Golf Guide

Golf Guide

Golfing in the High Country can be as enjoyable an experience as anywhere in the country. The trick for golfers who are not members of a club is to find the best public courses.


The golf director at Sugar Mountain, Tom McAuliffe, said the area has some of the finest golf in the country, but 90 percent of it is at private venues.If a non-member is looking for a good day on the links, however, McAuliffe can point them in the right direction.

“My duties are promulgating the gospel of having a good time,” he said. McAuliffe is in his sixth year at Sugar Mountain and has written golfing articles for the Mountain Times, Sundown Times and now writes for Carolina Mountain Living. Of course, his favorite is easy to guess.

“Right now we’re getting this golf course open and it’s in really good condition,” he said of Sugar Mountain. “Eight or nine days ago we still had spots of snow on the course, but it’s in great shape.”

He touts the greens crew at Sugar and points out that, though it is a par 64 and not a par 72 championship course, it is still a great place to golf.

“The fact of the matter is it’s not to be taken lightly or dismissed because it’s not a full-sized golf course,” he said. “Its condition belies any of the labels ‘municipal’ or ‘executive’ tend to evoke. It’s a little knock-out.”

Among the local public links, McAuliffe also speaks highly of Red Tail Mountain in Mountain City, Tenn. The course used to be known as Roan Valley, but is under new ownership.

With new ownership comes new land. The course is expanding onto adjacent property and the new owners are promising more money for the upkeep and turf program. The course at Red Tail Mountain also offers several holes with drastic elevation changes from the tee to the green.

The Web site offers three reviews of the course, all favorable. One post from jgdove from Raleigh offers “a woman’s point of view” on the short red tees and playable gold tees. Her review states “Very enjoyable mountain course; each hole has own unique layout and approach shots must be accurate for good scoring.”

A review by Ross Raphael of Washington, D.C. says the course offers some of the best views in the area. The mountainous portion of the course is challenging, it says, offering a wide open tee shot but requiring precision on the approach to the green.

Jerry Moretz coaches Watauga High School’s girls’ golf team and is quick to agree with that assessment of Red Tail Mountain. “For some reason I can’t play good golf over there,” Moretz said. “I see it wide open and I try to pull back and kill it. It taxes my ability because I’m not as good around the greens as I should be. It really pushes me to the limit.”

But for a regular outing, Moretz prefers the twilight rates at Boone Golf Course or a trip to West Jefferson to play at Mountain Aire. The Mountain Aire course has seen some improvements over the years, Moretz said, and offers some challenges and one “target-practice” perk.

“It’s hilly and that’s the only drawback,” he said. “They’ve lengthened it a little bit and the greens are slicker than they used to be. It’s a pretty good little challenging course. There are also lots of condos around to hit.”

McAuliffe said Mountain Aire is run by a great group of people and offers a friendly atmosphere at reasonable prices. Jefferson Landing is also in the area, but is a private course. Guests of members can play there up to six times each year.

Mountain Glen is another to check out. Watauga High School’s boys’ golf coach Mike Northern said they are notorious for having fast greens, which can offer a challenge if the approach shot is off.

“That’s a fun little course,” Northern said. “Mountain Glen’s greens can be challenging as well if you’re on the wrong side because their greens are slick.”Northern, being a member at the Boone Golf Club, has his favorite just as McAuliffe prefers Sugar.

Boone’s course offers some of the best tee boxes in the area, as well as well-maintained fairways and greens. It simultaneously plays to golfers of many ability levels.

“For the golfer coming up in the summertime, it’s not a tough golf course where you have to be precise off the tee,” Northern said. “But your approach shot has to be precise because if you land on the wrong side of the green, you might have a 100-foot putt.”

For those looking for something a bit different, there is also Willow Creek in Boone, a 9-hole executive par 3 course. It is longer than a regular par 3, commonly known as a chip & putt, and offers an economical outing for golfers who want a quick round.

For those looking to play at private courses, there are also courses like Hound Ears and Beech Mountain, which are more pricey but offer good golf.For a trip to the driving range, the Mountaineer Golf Center is located on the 105 extension in Boone and has buckets that range from $5 to $9. They have two hitting areas where customers can hit from mats or grass. Their facility includes a chipping green and a putt-putt area. A pro shop is also on site.

The High Country seems to have lost one course. Hawksnest is trying to expand their ski slopes onto the land used for their course. They were initially blocked by the town of Seven Devils, but an appeal will challenge the ruling and might win.Even with the loss, the southern Appalachians offer some of the best golf around and golfers can even find a good round at many area public courses for a good price.

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