There’s always been a certain magical quality to mountain golf. In the Carolinas, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Charleston and the Brunswick Islands have more than their fair share of outstanding layouts. And the central Piedmont of both states surprises with some real hidden gems.
But there’s something special about packing up the car full of golf gear and heading into the North Carolina’s stunning section of Blue Ridge Mountains. Maybe it’s the cooler weather in the late spring and summer. In the fall, it is all about the colorful foliage and playing golf in a sweater or fleece pullover.
For most golfers, though, the connection is more visceral than the weather. Mountain golf is a way to escape the pace and stress of today’s hurry-up, always-on lifestyle. Rumbling Bald Resort on North Carolina’s stunning Lake Lure is all about offering golfers a refuge from the daily grind.
“We want golfers to get here, unplug, play 18 or 36 holes and shed the stress of the hurry-up, always-on lifestyle we lead,” says Jeff Geisler, General Manager at Rumbling Bald Resort. “Post round, they can relax over a hearty meal and a cold beverage, then retreat to the deck of their vacation rental with cigar or night cap.”
The Golf Courses
Adam Bowles, Head of Golf Operations at Rumbling Bald, is quick to point out that the resort’s two mountain courses, Apple Valley and Bald Mountain, offer decidedly different, yet complementary, experiences.
Bowles says the key to playing Bald Mountain is understanding the effects of uphill and downhills slopes. Longtime Laurel of Asheville golf writer Chuck Werle once said Bald Mountain designer W.B. Lewis was “part man, part mountain goat.”
“Bald Mountain is what most golfers would refer to as a classic mountain course,” says Bowles. “The back nine especially offers a mix of uphill and downhill holes that require adjustments in club selection, trajectory and spin.”
One case in point being the par-4 11 hole. The uphill approach shot is the most extreme on the course and can easily call for an extra club or two, depending on the wind speed and direction. It’s the 383-yard par-4 10th hole preceding 11 that is one of Bowles favorite on the layout, however.
An elevated tee shot offers harrowing glimpse of a creek on the left and a thick row of trees on the right that appears to extend all the way into the fairway. The approach shot is to an elevated green with the putting surface completely hidden from sight. Most golfers under-club, says Bowles, leaving a chip shot into a slanted green.
A manageable 6,300 yards from the back tees, Bald Mountain is renowned for its unique configuration of five par 5s and five par 3s. Movie buffs appreciate the 16th green, the backdrop of a scene from the famed 1987 rom-con “Dirty Dancing” staring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze.
Rumbling Bald’s marquee course, Apple Valley stretches to nearly 6,800 yards and features expansive views of Bald Mountain and the surrounding Lake Lure area. The course was designed by North Carolina-based architect Dan Maples, whose father Ellis was a prolific golf course designer and accomplished superintendent who apprenticed under Donald Ross.
Maples estimated 75% of shots at Apple Valley are either level or downhill, virtually unheard for a mountain course. Glistening mountain lakes adorn 12 holes, but water only occasionally comes into play.
“You get the best of both worlds on Apple Valley and that’s what keeps golfers coming back and new golfers coming in for the first time,” says Golf Operations Manager Adam Bowles.
Bowles is particularly fond of Apple Valley’s finishing stretch, capped by the 564-yard par-5 18th. A true three-shotter, a pond runs along the right side of the fairway starting about 300 yards out, extending past the green. The second shot needs to be long enough to setup a short approach to a green guarded by bunkers on both sides.
The Lodging Lineup
The resort’s 150 vacation rental homes, condos and studios feature both golf course and mountain views. Post round, golfers can relax at Legends on the Lake, casual dining on shores of Lake Lure, or grab a hearty sandwich and cold drink at Pinnacle Southern Kitchen at the Apple Valley clubhouse.
Rumbling Bald is rich with amenities and activities, including scenic Lake Lure boat tours, boat rentals, tennis, pickleball and hiking trails. It’s the perfect basecamp for exploring the natural wonders of western North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
To learn more about Rumbling Bald’s golf courses and packages, visit www.rumblingbald.com, or call (828) 694.3072.
Rumbling Bald Resort is an hour east of Asheville and 1.5 hours north of the Greenville-Spartanburg metro area in Upstate South Carolina. Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville and other metro areas in the southeast are under a half day’s drive. Long a popular summer destination for Floridians, Rumbling Bald is just a six-hour drive from Jacksonville and eight-hour ride from Orlando.
Golfers can expect high temps in the 70s and 80s in May, and the mid to high 80s June through August. Its Blue Ridge Mountain location means lower humidity and cooler nights than most the Southeastern U.S. in the summer.
Shane Sharp is a longtime member of the Golf Writers Association of America and contributing editor to GOLF Magazine. He’s based in Greenville, S.C. where he owns Southbound 4, a golf-focused content marketing and PR firm.