Ballantyne Weekly

News from the Ballantyne Area

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Ballantyne Hotel

10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, Charlotte

• (704) 341-GOLF(4653)

Championship Yardage: 6735

Slope: 137       Par: 71

Men’s Yardage: 6600

Slope: 135       Par: 71

Ladies’ Yardage: 4815

Slope: 118       Par: 71

Ballantyne Resort, offically known as the Golf Club at Ballantyne Resort, opened in 1998. Land Design laid out the course in association with a review committee. Fairways are bermudagrass; greens are bentgrass. North Carolina Magazine named it the state’s Best New Public Course.

First, it’s important to get some nomenclature clear. Ballantyne is a massive new 2,000-acre mixed-use development on the southern leg of Charlotte’s new outerbelt – I-485 – a ring road that’s revolutionizing life on the fringes of Charlotte.[JH1] There’s a Rees Jones-designed course at Ballantyne Country Club, which is private; that course is most often referred to as simply “Ballantyne.” Ballantyne Resort is part of an office and hotel development that’s part of the Ballantyne development. Locals usually refer to this course as “Ballantyne Resort.”

Have we completely confused you? One visit to Ballantyne (Resort) will end the confusion. Plus, if you turn up at Ballantyne Country Club hoping to play, the staff will politely tell you to mount your bicycle.

Ballantyne Resort is a fine, and in many ways, amazing golf course. Its owner, real estate developer Smoky Bissell, decided that his Ballantyne office development needed some sizzle, so he took the land he could not use immediately for offices and built an award-winning golf course, without the assistance (and fee) of an architect.

While members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects might not like people like Smoky Bissell, the public does. Ballantyne Resort is one of the busiest courses in the Charlotte area, and it’s by no means the least expensive. Several local courses offer serious competition, yet Ballantyne Resort gets the most play.

So why has Ballantyne Resort been so successful? Is it a big marketing and PR budget? Is it the hotdogs at the turn? Is it the cadre of cart girls?

Regulars will tell you that it’s the course — built on one of the best natural sites in the area.

The design committee, which included expert and non-expert golfers, produced several interesting strategic holes on a routing that makes excellent use of a relatively tight space.

The green complexes at Ballantyne Resort are the meat of Ballantyne’s challenge. Small but shapely mounds and tricky bunkers flank greens that are among the most undulating in the area. Scoring is not easy at Ballantyne Resort.

The par-5 3rd is a solid hole requiring a good smack off the tee to cross a stream. Once over, it’s a relatively easy second to set up birdie or eagle. Also memorable is the 10th, a shortish par 3 over water, and the 16th, another par-3, this time about 200 picturesque yards downhill to a large green. The equally scenic 17th, a par 5, requires an accurate tee shot to avoid the water hazard left of the fairway; it can be just a long iron in after that. The 18th, a medium-length par-4, is another superb hole: The tee shot is best shaped right-to-left and must cross a stream. Position ‘A’ is the left side of the fairway, and from there, it’s a mid-iron at most to a receptive green.

Just as receptive is the welcome inside the magnificent 15,000 square-foot clubhouse, easily the finest of all Charlotte’s public-access facilities. The clubhouse is geared toward attracting the corporate meeting crowd, and Smoky Bissell has been particularly successful at making this a big part of Ballantyne Resort’s success. Outings occur regularly, so plan and call ahead before you venture out.

Most golfers enjoy Ballantyne Resort. From the moment you park you car in the lot, you feel pampered. A headsetted ground crew member removes your bags from your trunk and places them on your cart Few private clubs offer this service. Rangers roam the course to help you look for errant balls and rake bunkers — should the need arise. After the round, your clubs are cleaned and placed back in the trunk of your sled.

The course, too, is enjoyable, with mostly wide fairways and generous green complexes that reward laser-like accuracy, but don’t punish wayward shots too severely. Only those whose game truly needs serious, serious help will find Ballantyne Resort a bear.

Speaking of help — it’s on hand right in the middle of the course, in the form of the Dana Rader Golf School. Rader is a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher and boasts a loyal following throughout the United States. She’s even appeared on the Golf Channel. The school’s facilities are magnificent and include an indoor classroom that opens up to the range. The school employs seven full-time instructors.

With its outstanding course, service, ambiance and facilities, coupled with owner Smoky Bissell’s legendary attention to detail, Ballantyne Resort quickly established itself as one of North Carolina’s top-tier public golf facilities.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, restaurant and pro shop, plus the aforementioned Dana Rader school. Walking is restricted to certain times but the course is walkable. You can book a tee time seven days in advance. Approximate cost, including cart, is $45 Monday to Thursday and $59 Friday to Sunday.

 

 

Charlotte Golf Links

11500 Providence Rd., Charlotte

• (704) 846-7990

Championship Yardage: 6700

Slope: 127       Par: 71

Men’s Yardage: 6220

Slope: 121       Par: 71

Ladies’ Yardage: 5279

Slope: 117       Par: 72

Charlotte Golf Links, designed by Tom Doak, opened in 1992. The course is mostly flat and open, with bermudagrass fairways and bentgrass greens.

Doak is a young(ish) architect who, after graduating from Cornell University, spent several months touring Scottish courses, and even spent some time as a caddie at the Old Course at St. Andrews. He’s authored two fine books about golf courses, including Anatomy of a Golf Course, a must-read for anyone interested in golf course architecture and design. Doak is also an expert golf course photographer. He apprenticed himself to Pete Dye, although you’ll find more touches of Donald Ross than Dye.

Doak is quite opinionated about design. In his second book, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, he’s not afraid to pan the work of his competitors and highly praise his own designs. Ironically, Charlotte Golf Links is the only one of Doak’s courses of which he is not particularly fond. Credit where credit is due, right?

Charlotte Golf Links is a challenging course and a must-play for the golfing purist. Much of the land here is open. With the wind blowing and a light rain coating the course, you’re going to feel like you’re in Scotland — or at least that’s the idea. The fairways are wide in places, narrow in others, but they boast a number of subtle slopes and undulations just like the genuine article. Many holes were designed to reward the successful risk-taker more than the conservative. However, with risk comes the potential for poor results, and there’s always a chance that your ball might find the long native grass that borders many holes. Locals have a name for this “stuff” — it’s a scatological word we can’t publish in this book.

The green complexes feature a number of small pot bunkers with grass faces and coarse sand. Some of the greens are flat, while others are much more undulating.

Charlotte Golf Links, along with Highland Creek, marked the beginning of a new era in public golf in Charlotte, and it’s exciting that one of the newest courses is also one of the most traditional and walkable.

The best time to see and play Charlotte Golf Links is late on a sunny day when the shadows bring out all the subtle shaping in the fairways, and the grass faces of the bunkers are dark and menacing.

The best hole on the course might be the bunkerless 15th, one of the finest short par 4s around. It’s a mere 310 from the tips, slightly downhill. On a firm day, with the prevailing wind , the bold golfer will reach for the driver and try to put it on the small and wild green. But disaster lurks in the form of a clump of trees on the left and unkempt mounds on the right. Even a well-struck drive will pinball around on the mounds in front of the putting surface, creating an unpredictable result. The safety-conscious will take out a mid-iron and lay up safely to the wide expanse of fairway to the left of the direct line; a bit too much to the left and the trees come into play on your approach. Yet the direct lay-up will skirt the long grass to the left and mustn’t leak right. Even the most accurate of wedges will have difficulty finding the exact mark due to the severity of the buried elephant green. Par is the just reward for two safe shots, but the bold will more likely find disaster than eagles or birdies.

Those who have played a genuine Scottish links course will find that Charlotte Golf Links is a mediocre imitation of the real thing — mostly because the course (like all others in Charlotte) is on clay while a true links course is on sandly loam. However, after a prolonged dry spell in the spring or fall, the course gets bouncy and can become a true links. This is when the course is at its best.

Still, Charlotte Golf Links stands out from the crowd of newcomers because it’s so radically different from the development courses.

Charlotte Golf Links’ ownership changed in late 1999 — let’s hope the new crew pumps some money into a course with a tremendous amount of potential.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, locker room, snack bar, rental clubs, a beverage cart and pro shop.

You can walk Charlotte Golf Links on weekdays, and weekends after 2 PM. The course is very walkable. You can book a tee time whenever you choose. Approximate cost, including cart, is $35 Monday through Thursday, $39 on Friday and $49 on weekends.

 

Charlotte National

6920 Howey Bottoms Rd., Charlotte

• (704) 882-8282

Championship Yardage: 7227

Slope: 134       Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6700

Slope: 129       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 5423

Slope: 121       Par: 72

Charlotte National opened in 1996. Russell Breeden designed the course, which is set on primarily flat land bordered in places by mature woods. Bermudagrass fairways run up to bentgrass greens.

As soon as you step onto the first tee at Charlotte National, it’s clear that you’re on a Russell Breeden course: The fairways are mostly wide; the bunkers are large and flat; most of the greens are large and subtly sloped. There are no tricks, and the challenges of the course are laid out in front of you — a classic case of what you see is what you get. In today’s era of golf course architecture, where good courses are defined by the difficulty of the test, the amount of earth moved and the layers upon layers of severity, Charlotte National is a welcome step back to minimalism. It’s a step back we’re happy to say has gained favor with several new courses in the Charlotte region in the past five years.

Charlotte National proves that a designer need not move mountains to produce a course that’s fun and playable — yet still challenging. There’s more than one golfer who firmly believes Charlotte National stands up very well against its more extravagantly built sisters in Union County.

The course is fun so long as you don’t play from the tips — a backbreaking 7227 yards. That’s longer than any course we’ve seen, even though Charlotte National drains well and can get quite firm. The course blankets some fine Union County farmland and winds through some attractive woodland; thus, it boasts a pleasant and relaxed air free of houses and other urban encroachments. Water comes into play on some holes but, with the exception of the final four holes, should not prove too hazardous to your score or overall golfing health.

The 18th presents a rousing challenge. More than 450 yards from the tips, it invites the bold driver to cut off the pond at the crux of the dogleg, yet offers ample room for those less courageous who will find themselves faced with 200-plus yards uphill to a green with three distinct levels. The successful risk taker will bomb the green with a mid-iron, which might yield a match-winning birdie.

Like many Breeden courses, this track will not make you say “Wow!” or “Gee whiz, this is amazing!,” but you’ll probably appreciate its ambiance and playability. It’s one of the finest courses in the Charlotte region.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, snack bar and pro shop.

You can walk this course anytime during the week and on weekend afternoons, and the course is very walkable. You can book a tee time on Wednesday for Saturday, or Thursday for Sunday. Approximate cost, including cart, is $30 during the week and $40 on weekends.

 

 

Emerald Lake

1 Tournament Drive, Matthews

• (704) 882-7888

Championship Yardage: 6756

Slope: 124       Par: 71

Men’s Yardage: 6455

Slope: 120       Par: 71

Ladies’ Yardage: 5120

Slope: 116       Par: 71

Emerald Lake opened in 1997. Gary Wirth designed the course, which is set on undulating land bordered by mature woods, with bermudagrass fairways and bentgrass greens.

Gary Wirth is by no means a well known architect, but his work here at Emerald Lake is extremely commendable: he took a choice site and created, with the possible exception of the 9th, a fine and playable course with significant interest.

Fairways are, for the most part, wide enough to promote use of the driver, while the greens are large yet fair. There is not a lot of fairway bunkering on the course, but most green complexes include at least one trap.

The par 5s at Emerald Lake are particularly good. The 5th requires a long drive over water, but the reward for a well-struck tee shot is a good look at a receptive green. The 14th also requires a good drive over a hazard, but the bold will also try to fly it over a stand of trees, leaving what might be just a seven iron, once again over water — an exciting hole for the gambler. Those trying to reach the par 5 18th in two shots might seriously think about laying up: The green slopes quite severely away from the fairway, and anything coming in hot might bounce through to the water behind the green complex.

The ninth, a long par 4, is the only controversial hole on the course. A good drive might reach a stream that bisects the fairway about 150 yards from the green. It might be a good idea to turn this hole into a par 5.

But overall, Emerald Lake is a solid track that compares favorably to the other new courses in the area. It’s also a good value.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, snack bar and pro shop.

Walking is restricted but the course is very walkable. You can book a tee time anytime. Approximate cost, including cart, is $36 during the week and $45 on weekends.

 

Firethorne Country Club

Marvin Rd., Charlotte

• (704) 843-3111

Championship Yardage: 6904

Slope: 145       Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6406

Slope: 133       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 5423

Slope: 120       Par: 72

Firethorne opened in 1998. Tom Jackson designed the course, built on hilly land bordered by mature woods. Fairways are bermudagrass; greens are bentgrass. At press time, the course was nearing its membership goal and thus may no longer be open for full-time public play.

Here at Firethorne, Tom Jackson built a spectacular golf course on a difficult site that must have required significant tree clearing and earth moving. The result is admirable: the holes with the least undulation tend to be longer, while the almost mountainous ones are shorter. Still, Firethorne is no pushover, claiming the toughest slope rating in the Charlotte area.

Even though Firethorne is still in its infancy, it boasts the maturity of a much older and grander course. A great example is the long par-5 13th, a muscular 575 yards from the tips, requiring two massive shots to reach the green: it’s a hole that you could slide into any existing country club and nobody would complain.

The one shot holes are particularly notable, especially the 15th, 207 yards from the back tees over a chasm to what looks like one of the tougher greens on the course.

The greens vary in size and undulation.

Even if your golf game isn’t going that well, you’ll enjoy the ride through one of Charlotte’s most picturesque layouts. A special touch: the concrete fords that bridge ponds and streams at three points.

Beginning golfers may find that Firethorne is a bit too much of a test, but the mid- to low-handicapper will relish the challenge.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, snack bar and pro shop.

You can walk the course at certain times, although it’s quite a hike. Approximate cost, including cart, is $50 on Tuesday and Wednesday; $40 on Thursdays and $60 Friday through Sunday.

 

Fort Mill Golf Club

101 Country Club Dr., Fort Mill, S.C.

• (803) 547-2044

Championship Yardage: 6865

Slope: 133        Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6373

Slope: 118       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 5448

Slope: 123       Par: 72

The front nine at Fort Mill Golf Club opened in the 1947. The back nine opened in the 1970s. Donald Ross designed the front nine just before his death in 1948, and George Cobb designed the back. The front nine is open, and the back is set in rolling terrain. In the fairways, you’ll find bermudagrass; on the greens, bentgrass.

Fort Mill has long been a well-known favorite of Charlotte golfers. The club is part of a triumvirate of Springs Industries-owned courses, all of which are popular and well-run; the others are in Chester and Lancaster, and each is worth a visit. (You’ll find write-ups of each of these South Carolina courses in our Midlands chapter.) Ross also designed the course in Lancaster.

It’s difficult to find a golf course that enlisted two better architects than Ross and Cobb. The result is a fine and mature course that’s more challenging than it looks. This is a country-club caliber design, and the recent reconstruction of the greens means better conditioning.

The front nine offers plenty of room off the tee. If you’re wayward with your driver, the most significant hazards are posed by the large trees. As you might expect with a Ross course, the trouble begins on and around the greens, where you’ll encounter plenty of small bunkers and difficult putts. If you’re playing for money, never give your opponent a gimme on the front — make ’em drop it in the hole. Watch as a 2-foot putt is rammed 3 feet past or ends up 2 inches short. (Hit it, Allis.[JH2] ) It’s part of what makes Ross’s designs so timeless — and irritating. Everyone thinks it’s Alice, but it actually refers to Peter Allis, the now golf commentator. He left a putt short in a Ryder Cup one year and his partner said…Thus it’s not the misogynistic order that all the PC police think it is.

Most Donald Ross courses offer a couple of easier par 4s to let the golfer gain his bearings. Not so here at Fort Mill, where the 430-yard first yields few fours. The drive must draw around a large oak to avoid another tree on the right, which will block the approach to the small and sloped green, which must be hit on the fly. The second, at 412 yards, also requires a decent thump off the tee. There’s water to the right and water directly in front of the large and flattish green. Only the low-handicapper will be dissatisfied with a pair of bogeys.

The back nine is a genuine Cobb championship-caliber test. Many of the holes are truly long and seem to play even longer. The greens are large and not quite as undulating as the Ross greens, but no less difficult. The bunkers are larger and the fairways wider on this nine. Water is sparse, but you’ll discover that wayward shots will find the hazard if you’re not sensible. Have fun here, and buy textiles made by Springs Industries out of gratitude for their excellent contributions to public golf in South Carolina.

Amenities include a practice green, snack bar and pro shop.

You can walk anytime on weekdays and after 2 PM on weekends. You can book a tee time three days in advance. Approximate cost, including cart, is $29 weekdays and $32 on weekends.

 

 

Olde Sycamore Golf Plantation

7504 Olde Sycamore Drive., Charlotte

• (704) 573-1000

Championship Yardage: 6965

Slope: 140       Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6398

Slope: 133       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 4756

Slope: 120       Par: 72

Olde Sycamore Golf Plantation, a Tom Jackson design, opened in 1997. The course is wooded and will ultimately be ringed by large and expensive custom homes. Bermudagrass fairways lead to bentgrass greens.

One of Charlotte’s newer courses, Olde Sycamore already rates as one of Charlotte’s better public-access facilities. The owners gave the course a chance to mature before it opened, and the result is solid. Tom Jackson is one of the Carolinas’ most prominent architects, and this course must rate as one of his better efforts.

Hacked mostly out of woods, Olde Sycamore is a peaceful excursion into a pleasant piece of property where Jackson built a course that’s user-friendly in most places. We found no need to pull out the driver until the 9th, a huge par 4, 442 from the tips with an approach shot over water to a large and undulating green. The driver could well stay in the bag on much of the back nine as well, as Jackson emphasizes placement over raw power — at least from the front tees! Once your tee shot splits the fairway, your approach shot needs to find the right portion of the mostly largish greens, but mounds adjacent to many of the putting surfaces will bounce the slightly errant shot back onto the green — the exact opposite of a Donald Ross green complex.

There isn’t much water on the golf course, and in true Tom Jackson style, there are no long carries off the tee. The fairways aren’t especially wide, and plenty of bunkers lurk in wait of the poor drive. If the fairways are hard, an overhit drive could easily result in a lost ball through the fairway at a dogleg.

The owners built Olde Sycamore as an amenity to their housing development, and the course will surely succeed as such. It should also provide local golfers with an interesting test where even the mid-handicapper might be tempted to head for the tips for the full effect — but only if the fairways are running. Once it’s had a couple more years to mature, Olde Sycamore will be yet another solid contribution to Charlotte’s public-access golf portfolio.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, chipping green, snack bar, rental clubs and a pro shop.

You will not want to walk this course. You can book a tee time three days in advance of the weekend if you’re not a member. Approximate cost, including cart, is $45 Monday through Thursday and $50 on weekends.

 

 

Regent Park Golf Club

3000 Heritage Pkwy., Fort Mill, S.C.

• (803) 547-1300

Championship Yardage: 6861

Slope: No rating       Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6478

Slope: No rating       Par: 72

Other Yardage: 6083

Slope: No rating       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 5258

Slope: No rating       Par: 72

Note: Regent Park is a South Carolina course; however, its proximity to Charlotte (it’s less than 10 miles over the state line) and the fact that it is frequented by Charlotte golfers make it a natural addition to this Charlotte Region chapter.

Ron Garl designed Regent Park Golf Club, which opened in 1995. The course is set on rolling wooded terrain. In the fairways, you’ll find bermudagrass; on the greens, bentgrass.

The sumptuous Regent Park is the centerpiece of what will eventually be a large housing community. The development also includes a top-quality, state-of-the-art practice facility — the finest in the area.

Playing at Regent Park, you can’t help being staggered by and impressed with the money that must have been poured into its construction and design. It’s a golfing extravaganza the likes of which you won’t find on any public course in the immediate area, even with all the new competition. The result is a number of beautiful golf holes flanked by serious hazards and difficulties. You’ll find large bunkers, mounds, water, swamp, tricky lies in the fairway and the type of problems normally reserved for professional and low-handicap golfers. It’s as stern a test of golfing skill and patience as you’ll find on any top-notch public or private course. Many of the greens are sensible and sloped, while others make you feel like you’ve landed on a Putt-Putt course with a few too many under your belt. You’ll see what we mean when you visit this course — something you definitely should do.

The pros here are proudest of the dogleg right par 4 8th, 420 from the tips. The tee shot needs to fade around a large mound on the righthand side of the fairway, leaving a long iron downhill to an undulating green surrounded by trees. A solid golf hole.

There’s a serious emphasis at Regent Park to make this a top-quality public facility. Tee times are spread out at 10-minute intervals, and your tee time is secured by a Visa[JH3] credit card — so show up for your tee time. As you leave the course, your clubs are cleaned and carried to your car — talk about service. Golfers who show up at the practice range without collars on their shirts are turned away by the style police.

You won’t find a larger testament to modern golf anywhere in the Charlotte region than at Regent Park. You must use a cart here.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, chipping green, snack bar, rental clubs, a beverage cart and pro shop.

You can book a tee time four to seven days in advance for an $8 service charge; otherwise it’s three days in advance. Approximate cost, including cart, is $45 weekdays and $55 on weekends.

 

Renaissance Park Golf Course

1525 Tyvola Rd. W., Charlotte • (704) 357-3373

Championship Yardage: 7525

Slope: 126       Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6880

Slope: 121       Par: 72

Other Yardage: 6270

Slope: 115       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 4606

Slope: No rating       Par: 72

Renaissance Park Golf Course opened in 1987. Michael Hurdzan, a well-respected architect and agronomy expert, designed the course with bermudagrass fairways and bentgrass greens on a mix of open and wooded terrain on what used to be a landfill. The course is owned by the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

Controversial from its very first day in operation, Renaissance Park opened during the “landfill boom” of the 1980s, when municipalities discovered the joys of building golf courses where there used to be garbage. Due to its proximity to downtown Charlotte, the airport and the Charlotte Coliseum, Renaissance packed ’em in during its first few years of life. Those who plunked down the almost $50 (then) to experience the joys of landfill golf found a wide-open links-like design with some interesting and difficult holes, most notably the 1st, a 600-yard par 5 where the only shot was a lay-up with a five iron. And then there was the smell — a sulfurous and nauseating odor oozing out of the earth, borne over the entire layout by the prevailing westerly winds.

Once the competition heated up, Renaissance began to feel the pinch, and the county ordered a $1 million rethink of the project, which coincided with the closure of the clubhouse due to potentially lethal levels of methane. Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen.

The result of the redesign is a course that’s much more user-friendly than the original. Targets have been widened, and many of the blind shots have been eradicated. The price is lower, reducing its impact on the bank account, but most importantly, the smell has subsided. Now, the only obstacles to one’s golfing enjoyment are the roaring jets making their final approach to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, and the distant sound of gunfire from the Police Department’s firing range. In his book The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Tom Doak gave the course a zero out of 10 rating. Things have improved since Tom’s visit, making Renaissance a decent course if you’re stuck at the airport with more than six hours to kill.

Amenities include a range, practice green, snack bar and rental clubs.

You can walk anytime, but it’s not recommended. You can also book a tee time anytime. Approximate cost for Mecklenburg County residents, including cart, is $32 weekdays and $36 on weekends. It’s about $5 more for nonresidents.

 

 

Stonebridge Golf Club

2721 Swilcan Burn Rd., Monroe

• (704) 283-8998

Championship Yardage: 6923

Slope: 132       Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6374

Slope: 127       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 5145

Slope: 120       Par: 72

Stonebridge opened in 1998. Richard Osborne designed the course, which sits on flat land bordered by mature woods. Fairways are bermudagrass; greens are bentgrass. Osborne, who only recently opened his own firm, used to be an associate of Ron Garl, who designed the popular Regent Park.

Drive south and east of Charlotte, past the house farms to where you get to the horse farms, and you’re in some of the prettiest land and scenery in the region. In 20 years or so, most of it will be developed, but for now, it’s superb — pristine farmland and woodlands with nary a condo or strip mall in sight.

Stonebridge’s developer, a company based in Jacksonville, Florida, found a prime chunk of this fair land upon which to build its course, and the result is outstanding. To the traditionalist or minimalist, Stonebridge is easily the most pleasing of all the new courses built in Charlotte in the past 10 years. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of an English countryside parkland course. There are no houses adjacent to the course and civilization, for the most part, has been kept far away.

The imitation of the Swilcan Bridge on the first hole, a cracker of a par 5, 574 from the tips, is a bit silly, but overall, the layout is superbly designed. Some holes, particularly on the front are completely hemmed in by woods, while others are quite open and almost linksy. Adding to the Scottish touch is the nomenclature for each hole: the 451 yard par 4 8th is called “Saddleback.” It’s a tough hole, with a stand of oaks on the right side of the fairway just 200 yards from the back tee.

Most fairways are wide, and most green complexes offer generous putting surfaces with varying degrees of undulation and bunkering. But while the design is solid, the setting is even better. If you want to get away from it all for a few hours, Stonebridge might be your best bet. Afterwards, relax in the elegant 10,000 square-foot clubhouse.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, snack bar and pro shop.

The course is very walkable but walking is restricted primarily to weekdays. You can book a tee time four days in advance. Approximate cost, including cart, is $36 during the week and $50 on weekends.

 

The Tradition

3800 Prosperity Church Rd., Charlotte

• (704) 549-9779

Championship Yardage: 6970

Slope: No rating       Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6450

Slope: No rating       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 4754

Slope: No rating       Par: 72

The Tradition opened in 1996. John Cassells designed the course, which is set on rolling, partially wooded terrain. The fairways are blanketed with bermudagrass; on the greens, you’ll putt on bentgrass.

The Tradition is a sister course of The Divide (see write-up above). The taxpayers of Mecklenburg County own the land. A round at The Tradition is bound to be a pleasant ride through the woods over streams and around ponds. The wayward driver will find the course tight and will spend a good deal of time getting to know the woods firsthand.

The greens are midsize and undulating, with shallow bunkers catching off-line shots.

The Tradition offers a sensible value, coming in a price point that’s noticeably lower than other newer public golf courses in the region. Once the course has fully matured and grown in, it’ll be a solid addition to public golf in the northeast quadrant of the city.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, locker room, snack bar, rental clubs and a pro shop.

The course is walkable for the fit, but walking is restricted. You can book a tee time seven days in advance for the week and on Monday for the weekend. Approximate cost, including cart, is $29 weekdays and $39 on weekends.

 

 

Waterford

1900 Clubhouse Rd., Rock Hill

• (803) 324-0300

Championship Yardage: 6913

Slope: 132       Par: 72

Men’s Yardage: 6513

Slope: 125       Par: 72

Ladies’ Yardage: 5196

Slope: 1112       Par: 72

Waterford opened in 1997. Hale Irwin designed the course, which is set on undulating land adjacent to the Catawba River. The Senior Tour star seeded the course with bermudagrass fairways and bentgrass greens. I’m not sure about this phrasing: I doubt Hale was out there scattering the seed himself.

The Rock Hill area needed a couple more solid public-access courses and Waterford satiates the need extremely well. The site is outstanding, and Irwin produced a fine and scenic course that most golfers will enjoy. Irwin and his crew protected wetlands and streams, and these natural hazards provide most of the strategic challenge. Greens are mostly large and undulating but should not render too much trouble.

The par 4 13th, a decent 423 yards from the back tees, is a magnificent and tricky golf hole. The drive might be best played to the right side of the sloping, tiered fairway, so that your ball bounces back down to the middle. From there, it’s a decent poke uphill to a green that’s protected by a stream and long trap in front. Hale Irwin and many other professional golfers would be ecstatic with a par here.

The 9th, another fine hole, measures a whopping 596 yards from the back tees through a relatively narrow opening in the trees. Irwin is famous for his ability to hit consistently straight shots, and his design philosophy somwhat mirrors his playing abilities. This might be especially true on the downhill 15th, a 156-yard par 3 where accuracy is essential — there’s water to the left and woods on the right.

Even though the soil here is red Piedmont clay, Waterford, with its abundance of tall pines, might remind you of a Pinehurst course, particularly on holes like the aforementioned 9th. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in south Charlotte or York County.

Amenities include a practice green, driving range, snack bar and pro shop.

Walking is restricted, and the course is walkable. Approximate cost, including cart, is $36 during the week and $45 on weekends.


 

Written by ballantyneweekly

December 29, 2010 at 8:59 pm

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