An introduction to Charlotte
Nicknamed the ‘Queen City’, Charlotte is a destination which has so much to offer. Over the years it has slowly become more and more popular. The wealth of attractions on offer make this one of the most popular places for a weekend getaway.
Due to its location, not too far north and not too far south, the city has a desirable climate. So much so this really is a year round tourist destination.
Clearly it’s popular with NASCAR aficionados with the Hall of Fame a buzzing and engaging attraction. There are always new exhibits being created and numerous simulators to try your hand.
See also: What are the best golf courses in North Carolina?
As an up-and-coming city, there is a big focus on green urban planning. There are plenty of parks and outdoor activities which can be enjoyed. Great examples of this include the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, a network of trails, parks and paths. There is also the slightly more high octane U.S. National Whitewater Center, which is the largest man-made whitewater river in the world.
It is also a cultural hub. The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center is like the beating heart of culture in the city. There is also a booming craft beer scene with a number of brewery tours on offer.
All in all, Charlotte is a great up-and-coming city, with genuinely so much to offer. The State of North Carolina has some great golf courses, but Charlotte has its fair share too.
The best golf courses in Charlotte NC
The Club at Longview
The first course on our list of best golf courses near Charlotte North Carolina, is the wonderful Jack Nicklaus signature course at Longview.
About a half hour’s drive south of the city into the verdant suburbs, and you’ll arrive at your destination. This is a lifestyle club. Accordingly there is a range of facilities and amenities for the membership and their families.
To top off those amenities is the fantastic golf course, designed by the emblematic Jack Nicklaus. And this is one of his signature courses no less, one where the personal seal of approval was given.
The course opened for play in 2003 and is both challenging and fun to play. From the backs, the ‘Nicklaus’ tees, the course stretches just over 7,000 yards. There is however a choice of three more tees on each hole to choose from.
The expansive site was primed to receive a top-class golf course. Gently rolling hills, an abundance of water and all kinds of hardwoods and pines are present. The thick foliage also serves to hide away many of the large properties which surround the course.
Myers Park Golf
This is one of the closest golf courses to downtown Charlotte. In fact from the first tee you have unabridged views across the ‘Queen City’ skyline, something unique and highly valued.
So highly valued, it is estimated the joining fee for Myers Park is close to $100,000. As such, the club has all the expected amenities and facilities. This includes the grand and stately clubhouse; lane swimming pool, health and fitness center and five-star service.
But the centerpiece to this award-winning club is the iconic golf course. Its origins stretch back to the Golden Age of golf course architecture.
The first architect to influence the routing was A.W.Tillinghurst. He was closely followed by Donald Ross, a man who has his name against so many courses in North Carolina. In fact the course is largely considered a Ross design due to the far-reaching changes he made.
Like many around the Charlotte area, the course is heavily tree-lined. Majestic hardwoods are present on most holes. The fairways are generous to encourage aggressive play, but there are many bunkers strategically positioned to cut off the obvious drive or approach shot.
Ballantyne Country Club
In the heavily wooded suburbs south of Charlotte, a few miles from the border with South Carolina, is another private member’s club called Ballantyne Country Club.
Like many of the private clubs in this area, Ballantyne prides itself on the finest service and top class amenities. Tennis courts, tick. Health club, tick. 45,000 square foot clubhouse, tick. You get the idea.
But what really elevates this club is the superb Rees Jones designed 18-hole championship course. This is an example of Rees Jones at his career defining best.
There are distinctive elevation changes that come into play on numerous holes, as does ample water. Even as of the second hole there is a large lake to the right of the green. And that continues onto the third and fourth holes.
The 3rd hole is a 180 yard par-3 straight over water. Although you do have the option to bail slightly to the left. The 4th requires you to carry a decent drive over water to reach the tree-lined fairway. Following your drive, attack the green whilst avoiding the lurking sand traps.
Quail Hollow Golf Club
The club opened in the late 1950’s and is just under a half hour’s drive from central Charlotte. Quail Hollow is without doubt one of the finest golf courses in Charlotte and also one of the most challenging.
But first and foremost, this is a course originally designed by George Cobb. Cobb has created many great courses throughout his career, but funnily enough his most prominent work isn’t even an 18-hole layout. Instead it is the par-3 course at Augusta National Golf Club. The one which hosts the Par-3 Contest on the Wednesday preceding the Masters every year.
Yes this is a Cobb layout, but over the years many prominent architects have put their mark on Quail Hollow. Arnold Palmer modified the course in the mid-80s. Whilst the great Tom Fazio reconstructed the course in the late 1990s and again in 2016.
Due to the challenge the course poses, it regularly hosts PGA Tour events. The annual Wells Fargo Championship is one of them. In 2017 Quail Hollow had the enormous privilege of being the host venue to the PGA Championship. And again in 2021, the President’s Cup.
It really is a special place and one of the finest golf courses in Charlotte.
Carolina Golf Club
One of the oldest golf clubs in Charlotte and within North Carolina. Intriguingly, the history of Carolina Golf Club stretches right back to 1929. This was a time when there were few courses in the State. Also, possibly, why it had the audacity to call itself the Carolina Golf Club!
With today’s hindsight there may be some delusions of grandeur with the name, but the course is top class. The site has plenty of elevation changes and being just a matter of minutes from central Charlotte, you can see the not-too distant backdrop of the city from many holes.
To create the routing for this top class course, the original owners called upon the celebrated and highly respected Donald Ross. Ross has been the design inspiration behind so many of North Carolina’s golf courses, and Carolina Golf Club is another peach.
After the turn of the twentieth century, the club authorized a major investment into a four phase restoration and renovation of the master plan. The architect Kris Spence was brought in to work closely with Bradley Klein, who is a respected Ross historian. Spence essentially proposed a number of changes and updates, all of which needed to pass Klein’s sniff-test to ensure authenticity.
Long story short, all four phases were completed in 2009, and this included new holes being created, the removal of over 1,000 trees to allow for all the tee boxes, greens and bunkers to be rebuilt.
Charlotte Country Club
Another course whose origins stretch right back to the early twentieth century and who turned to the famed Donald Ross to route the course layout.
Charlotte Country Club is a short drive east of downtown into the leafy suburbs south of Plaza Hills. The club is surrounded by housing but very little is visible from the fairways. And despite only being minutes away from central Charlotte, this idyllic location certainly gives the semblance of being away from the noise and stress of the city.
Although the course first opened for play in 1910, it wasn’t until 1926 when Ross was hired to oversee the transformation of a mediocre layout into the world class course it is today.
Over the years there has been input from Robert Trent Jones Sr and Tom Fazio, but it is really the work of Ron Pritchard that gets the most acclaim. Pritchard was commissioned to reinstate Ross’ original design, so much so that the work of Trent Jones Sr and Fazio is largely now lost or forgotten.
Charlotte Country Club has hosted many great tournaments including the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Senior Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Amateur championships.
Gaston Country Club
The golf course at Gaston Country Club was designed by Ellis Maples, and opened for play in 1958.
This private club has a raft of onsite facilities and is positioned a good 35 minute drive to the west of Charlotte, close to Gastonia. The topography of the site has plenty of natural elevation which Maples ingeniously worked into the course routing. But nothing is too strenuous so the course makes for easy walking.
The is a large central lake, which although visible from many holes and the clubhouse, only really comes into play on a couple of holes. It makes for a wonderful central feature as looking the other way, does the impressive white-pillared clubhouse.
Over the years, Gaston has been the host course to many major events including qualifiers for the Wells Fargo Championship as well as North Carolina Women’s Amateur.
Just after the turn of the millennium in 2003, Kris Spence was commissioned to oversee a major renovation of the course, work which elevated Gaston to another level.
TPC Piper Glen
South of Charlotte towards the Raintree neighborhood and the Piper Glen freeway, is the elegant TPC Piper Glen. This is a club part of the vast network of golf courses operated by PGA Tour.
I do have to admit, this particular list has become slightly formulaic. Pretty much every course is a private country club, more often to the south of Charlotte, with a host of facilities on site including a restaurant, health club, tennis courts, pool, golf etc.
Well yes, at TPC Piper Glen you have all of the above. However, where it does differ from all of the aforementioned, is the fact the 18-hole championship course was designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer.
This is a very playable course but as you would expect with a Palmer design, there is ample risk thrown into the mixer. There are plenty of bunkers, dotted along fairways and protecting greens. It’s a slight inevitability you’ll end up in one.
Amongst natural rock outcroppings there are also ample water hazards, which come into play on a handful of holes. There are carries over water from the tee as well as some holes where water runs the whole length of the hole.
This is a wonderful course where risk / reward is a constant yet entertaining battle.
Carmel Country Club (South)
Nestled between the Carmel and Olde Providence South neighborhoods, is the vibrant country club of Carmel.
This is one of the few clubs around Charlotte to offer two 18-hole championship courses, the North and the South. Yet it is the South course which earns the greater plaudits of the two.
The origins of the club stretch back to the mid-twentieth century and it was in 1950 that the South course opened for play. The course was designed by George Cobb and has a distinctly different personality to that of the North course.
That difference in personality is now even more pronounced following the recent successful redesign by Rees Jones in 2009. There are 6 choices of tees on each hole, with the ‘Black’ tees playing the course to nearly 7,500 yards, nearly 700 yards longer than the North course.
The club owns close to 384 acres of land, which gives enough scope for the two courses. And yes there are spots where numerous holes run alongside one another, but there’s just enough distance apart not to feel overrun.