At 5,945 feet, Grandfather Mountain dominates the landscape in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains. In the Linville River Valley below, one word dominates the culture at Grandfather Golf & Country Club. That word is “community.’’
Many country club communities preach “community’’ but fall short. They might be too big, too exclusive or simply don’t offer the kinds of amenities that keep and attract members and residents.
Not so at Grandfather Golf & Country Club in Linville, which next year celebrates its 50th anniversary as of the Southeast’s top golf and recreation communities. There is that word again.
“When I first got here (in 2009) I thought of it as a resort,’’ Club General Manager/COO Zachary Platek said with a slight smile. “I got crushed. (Members) said ‘This is our community.’’’
Spend even one day at Grandfather Golf & Country Club and you’ll know what the members (more than 450) meant. Heck, the place is so friendly and relaxed, you might even feel like a member. Rental accommodations are available for member-sponsored guests.
As one resident put it as she walked across the Loch Dornie foot bridge that connects her condominium to the clubhouse and restaurants. “This is my happy place.’’
With good reason – make that reasons. The 1,958-acre property – gateway to the Grandfather Mountain State Park and boutique towns such as Boone, Banner Elk and Seven Devils – includes 265 homes (some more than $1 million) and 150 condominiums. It has a pair of eye-opening golf courses, indoor tennis courts, five restaurants, 7,000 square-foot fitness center, youth recreational center and community garden.
A helipad near the Loch Dornie dam doubles as a popular gathering spot for members with pets and kids who want to spend more time under the Carolina blue sky. Loch Dornie is a great for kayaking, fishing and paddle boarding. Its new Beach Pavilion, complete with a large pizza oven, is a good spot for lunch and dinner.
For a more formal dinner, The Dining Room’s patio has great views of the Championship Course – designed by Ellis Maples – and the Linville River Valley.
Near the community garden is the head of a 1.5-mile hiking trail that takes hikers around some giant boulders.
Above the indoor tennis courts and youth recreation center is the epitome of the community culture – the Art Loft – where members and their guests gather to paint and attend presentations on art and art history.
Founded in 1968, Grandfather’s Art Loft began with 10 members who gathered on an informal basis. When the indoor tennis facility was completed in 1975, the group began using a room on the upper level to gather and paint together. In 2016, a second room, previously an open air space, was enclosed. The new enclosed area was enhanced with art studio caliber lighting and display space for member’s to hang their creations.
The Art Loft has a full-time art administrator who offer daily instruction. There are beginning classes in drawing and painting available weekly and Master classes are available during the summer.
As with most second-home communities of its type, Grandfather Golf & Country Club didn’t escape the recession of a nearly a decade ago, but it also didn’t run from it, which is the main reason it is thriving today.
“The years 2015 and 2016 were our biggest for re-sales,’’ Platek said. “We’re relatively built out, so the only way we get new members is if somebody leaves and somebody else comes on and buys. Two things that helped us out the most is that we built through the recession – so when the recession was over we weren’t lagging; and we focused on new amenities.’’
“Golf is our baseline. Now it’s how you build on that baseline. Even Baby Boomers these days want more than golf. And when the Baby Boomers who grew up on golf want more, you’re in a pickle if you don’t give it to them,’’ Platek said.
The Championship Course (7,020 yards, par 72) might be the quintessential North Carolina mountain courses. It’s a masterful layout in which nearly every hole – thanks to the vision of Aggie Morton, a descendant of the McRae family from Scotland that first bought and settled the land – has a view of Grandfather Mountain. Little wonder it’s considered Maples’ masterpiece.
Sunshine, rain or fog, there isn’t a bad view – or a bad hole. Each hole offers s different view of nature, whether it’s Grandfather Mountain (the eighth and 15th holes offer the best views) or the Linville River that runs through the course.
For example, the 421-yard, par-four 18th holes, which plays downhill to the Valley with views of Lake Dornie, is a one of the best finishing holes in the Carolinas.
Maples’ design is so good, in fact, that each hole is a treat unto itself. The phrase “18 signature holes’’ isn’t too strong, as each hole, framed by Hemlock trees, essentially sits by itself. What’s more, the Championship Course is a fair test of golf for players of all skill levels.
The Championship Course, said Director of Golf Chip King, is all about getting off the tee in the proper position. In that regard, players who can move the ball left to right and right to left have the best opportunities to score.
“If you’re out of position with your drive, this can a difficult golf course,’’ said King, a member of the Carolinas PGA Hall of Fame and one of the game’s true gentlemen. “It never takes a day off.’’
But even if you’re out of position in the (or off) the bent grass fairways, the views are such that you don’t really mind.
Mountain Springs Course is a par-59 course that many would consider an “executive’’ course, but don’t be fooled by that moniker. With 13 par-three holes and five par-four holes, Mountain Springs is as challenging (and beautiful) a “short’’ course as you’ll find anywhere.
You’ll need every club in your bag – including a driver for shorter hitters on a couple of the par fours.
The first nine holes play up the mountain and the back side plays down the mountain. I dare you to find a more breathtaking mountain hole than the 145-yard, par-three 15th.
“Mountain Springs is a good warmup for the Championship Course,’’ King said.
I would respectfully disagree. Mountain Springs stands on its own as a truly outstanding mountain layout.
Regardless of what how you label either course, King perfectly sums up the Grandfather Golf & Country Club experience.
Everything we try to do here is because it’s Grandfather,’’ King said. “It’s what we stand for.’’