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North Carolina’s largest city and its outlying suburbs are rich with premier private golf clubs. Residents of the Queen City are familiar with the likes of Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte Country Club, and Carolina Golf Club, but thanks to ongoing restoration and revitalization projects, great public-access golf has also become plentiful in the Charlotte area.
While the historic George Cobb-designed Quail Hollow—host of many Wells Fargo Championships, the 2017 PGA Championship won by Justin Thomas, and the 2022 Presidents Cup—is a tough tee time to snag, there are a variety of welcoming options within a short drive of downtown Charlotte that provide golfers with high marks on the uniqueness and memorability scales.
Here’s a look at five of the top public golf courses in and around the Charlotte area.
Rock Barn Country Club & Spa—Jackson Course (Conover)
Less than an hour north of the Queen City is a 36-hole gem in Conover, N.C. Rock Barn’s Jones course, which hosted the Greater Hickory Kia Classic on the PGA Tour Champions for more than a decade, is private, but the club’s Jackson course is open to the public. Designed by Tom Jackson, who made a name for himself in the Myrtle Beach area where he designed six courses on the Grand Strand, the Jackson course is a fun, 6,427-yard layout that demands accuracy off the tee in order to properly navigate the course’s elevation changes and leave a favorable approach to its greens.
Rock Barn prides itself on the condition of its golf courses and the Jackson layout doesn’t disappoint, playing like a resort course at public-access prices. Rates run $45 on weekdays and $55 on the weekend. https://www.rockbarn.com/Golf/Jackson_Course
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Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club (Denver)
Despite its familiar sounding location, Verdict Ridge is thousands of miles east of the Rocky Mountains. Situated just 35 minutes north of downtown Charlotte, the course provides public players a high-end layout located within a residential community. Opened in 1998, the golf course features elevation changes, forced carries, and loads of history. Verdict Ridge sits on land that once held a bustling resort which politicians would visit over holidays in the 1800s.
Along with exceptional scenery, you’ll also notice small statues placed on the course overlooking play. Story has it, current owners Eddie and Frances Knox brought many of the garden statues from their home in Lake Norman when they moved to Verdict Ridge 15 years ago. The most prominent pair sit above a waterfall overlooking the course’s signature hole, the short par-four 9th. Prices range from $44 for twilight play on weekdays to $74 on the weekend. https://verdictridge.com/golf-course
Rocky River Golf Club (Concord)
Rocky River comes with the charm of being able to tee it up while hearing stock cars humming around a racetrack. Owned by the city of Concord, the club’s driving range sits adjacent to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, home to NASCAR’s annual Coca-Cola 600. The Dan Maples design hosted the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship qualifier and is just 20 minutes outside of the I-485 beltway surrounding Charlotte.
During a round at Rocky River, golfers will cross paths with Gragg’s Rock—a massive boulder named in honor of the club’s former Director of Golf set in the middle of the par-five 3rd hole. Daily tee times range from $35 (walking) to $72 (weekend) with stay-and-play packages available through the club’s partnership with the Embassy Suites-Concord. https://www.rockyrivergolf.com/
Warrior Golf Club (China Grove)
This semi-private Stan Gentry design is located just 30 miles north of downtown Charlotte. Opened in 1999, the club has undergone numerous improvement projects over the past five years including upgrades to the course’s greens, irrigation system, and clubhouse.
At 6,609 yards from the back tees, the par-71 has plenty of bite. Golfers are tested by the hilly layout which has an abundance of penalty areas as the course winds its way around Lake Wright. The daunting 52-acre lake comes into play on what many consider Warrior’s signature hole—the 223-yard par-three 16th is a beast, challenging golfers with both length and the very prevalent hazard which surrounds the green complex. Tee times range from $35 after 3 pm to $65 on weekends, and if you’ve got 36 holes in you, take advantage of Warrior’s $25–30 replay rate. https://warriorgolf.com/rates/
Skybrook Golf Club (Huntersville)
Located just 25 minutes from Charlotte, Skybrook was once considered one of the top semiprivate clubs in all of North Carolina before falling on hard times. Following a decade of neglect the club was sold to a new ownership group in 2019 and the golf course has undergone a complete revitalization.
Designed by John LaFoy, the course is blessed with rolling terrain and has been upgraded with new greens and a refurbished clubhouse over the last two years. To the eye, the course is a bombers paradise with elevated tee boxes and wide fairways but can challenge the lowest handicapper from 7,990 yards at the back tees. The public can play for between $44–$67 depending on the day and time, and those willing to carry their own bag can play the course for just $30 on weekdays. https://www.skybrookgolf.com/
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What is your favorite public golf course in the Charlotte area?