DESTINATION: CHARLOTTE, NC
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Boogity! Boogity!! Boogity!!! LET'S GO... golfing, boys??? Yuuup! Whether you're coming in for a NASCAR race, an NFL or NBA game, even a golf tourney, we'll give you the down and dirty on where to play when in the Queen City.
About the Region: It’s official, Charlotte has become a sports destination city. Let’s start with the fact this is the “home” for nearly every team in NASCAR, the sport’s Hall of Fame, three big race NASCAR weekends a year at Charlotte Motor Speedway and even now 4-wide NHRA drag racing at ZMax Dragway. While racing was the roots of the sports movement here, there is now a forest of options from which to choose...
The Carolina Panthers have sold out every home game they’ve ever played and just sold for the highest figure ever for a sports franchise. The stadium also holds the ACC Football Championship, the Belk Bowl and a preseason kickoff game. You can throw in some international soccer friendlies that sold the 70K+ seat stadium out too! There is even the beginning whispers of a Super Bowl bid down the line.
The Hornets are back in town and will host the NBA All-Star game in the near future. A state-of-the-art minor league baseball stadium opened just a few years ago ‘Uptown’ (that’s what downtown is called in Charlotte speak) with a view of the entire skyline from nearly every seat in the house. See?
Then there is professional golf…
Did you know: The PGA Championship held in Charlotte in 2017 the first major championship held in North Carolina outside of the Village of Pinehurst since the 1974 PGA Championship at Tanglewood Park? Some guy named Trevino won that one. Sure, the USGA loves Pinehurst No. 2, but it just doesn’t seem possible that it took the PGA over 40 years to come back.
Well in case you hadn’t heard, it went REALLY well! Both of your favorite Golf Crusaders actually attended the final round and found it among the best golf events either one of us had ever seen in person. A return trip for the annual tour event – or the President’s Cup in 2021 – is in the hopper!
Speaking of the annual event, Charlotte has hosted the Wachovia Wells Fargo Invitational at Quail Hollow (the same course as ’17 PGA and President’s Cup) for the past decade or so. There’s a reason though that the PGA awarded their biggest prize to the biggest city in the Carolinas... The course is a magnificent test and the galleries are as passionate as any outside of NYC. Plus, you can play the Jim Nantz drinking game while watching the broadcast – drink every time he says “Green Mile”!
While the golf conversation around ‘The QC’ tends to start with Quail these days, it doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of good public tracks that you can play if you’re in the area. Charlotte is mainly known as the second largest banking hub in the country, so as many people come to town for business as they do for pleasure.
If you’re going, here are a few pointers on where to stay and where to play…
About the Golf: Charlotte has its own distinct golf flavor. It isn’t a true golf destination the way that D.C. or Atlanta are viewed. With respect, it's not those places, but it's come a long way. The greens fees are reasonable for a large metro area (what costs you $100 in those cities is often just $65 here) and the course inventory has both quantity and quality. The Queen City benefited from the golf boom of the 90s and early 2000s as much as any major city in the eastern U.S.
Most of the courses inside the I-485 loop are private; the ones that aren’t private are munis about which you won’t spend much time writing home. Since the three major hubs that house guests lay inside the loop as well, that means you’re probably driving a bit to your tee time if you stay Uptown (for the nightlife), South Park (to be closer to Quail Hollow for the PGA events) or the University Area (popular for its proximity to the racetrack).
That being said, keep an eye out online if the private courses are offering any public deals during any of the major sports weeks. You might get lucky and there are some great courses if you can get on. Charlotte CC, Myers Park, Carolina CC & TPC Piper Glen are ones to jump at inside the loop. The Peninsula Club, Ballantyne CC and The Club at Longview are some to watch outside the loop. Check Boxgroove.com closer to the event to see who’s posting slots.
Here’s the best of the many public offerings in town and some advice on where to stay if you’re new to town:
North Stay: near Charlotte Motor Speedway/Concord Mills or in University City Play: Rocky River, Highland Creek and Skybrook are all solid tests at a similar level of difficulty, layout and price. Birkdale is a nice Arnold Palmer daily-fee course (the only in town), but has had its share of management drama - best to check local/recent reviews before thinking about teeing it up there.
For the thrill seeker, don’t miss a chance to drive up to play Mike Strantz’s mountain masterpiece, Tot Hill Farm Golf Club (Asheboro, NC $39 weekday/$49 weekend). It gets less ink than some of his other courses (Tobacco Road, Caledonia, True Blue), but love it or hate it, you’ll talk about it for years to come! Stop on the way in/out or just drive up for the day. It's about an hour drive from the racetrack up NC-49 - but it’s worth the effort!
The Mike Strantz designed Tot Hill Farm Golf Club in Asheboro, NC
Got an hour of daylight left or have some bets to settle before you leave? You're in luck then. Paradise Valley is a neat little par-3 course tucked into an apartment complex right across the street from UNC-Charlotte's new football stadium (really nice BTW). The greens aren't the best you'll play on all week, but there are some fun holes, including an island green. BMAC & I hit it up the morning before the final round of the PGA and played all 18 in under an hour. (Crusader Note: the decision was made to play in the hotel room about midnight, after about 8-9 beers of course. "Let's even make a tee time online for 8:30!" You've heard of drunk dialing, well we've created "drunk tee-timing". Freaking idiots. We didn't even bring our clubs because we knew we couldn't resist the temptation. This poor example of decision making was regrettable about 3:00 later that day in the 90+ degree temps at Quail).
South Stay: South Park, Ballantyne or Pineville
Play: Tega Cay Golf Club (pronounced TEE-gah KAY, Tega Cay, SC $48/$57) sits on a peninsula overlooking Lake Wylie and boasts 27 holes of spectacular conditions, including some of the best greens in the region. This feels more like a mountain course than something you’d expect in a flat-ish metro area. Start on the Grandview loop and you’ll see what I mean on that first tee box.
Waterford and Springfield are also on the South Carolina side of the border, while The Club at Ballantyne Resort is an excellent option right off of I-485 - I recommend a room at The Lodge at Ballantyne - very cool accommodations!
East Stay: Matthews Play: Emerald Lake, Olde Sycamore & The Divide are all residential courses tucked within a mile or two of the outer loop, I'd steer clear of those. Charlotte National, Eagle Chase and Red Bridge are just about golf and are your better bets. The standout on this side of town has long been Stonebridge Golf Club (Waxhaw, NC $44/$59). Course architect Richard Osbourne’s classic layout is a pleasure to walk and is just a flat-out awesome layout. Another great example of Charlotte’s course diversity. The course was recently gifted to Wingate University... I hear that is an awesome school!
Budget-minded golfers (and golf architecture nerds like us!) should stop in at Monroe Golf Club - just a few miles from Stonebridge - and take in the restored Donald Ross-designed front nine and a Tom Jackson-added back nine.
West At least the airport is over there. And hey…You can see all the places you wish you played in the other parts of town from the air when you leave! (#dontbethatguy)
However, Verdict Ridge stands out from the crowd just off the shores of the west bank of Lake Norman. A one-off design by a former judge (hence the cool name) is a rollercoster of emotion, great shot values and conditions mixed into one. Many tee variations and distance options keep it playable for the humble golfer willing to play the correct yardage.
If you are stuck in Shelby or Gastonia for some strange reason (i.e. your company hates you and is trying to get you to quit - but that's another story), then Cleghorn Plantation is Rutherfordton, NC is the best thing within 50 miles on that side of town open to the public. It is now owned by the Tryon Equestrian Center (a huge attraction in that space), so if horseback is your preferred means of transport, this is also your spot!
(*CRUSADER TIP* If you didn’t skim straight to the courses part, good for you! Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, NC is open to the public. Not many places you can just walk out and play that held a major championship. They have 36 holes, so if you travel in/out of town through Winston-Salem, stop and play a piece of history)