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Golf Roundup

Posted On August 7, 2020

These courses are a must try…no putts about it

By CHRISTINE HENNESSEY 

The Highlands-Cashiers area offers many options for golfers of all skill levels. From the soaring views on the mountains to challenging creeks in the valleys, these state-of-the-art courses are designed by legendary architects who know exactly how to balance the beauty of the area with a passion for the game. Below are six must-play golf courses in the region, along with a few insider tips to help you achieve your best game yet.   

Red Bird Golf 

Red Bird Golf is part of Sapphire Valley Resort, a four seasons resort nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, that highlights the best of North Carolina golf. Designed by Reid Horne and opened in 2001, this 32-acre, 9-hole executive course is easy to walk and beautifully set along the Horsepasture River. The par-3 course makes for a quick but challenging game, great for those who want to squeeze in a quick round while visiting or exploring the area. In addition, the course offers three different tee placements, the only public driving range in the area, golf professionals on staff, electric carts and pull carts, a weekly golf clinic, a junior golf program, a four-week long "after school" golf program and weekly seasonal golf scrambles. A few years ago, Red Bird also added a 9-hole FootGolf course to the mix, which follows similar rules to golf, except with a soccer ball and a bigger hole, and can be enjoyed by a wide variety of age groups—no golfing skills necessary. 

67 Cherokee Trail

Sapphire, NC 28774

(828) 743-1991

Sapphire National Golf Club 

Sapphire National Golf Club boasts premier playing conditions, tranquil mountain views and dramatic elevation changes. The only golf course in the Highlands, Cashiers and Sapphire region that is open to the public, the 18-hole course features 6,147 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 70. Designed by Ron Garl and a recipient of the prestigious 4 ½ star golf course rating from Golf Digest, the course recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation and offers a memorable experience for avid golfers. Players will be tempted to pull out the camera multiple times during the game, particularly at the 13th hole, which is nestled beside a majestic waterfall, and at the postcard-perfect 15th hole, a downhill par-3 that hosts an island green. When you’re finished with the course, be sure to stop by the full-service restaurant and bar, a partnership with Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company, which showcases the region’s finest craft beers and overlooks the 8th and 18th holes. 

50 Slicers Avenue

Sapphire, NC 28774

(828) 743-1174 

Bear Lake Golf Club 

The Bear Lake Golf Club is a top-of-line course 9-hole, par 29, 1,932 yard course that sits at an elevation of 3,400 to 3,700 feet above sea level. It is one of only two courses designed by Nicklaus Design in Western North Carolina and debuted in 2008. The best views that can be found at beautiful Bear Lake are located on the golf course, overlooking both the Blue Ridge Mountains and the valley below. Bear Lake Golf Club also boasts on-site golf pro Courtney Gunter, who also serves as Western Carolina University’s women's golf coach. Gunter serves as Bear Lake’s golf director and offers lessons, clinics and tournaments for those who want to improve their game. Although the course may seem small, Gunter cautions players not to be fooled. “It keeps you interested and it’s fun to play,” she says. Every hole is unique and has its own set of challenges, but the rewards—not to mention the views—make it worth it.

1536 Grandview Drive

Tuckasegee, NC 28783

(828) 293-5005

Old Edwards Inn 

Old Edwards Club is about more than golf. It’s a lifestyle, one that embraces relaxed elegance, mountain living and camaraderie among members and guests. Carved out of the Blue Ridge mountains, Old Edwards Inn’s Tom Jackson-designed 18-hole course offers one of the most beautiful and challenging games of golf in Highlands, NC. The front nine meanders serenely through a lush mountain valley, while the back nine takes players to the top of the highest ridges and alongside a towering granite cliff. Old Edwards Club includes a golf shop, as well as a restaurant featuring casually elegant farm-to-table food from Chef David Young and sweeping, open-air views of the course. Members enjoy access and member discounts to amenities at Old Edwards Inn and Spa, including Madison's Restaurant and Wine Garden, Art's at The Lodge, the Fitness Center and classes, Old Edwards Spa and Salon and Acorns Boutique. 

688 Highlands Cove Drive

Cashiers, NC 28717

(828) 526-1783

Sky Valley Country Club  

Sky Valley Country Club opened its course over 40 years ago. The original design by course architect Bill Watts capitalized on the area’s natural features, and a major renovation and redesign by Bill Bergin in 2007 transformed it into an 18-hole course with a championship layout. Today, it offers picturesque views played on pristine bent grass greens, fairways and tees. The course is between 4,000 and 6,900 yards, depending on which of the seven sets of tees you choose to play from, a range that allows golfers to play at their skill level and choose their challenge. Some of the unique features of this course include five small ponds connected by creeks that cut across the fairways and are very much in play, as well as elevated tee boxes that offer nice views from the valley course. Sky Valley Country Club is also home to a golf learning center, which includes a practice range and large putting green, and instruction is available from PGA Professional and Golf Manager Steve Heher. Other facilities include two Bocci courts and three croquet lawns. But the best news is that the course is open to the public, and available for play year-round.  

568 Sky Valley Way

Sky Valley, GA 30537

(706) 746-5302

Cullasaja Club  

Golf legend Arnold Palmer designed this par-72 championship golf course, making many personal visits to create his mountain masterpiece. He walked the land to ensure that the green fairways were carefully carved into the natural landscape and streams to create a stunning experience for the low handicappers and beginners alike. At 6,900 yards, its features include undulating greens, white sand bunkers, hardwood-lined fairways and multiple tees to challenge the best golfers but still encourages beginners. The golf course is open, weather permitting, 11 months a year, with most events occurring throughout the season. Each week, members enjoy the popular Twilight Golf event, which begins at 4 pm and is followed by a cocktail reception and dinner at the Clubhouse, which is a great opportunity to establish relationships and forge new friendships. Other highlights of the season include the Mixed Member-Guest, the WGA Laurel Cup, the Ladies Member-Guest Tournament, the Men’s Invitational, the Member-Member, the Men’s Cullasaja Cup and the Ladies “Patriots Cup,” played in the same format as the famed Ryder Cup.

1371 Cullasaja Club Drive

Highlands, NC 28741

828-526-3531