Frugal Golfer: Where to Play in The Carolina Mountains

Asheville and Boone, two towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, owe their early growth to the spread of the railroad. Shortly after trains started coming to this beautiful corner of the country back in the late 19th century for logging and mining, visitors followed and found the fresh air, beautiful scenery, and active lifestyle to their liking. They still do, and rightly so.

Both cities offer countless examples of the traditional South banging up against modern, “keep it weird” movements. Asheville has the Vanderbilt’s famous Biltmore Estate as well as the River Arts District filled with local artisans. There’s also a burgeoning microbrewery and foodie scene.

Appalachian history runs deep in Boone’s blood, and you’ll want to search out bluegrass music and mountain storytellers. Meanwhile, new money from nearby Charlotte has discovered the area as the perfect place to escape from the hot Carolina summer.

The traditional/modern contrast carries over to the selection of outstanding golf courses open to visitors, from Ross and Raynor to Fazio and Nicklaus. Asheville and Boone offerings run the full gamut, old to new, respectable to offbeat—and all fun.

Asheville  

WHERE TO PLAY

Omni Grove Park Inn
The Grove Park Inn is rightfully famous for its hotel, but the Ross layout next to the grand edifice is a must play. Don’t miss capping the round with a drink on the Sunset Terrace.

Sequoyah National
The Great Smokey Mountains frame views across massive elevation changes on this course about 45 minutes from town and near the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

Bright’s Creek
The Stay & Play package here is worth the hour’s drive. The Tom Fazio design sits in a valley majestically surrounded by Blue Ridge Mountains. Non-golf options include hiking and equestrian.

WHERE TO EAT

Corner Kitchen
A great choice for wholesome Southern cooking located in an old home in Biltmore Village, near the Biltmore Estate. A good brunch choice every day.

Curate
This tapas bar is a local favorite, so advance reservations are a must. Fare ranges from traditional to modern and experimental. For dessert, try fried eggplant drizzled with local honey and fresh rosemary, and ask for the rosemary ice cream (it’s not on the menu).

Wicked Weed
England’s King Henry VIII once said, “Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed.” This microbrewery strongly disagrees. Have a pint of Pernicious, their flagship IPA.

WHERE TO STAY

The “Escape and Save” offer at the Omni Grove Park Inn provides 10 percent off stays of two or more nights. Alternatively, the boutique Aloft Hotel in the heart of downtown Asheville offers brewery and culinary packages for weekend visits.

Boone  

WHERE TO PLAY

Boone Golf Club
A recent renovation of this enjoyable, yet challenging, Ellis Maples design changed the routing and added a new par three. It’s the home course for Appalachian State University’s golf team.

Mountain Aire
Not to be confused with the private Mountain Air, this municipal course in West Jefferson has extreme views and elevation changes that put a huge smile on your face. The 200-foot drop from tee to green on the 3rd hole is a sign of what’s to come.

Linville Golf Club
This 1924 Donald Ross design showcases many of the master’s classic green complexes. Play available only to those staying at the nearby
Eseeola Lodge, 30 minutes from Boone.

WHERE TO EAT

Dan’l Boone Inn
Country ham, biscuits, fried chicken, and every other Southern delicacy served all-you-can-eat style. Come hungry.

Canyons Restaurant
Just up the road in Blowing Rock, come here to sample local beers, good food, and breathtaking views across the mountains all the way into Tennessee.

Woodlands Barbecue
One of the area’s best joints for N.C.-style BBQ (using a tasty vinegar-based sauce). Go for the chicken wings and ribs. It’s always packed, so get there early, particularly on evenings with live music.

WHERE TO STAY

Avoid “leafer season” (autumn) to secure the best rates and ensure availability at hotels. The Eseeola Lodge’s golf package includes a round at Linville Golf Club, with breakfast and dinner, starting at $295 per person (double occupancy) in the spring and $350 in the fall. The budget-minded won’t miss out by staying in any of the chain hotels in Boone. Spend the money saved on playing Boone Golf Club again.

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