The Asheville Citizen Times

N.C.’s top golf courses include 16 from WNC

ASHEVILLE – The North Carolina Golf Panel has officially confirmed what many local players and visitors to this area already knew — Western North Carolina has some of the best golf courses in the state.

The panel recently released its list of the top 100 courses in the state, and the mountains have 16 entries in the group.

The highest ranked local course is Grandfather Golf & Country Club in Linville, an Ellis Maples design that came in second behind annual leader Pinehurst No. 2, site of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Opens in June.

Two other WNC layouts are in the top 10 — Elk River Club in Banner Elk (7th), with Jack Nicklaus as the architect, and Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers (10th), designed by Tom Fazio.

Grandfather leads a list of six courses in the golfing-rich Linville/Banner Elk/Blowing Rock area that are in the top 100.

“We are very honored and humbled to be included in the panel rankings,” said Oliver Peacock, director of golf at Elk River Club.

“We are very fortunate to be in this beautiful setting, and we take a lot of pride in the design, playability and condition of our course.”

Buncombe County has four courses on the list, including three Donald Ross designs — Biltmore Forest Country Club (13th), Country Club of Asheville (60th) and Grove Park Inn (86th).

Biltmore Forest Country Club officials declined comment on their ranking.

The other Buncombe County course is The Cliffs at Walnut Cove in Avery’s Creek (63), another Nicklaus design.

Country Club of Asheville had one of the biggest leaps in the annual rankings, moving up 20 spots from the 2013 list.

“There is such a tradition of excellence of golf in North Carolina, and WNC certainly is well represented in our rankings, and rightfully so,” golf panel executive director Kevin Brafford said.

Another Ross layout — Linville Golf Club — is ranked 17th.

Bright’s Creek Golf Club in Mill Spring, created by Fazio, is 35th, and the other WNC course in the top 50 is Balsam Mountain Preserve near Sylva (39th), an Arnold Palmer layout.

The other mountain courses in the top 100 include Linville Ridge (58), Lake Toxaway Country Club (68), Hound Ears Club in Blowing Rock (87), Blowing Rock Country Club (90) and two courses in Burnsville — Mountain Air Country Club (95) and Mount Mitchell Golf Club (96).

Of those 16 courses, most are private — Grove Park and Mount Mitchell accept public play, and golfers can tee it up at Linville Golf Club if they stay at the Eeseola Lodge.

Since its inception in 1995, the North Carolina Golf Panel has ranked the top 100 courses on an annual basis.

With about 135 members, the panel includes a variety of players in and out of the golf business who take an active role in promoting the game throughout the state.

Panel members are not allowed to rank a course unless they have played there.

“I’ve played golf all over the country, some of the best courses, and this area is as good as it gets,” said Freddie Wynn, of Swannanoa, who has played several of the WNC courses in the top 100.

“When you combine the views, the weather, and you have courses designed by the best in the world — Ross, Nicklaus, Fazio — then you’re going to get some great golf courses.”


The area’s top 10 golf courses, based on voting by more than 100 members of the N.C. Golf Panel:

Rank (WNC and state)CourseLocation1, 2.Grandfather Golf & CCLinville2, 7.Elk River ClubBanner Elk3, 10.Wade Hampton GCCashiers4, 12.Biltmore Forest CCBiltmore Forest5, 17.Linville GCLinville*6, 20.Rock Barn Golf and SpaConover7, 35.Bright’s Creek GCMill Spring8, 39.Balsam Mountain PreserveSylva9, 58.Linville Ridge CCLinville10, 60.Country Club of AshevilleAsheville

* Golf Panel places Rock Barn in its Western region; the next highest ranked mountain course is The Cliffs at Walnut Cove in Avery’s Creek (11, 63).


CourseLocation1. Pinehurst No. 2Pinehurst2. Grandfather Golf & CCLinville3. The Country Club of N.C. (Dogwood)Pinehurst4. Old North StateNew London5. Quail Hollow ClubCharlotte6. Pine Needles Lodge and GCSouthern Pines7. Elk River ClubBanner Elk8. Charlotte CCCharlotte9. Pinehurst No. 8Pinehurst10. Wade Hampton GCCashiers