened from Asheville in the west to Wilmington in the east.

Pinehurst Resort certainly was a catalyst, opening a nine-hole course designed by Dr. D. Leroy Culver in 1898. Soda fountain magnate James Walker Tufts asked Culver to build what is now Pinehurst No. 1 as part of a resort that Tufts thought would be a welcome and restoring winter retreat for northeastern residents in search of a respite from the grim New England winters.

To build more courses and promote the game, Tufts hired Donald Ross, a young Scot who had apprenticed under Old Tom Morris at St. Andrews. Along with his time-honored work in Pinehurst, Ross designed, built or expanded 42 golf courses in the state.

Two of the master designer’s finest efforts are just a few miles from Pinehurst Resort at Mid Pines and Pine Needles. The former opened in 1921 and the latter in 1927. Even today, their wide fairways and "turtleback" greens reward accurate ball-striking and delicate short game touch. Pine Needles has three times hosted the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, while Mid-Pines has hosted countless amateur and professional tournaments.

In 1915, Ross designed the original layout at Durham’s Hillandale Golf Course, and subsequent designers included no less than highly respected Perry Maxwell and George Cobb. Hillandale is one of the most popular courses in the state due to its sensible fee structure and variety of holes. Expert advice on equipment can also be found here as its pro shop is routinely ranked one of the best in the United States.

Ryder Golf Course and Stryker Golf Course are two fine military courses found in central North Carolina at Fort Bragg. Ross designed the latter, which is the only military course of his making still in existence. Both are open to the public on a limited basis.

In the booming Triad area, which boasts one of the finest collections of public-access golf courses in the United States, there are several outstanding golf courses built between 1931 and 1958.

Blair Park Golf Course in High Point is a 6,463-yard layout that hosts close to 40,000 rounds a year. Scoring well at Blair Park requires a healthy dose of local knowledge.

Nearby Lexington Golf Club is a splendidly quirky course with a wonderful history replete with gentlemen, ne’er-do-wells, anarchic ex-athletes and everyone in between. Its renovation gained a "Top 5 Renovations in the Country" from Golf Inc. Magazine.

The Championship Course at Tanglewood Park is an early Robert Trent Jones Sr. course that hosted the PGA Championship in 1974, won by Lee Trevino. Set in a magnificent public park among mature oaks, maples and other hardwoods, Tanglewood is generally considered one of the finest courses in the southeastern United States and a personal favorite of the prolific Jones.

A tour of North Carolina’s "antique" golf courses also has to include a few lesser-known destinations that are well worth a visit.

McCanless Golf Course near historic Salisbury may be on the short side by modern standards, but it requires precise ball-striking to score well.

As the city’s municipal facility since 1934, Sanford Golf Club has proven popular with scores of local and visiting golfers over the years.

In Shelby, Royster Memorial Golf Course is a fun nine-hole course that serves as the city’s municipal facility.

Elsewhere around North Carolina’s Piedmont, more excellent golf awaits the traditionalist. Near Charlotte, both Monroe Country Club and Mooresville Golf Course began with nine holes designed by Ross.

Just minutes from downtown Charlotte, Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park has long been a popular spot for beginning and accomplished golfers. The same can be said for Catawba Creek Golf Course, formerly Gastonia Municipal, which provides its patrons with a relaxed oasis.

Old or new, there’s plenty of golf waiting across the North Carolina Piedmont.

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