A dozen golfers – from juniors to seniors to men and women – grab their buckets and head to the range.
A steady stream of carts filled with newcomers and regulars on a first-name basis with the staff drive to the first tee.
Diners walk into the expansive clubhouse to grab a family dinner.
Welcome to Holly Ridge Golf Links – on a sun-splashed Thursday evening in May.
“I think this is the best golf course in the area,” tournament director Nick Cromer said. “It’s a lot more than just the condition of the golf course. If you want to play a course as well-maintained as this with a customer-friendly staff that tries to welcome all our customers, you’ve got to go to Bryan Park.”
Weekend rounds there are upwards of $60, though, whereas Holly Ridge prides itself on being one of the best values in the Triad. Weekend rates top out at $40, and golfers can play twilight rounds for as low as $20 during the week starting at 3 p.m. rather than 4.
“We leave it open till dark,” Cromer said. “As long as you can see, you can have at it.”
The entire scene is different in many ways, yet the same in many others, from what Cromer experienced as a youth. He attended Randleman High School and graduated from Southeast Guilford, playing a lot of prep golf at Holly Ridge, which is located just south of High Point. The clubhouse in those days was “kind of a well-kept small facility,” he recalled, but Holly Ridge made up for its lack of amenities with a course that was still well-maintained.
The two biggest changes in recent years both came in 2008: Owner Luke Hollingsworth built a 3,300-square foot clubhouse that included a restaurant and bar area, and he decided to replace the greens with Champion bermudagrass. The turf can handle the hot and humid summers and the cold winters with far less maintenance than other strains of grass.
“He took a big risk – it was scary to take that risk at that time,” Cromer said. “The greens are giving us peace of mind that for 11 out of 12 months they’re more than playable, and for 7-8 months they’re the best you can play.”
Granted, Hollingsworth had a vested interest in improving Holly Ridge. The course was opened in 1994 by his father and two partners. Hollingsworth grew up playing and working the course and became the sole owner in 2007. Earlier this year, he took on Chad Newton as co-owner.
In addition to the greens, prices, clubhouse and friendly staff, Holly Ridge has another good thing going: location. The course sits off 311 a few miles south of High Point and north of Randleman. The fully completed Interstate 74/311 bypass, which connects I-85 in High Point and I-73 from Greensboro to Asheboro, has an exit less than a mile away from the course.
Because of the bypass, golfers from nearly all points in the Triad can zip to Holly Ridge in 30 minutes or less. Cromer said plenty of play comes from as far away as Winston-Salem and Kernersville, with regulars from Burlington even making a little longer trip. Holly Ridge also catches out-of-state golfers on their way to Pinehurst and Myrtle Beach.
“We push the idea that we’re conveniently located from any of the surrounding areas,” Cromer said. “The bypass definitely helps with that.”
Once golfers arrive at Holly Ridge, there’s plenty to make them want to return. The course measures 6,626 yards from the championship tees. It’s called Holly Ridge “Golf Links” with good reason. The course was built on the site of an old dairy farm and has a wide-open feel.
Golfers begin their round driving toward the highway, then start No. 2 from a recently redesigned tee box that includes an attractive rock wall. Aged barns along the left side of the second fairway remind golfers of the original farm. Cromer said plans are in the works to restore the two barns for weddings, outings and tournament events.
The fourth and fifth holes are among those with newly redesigned bunkers, a project that started last year and is halfway finished. Some bunkers were filled in, while others were reshaped for better drainage and playability. The par-4 fifth hole, rated the hardest on the course, used to have a bunker between the green and pond, but that trap was removed, putting the water more in play.
Cromer called the seventh hole a good par-5 as golfers make their way back to the clubhouse with three very open holes. While the back nine isn’t exactly tight, it has tree lines and water that can make it more challenging than the front nine.
“The wind is a huge factor and the difficulty of the greens with their speed and texture is another defense,” Cromer said. “You get a challenge out here, but it’s a different kind of challenge. Guys who shoot 90 can spray it off the tee a little and typically not be in too much trouble.”
The back nine includes several large ponds for golfers to negotiate. Cromer called the par-4 13th hole his favorite because it sets up well for his game and offers a good birdie chance. The par-5 14th is the longest hole on the course at 544 yards with a green that is well guarded by four bunkers on the right side and one on the left.
Trees come into play on the 17th, where Cromer recalled taking a nine after being 6-under in the club championship a few years back: “It’s not that tight, but when you’ve been playing 16 open holes and then you’ve got to shoot it straight, it can be tough,” he said.
Cromer said the par-5 finishing hole is the prettiest on the course as golfers make their way back to the picturesque clubhouse with rocking chairs on a wrap-around porch and the pergola where wedding receptions and other events are held.
“There’s not a hole that I don’t like,” Cromer said.
That’s a sentiment more and more golfers are beginning to share about Holly Ridge.