Forget the heat of summer amid cool breezes or relish the tints of autumn when you tee it up in the verdant mountains of North Carolina. Whether it’s a green guarded by boulders or a trout stream tumbling beside the fairway, mountain golf is at its peak here in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains, where fairways are lush and greens are slick as river rocks.
1 Linville Golf Club
1 Linville Golf ClubLinvilleSee on map
When you’re ready for a true step back in time, trek to this venerable club where golf has been played since the late 1800s. Donald Ross was enticed to create a new 18 that opened in 1924, and his handiwork remains plainly evident today in a course that has escaped modification by other hands. The third hole, an exquisite par 4, is included in Golfweek’s “Greatest 100 Holes of Golf.”
Notable nearby: The adjacent Eseeola Lodge also is steeped in tradition and an integral part of the Linville experience – you must be a guest to play this course.
2 Boone Golf Club
2 Boone Golf ClubBooneSee on map
A good walk unspoiled is a perfect description of an outing on this deep-green links, laid out in 1959 by Ellis Maples with his patented respect for the land. This is a welcoming course in all respects, with ample fairways, receptive greens and pleasant scenery. It’s relatively short by current standards, but not necessarily sweet – thick rough and meandering water add bite, and the putting surfaces on a summer afternoon can be fiendishly slick.
3 The Omni Grove Park Inn
3 The Omni Grove Park InnAshevilleSee on map
There’s a gem of a golf course huddled just below this historic inn, crafted originally by Donald Ross and stalked over time by many of the game’s legends – a plaque on the tee of the par-3 7th “honors” an infamous 11 Ben Hogan once carded there. Now restored to the original Ross specifications, the course presents multiple personalities that provide suitable pleasure for any player. It also was selected by Golf Digest as one of the country’s top 10 courses 100 years or older.
4 Maggie Valley Club & Resort
4 Maggie Valley Club & ResortMaggie ValleySee on map
The Valley Nine at Maggie Valley Club provides ample warmup before players tackle the appropriately named Mountain Nine with its elevation rise of more than 800 feet. The good news is the ball flies farther as long-range panoramas unfold. Interestingly, the fairways here were hand-sown in the early 1960s with Kentucky bluegrass and rye that keep them sumptuous throughout the playing season, while bentgrass greens are kept soft and receptive.
5 Jefferson Landing
5 Jefferson LandingJeffersonSee on map
U.S. Open and two-time PGA Champion Larry Nelson fashioned a challenging but fair test deemed worthy of 4.5 stars by Golf Digest. Mountain vistas add to the allure of Jefferson Landing, but attention has to be maintained on the ground to navigate the sloping and often dog-legged fairways and avoid the stream that meanders throughout.
Notable nearby: The club’s location on the historic New River also is a definite addition to the experience.
6 Rumbling Bald Resort
6 Rumbling Bald ResortLake LureSee on map
Tucked between picturesque Lake Lure of Dirty Dancing fame and Rumbling Bald Mountain, this popular resort’s pair of courses can wow you with views, then quickly snap you back to attention. You can go long on the Apple Valley layout, but designer Dan Maples forces strategic thinking with swells and well-placed bunkers. Tight, tree-lined fairways control the action on Rumbling Bald, with rock-faced cliffs towering over much of the course.
7 Mount Mitchell Golf Club
7 Mount Mitchell Golf ClubBurnsvilleSee on map
Here’s a singular opportunity to play golf in the shadow of the highest peak in the East (6,684 feet) on a lovely valley layout that’s relatively level and without tricks, but still a solid opponent. The back nine hugs the South Toe River, making it both a burbling backdrop and stealthy hazard.
Notable nearby: If you like a little fishing with your links experience, you can buy a permit in the pro shop and stalk the local trout after your round.
8 Sequoyah National Golf Club
8 Sequoyah National Golf ClubWhittierSee on map
If you’re seeking more of an 18-hole thrill ride than a sedate walk in the park, then Sequoyah National delivers. Course designer Robert Trent Jones II, in collaboration with PGA stalwart Notah Begay, molded and sculpted an eye-teasing, up-and-down test of golfing skill, coupled with 360-degree views.
Notable nearby: Developed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee, the course is an ideal companion to the nearby 1,100-room Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel.