BY ED DUPREE
North Carolina has a lot of tremendous golf courses, many of them located in the Triad. The North Carolina Golf Panel ranks the state’s top 100 courses each year, but there are 40 courses that will never appear on that list.
It’s simply because there are 40 regulation courses that have only nine holes, and nine-hole courses often get overlooked when being compared to 18- and 27-hole courses. I’m not suggesting that many of the nine-hole layouts deserve to be ranked. However, it would be interesting to see the Golf Panel have a separate category and list perhaps the top 10 in the state.
Eight of the nine-hole courses are located in the Triad – Reidsville’s Pennrose Park Country Club; Greensboro’s Gillespie Golf Club; High Point Country Club’s Emerywood Course; Asheboro Municipal; River Landing at Sandy Ridge in Colfax; Ponderosa in Stoneville; Riverview in Pine Hall; and Beaver Creek in Dobson.
Four of the nine-hole courses have the distinction of being designed by the late and great Donald Ross. High Point’s Emerywood Course, which dates back to 1923, still has the traditional Ross look almost a century later. It’s a great practice course for the other High Point Country Club course, Willow Creek.
Lake Lure Golf Club, originally a municipal course, has several unusual holes. It was built in 1927 with plans to expand to 18, but it remained a nine-holer.
Pennrose Park, probably the best nine-hole course I’ve played, was completed in 1929, followed six years later by Asheboro Municipal.
My personal rankings for the 20 nine-hole courses I’ve played would be topped by Pennrose Park and an amazingly great municipal course in Forest City. Midland Country Club in Pinehurst, Asheboro Municipal, River Landing at Sandy Ridge, Gillespie and Lake Lure were also enjoyable to play. Gillespie, with its two quite different sets of tee boxes, would satisfy golfers who think they have to play 18 holes.
I’m one of those golfers. I don’t feel like I’ve had a round of golf unless I play 18 holes. My son Brett and I got rained out of our scheduled second day at Mount Mitchell last June. I suggested driving south to Lake Lure, hoping the rain would stay north of Interstate 40. We played three nine-hole courses – Lake Lure, Forest City and Rutherfordton – in a span of about five hours.
A golfer could easily make a three-day tour of nine-hole courses, starting in the Piedmont with the Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park in Charlotte. Driving west on Highway 74 on the same day one could hit Royster Memorial in Shelby. Cherryville Country Club is a short drive from Shelby.
Dogwood Valley in Caroleen, Rutherfordton and Forest City are all located close together for a second day of 27 holes.
On the third day one could first play Lake Lure, and then drive northwest to Old Fort. Taking I-40 back to Hickory, where the Lake Hickory Country Club has its nine-hole Town Course, would finish up the trip.
That’s 81 holes of golf on nine different courses in three days – my kind of golf trip!
NOTE: Ed Dupree, a retired sportswriter, has played 366 North Carolina courses and his goal is to reach 400 by the end of 2014. A story about his feat appeared in the March issue of Triad Golf Today, which can be seen on www.triadgolf.com under the past issues tab. Ed will have a column about North Carolina golf courses in Triad Golf Today throughout this year. If you would like to contact Ed regarding this subject, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.