I have to be honest – My expectations were not very high for my visit to Rumbling Bald late last year. It’s not because the resort doesn’t measure up to some lofty personal standard, but because my visit came the week before Thanksgiving when the entire area is in holiday mode and most of the tourists are gone. This time of year the town of Lake Lure is as quiet and uncrowded as it is all year. The water level of this man-made lake was down about 5 feet from normal so they could perform annual maintenance of the almost 100 year old hydroelectric dam and everyone was getting ready for Thanksgiving, but that didn’t take away from my experience at all. In fact, I benefitted from the lack of crowds and the feeling that I had the whole place to myself!
The town of Lake Lure has a full time population of only 1100 people, but in the summer season, that number swells to over 12,000. I found the timing of my visit in mid-November to be fortuitous, because the weather was pretty good and there were no crowds at the resort’s golf courses or traffic on the twisty mountain roads that surround the area. This was important to me because I drove up to the Blue Ridge Mountains in my sports car with every intention of tossing it around on the legendary driving roads of western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.
When it comes to the northern shores of Lake Lure however, all roads lead to Rumbling Bald. Sitting on over 3000 acres of land on the northern edges of the lake, the resort has a little something for everyone, but family vacations are where this place shines. The 720 acres of Lake Lure are available to resort guests for all kinds of activities including boating, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and swimming at the resort’s beach. If the weather turns bad, the wellness center’s indoor pool will keep the kids busy while mom and dad enjoy a spa treatment or take a fitness class.
When the weather breaks, head outside again and take a stroll on one of the hiking trails that surround the area. There are over 20 miles of hiking and biking trails to choose from. Rumbling Bald also offers lighted hard surface courts to play tennis, pickleball, basketball and more. There’s a .9 mile fitness trail that starts just outside the wellness center, and of course the 36 holes are golf are just steps away or a short drive down the road.
Speaking of golf – That’s where Rumbling Bald really shines. Of course I would say that, because I’m a golfer, but I believe most golfers will agree with me that this place delivers. The Bald Mountain Golf Course, located across the parking lot from the guest check-in and restaurant, is a unique layout with five par-5s and five par-3s. Designed by W.B. Lewis, the course measures only about 6300 yards from the back tees, but this is mountain golf, so throw out the yardage book. You’ll have to play shots here to score. Interesting Fact: The 16th hole was a shooting location for the movie “Dirty Dancing.”
The second course at Rumbling Bald is the Dan Maples designed Apple Valley Golf Course. Stretching to almost 6800 yards, this course has a great mix of holes that weave up and down the valley, with one of its defining features being that about three-quarters of all the shots at Apple Valley are either level or downhill, which is pretty hard to do when designing a course in the mountains. Most of the elevation changes on this course takes place on the back nine, where you descend into a valley and cross a pond that is fed by mountain streams, both of which will come into play a few times on your way back up to the clubhouse. Apple Valley is infinitely playable and a lot of fun, especially on a beautiful sunny, crisp November afternoon like I had. I was fortunate enough to be playing with the club champion, so I had someone showing me how you are SUPPOSED to play it as opposed to the way I was navigating the course. The playing conditions at Apple Valley, like the Bald Mountain course, were impeccable, even in this “shoulder” season as they call it.
There is a lot to do in the mountains of North Carolina. There is a seemingly endless list of resorts, attractions, destinations, parks and quaint little towns to visit, and planning out your trip can be a bit overwhelming. In my opinion, Lake Lure and Rumbling Bald make a perfect home base to explore this amazing area. It’s close to major city centers like Asheville, Spartanburg, Greenville, Charlotte and Atlanta and serviced by several major interstate highways I-40 and I-26. Lake Lure is a great place to disconnect because it’s remote enough to feel like you left civilization behind, but still within reach of all the big box stores and services you need. My first visit to Rumbling Bald and Lake Lure was a relaxing off-season getaway, but I suspect it won’t be my last.