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01 Jan Avery and Watauga Counties: Mountain Golf at Its Peak

— Jan 01, 2008 — This winter, as the thermometer flirts with freezing temperatures, many golfers are discovering that some of the best golf can still be had in higher elevations.

And chances are, the savviest duffers will be heading toward two golf-rich counties in particular: Avery and Watauga, located in the northwest portion of our state.

That’s because arguably the finest collection of mountain courses inAmerica – public, private and resort – can be found here.

Of the former county, the late sportswriter Smith Barrier of the Greensboro Daily News once wrote: “Avery County has three stop lights and no traffic jams. It also has four championship golf courses of major ranking, making it the number one county in America for outstanding mountain golf.”

That quadrumvirate of championship courses includes Grandfather Golf and Country Club, Linville Golf Club, Linville Ridge and the Elk River Club – all of which are located within about a ten-mile radius of each other.

Of the four, Linville Golf Club has perhaps the most noteworthy history.

In fact, this is where golf began in North Carolina – the original course, designed and built by the McRae family in 1895 – predated the first holes at Pinehurst by at least three years. The McRae course was later supplanted by one designed by Pinehurst’s own Donald Ross in 1924.

And though each is different, the “Big Four” share one thing in common: they’re all laid out on some of the most stunning tracts of land in America.

Of all the real estate he had to work with at Linville Ridge, architect George Cobb said, “The scenery here is absolutely fantastic, but we can’t take all the credit for that. God’s the one who created that and you have to give Him credit…But we were working really closely with Him.”

Linville Ridge holds the distinction of being the highest-elevated golf course in the East.

To get a crack at these courses, it’s necessary to have friends in high places. Grandfather, Linville Ridge and Banner Elk are all private, but don’t worry because there are plenty of other challenging options to choose from. Linville Golf Club, for example, offers golfing privileges to anyone staying at Eseeola Lodge.

Further north, in Watauga, Ellis Maples’ superb Boone Golf Club is open to the public. So too is Beech Mountain, considered one of America’s finest short courses – 6,000 yards from the tips – and at 4,800 feet it provides views into Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

You’ll also find the elegant semi-private Hound Ears Lodge and Country Club near the charming town of Blowing Rock.