A golfer from Wisconsin, who visits each fall since his son moved to North Carolina for a job, squeezed in nine more holes in mid-November at Pudding Ridge Golf Club in the rolling countryside of Davie County before heading back North for the harsh winter.
He made a point to stop in the clubhouse to inform golf pro Dan Ward what an enjoyable experience he had on the layout outside of Mocksville.
“We get that a lot from people,” said Ward, whose club celebrated its 20th anniversary in October. “The gentleman from Wisconsin told me, ‘I just had to get a little bit more of this golf course before I get back because it’s such a great deal.”’
There is no big-name architect (just a local shaper) associated with the course situated on a former dairy farm, and no big-time pricing at Pudding Ridge ($25 a round and $20 after 11 a.m.) – just great golf and a course usually in superior condition.
“We couldn’t afford Arnold Palmer,” jokes Earl Groce, whose father Wade Groce owned a portion of the land and was one of three families that helped develop the course that opened in October 1994.
Earl Groce is now one of several owners who help run things after his father passed away about seven years ago. He likes to tell the story about how his dad was talked out of building the golf course in 1965.
“Back in the 1960s Davie County was still very rural and there just weren’t enough people to support another good golf course,” Earl Groce said. “The road in front of the golf course here … there were about four houses on the west end of that road and now there are 70 some, and that’s pretty typical of Davie County. The whole county has really expanded. People like to live in Davie County.”
And golfers seem to gravitate toward Pudding Ridge, a public layout that tries to stay one step ahead of the golf industry with a top-notch superintendent (Steve Zeller) and a box of “Band Aids.”
“The sheer quality for the money is what makes it the biggest draw,” Ward said. “We always keep it in very, very to excellent condition, and honestly it is about the least expensive place around to play.”
“You can hit an errant shot and still recover in most instances, and it’s quiet,” added Groce. “And it’s beautiful with a competitive price. Sure, we’re absolutely proud of it. The fairways are just like carpets.”
Pudding Ridge also has historic significance dating to the Revolutionary War era.
On the back nine, golfers can pause to read a wooden sign at Dutchman’s Creek, signifying the place where General Cornwallis crossed with the British Army in February 1781. Legend has it that the consistency of the mud reminded Cornwallis of English pudding and he dubbed the hill Pudding Ridge, a name that has stuck for more than 200 years. Daniel Boone and his wife’s first cabin also stood near the golf course property.
Despite it relatively remote location, Pudding Ridge has developed into one of the more serene and peaceful golf settings in the state, its clubhouse situated on a ridge with holes that filter into a picturesque valley of lakes and streams.
Pudding Ridge, which logs around 20,000 rounds a year, is not the longest course by today’s standards, but has relatively small greens which create a challenge of accuracy, and seven holes feature water hazards.
“There is quite a bit of slope in some of our greens,” Ward said. “We try not to keep them too fast or golfers would be three and four-putting.”
The par-71, 6,702-yard layout, shaped two decades ago by local Don Boles, has a set of distinctive features on the front nine. The cart path between holes 2 and 3 takes golfers through a virtual “tunnel” of bamboo plants for more than 100 yards, creating a unique canopy effect. “We thought about putting some Panda bears in there,” jokes Groce. The course’s signature silos then reveal themselves on the par-5 5th hole – one of which is 100 years old.
“The giant white silo sits in the way if you push your drive slightly,” Ward said. “You can hit it on the fly and if you do who knows where the ball goes. If I’m out somewhere and start talking about golf and people find out I work at Pudding Ridge they always say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the course with the silo?’ People remember that.”
Pudding Ridge was voted the Best Golf Venue in Davie County in 2013 by the Davie County Chamber of Commerce.
“My father got talked out of it in 1965; was told he needed to stick to something he knew about like milking cows,” Groce said. “Look at Pudding Ridge now. My father would be very proud.”