In our public golf series, this time we head off to North Carolina to check out the best public golf courses in Charlotte.
Although not the capital city of the Tar Heel state, an accolade held by Raleigh, Charlotte is by far the largest city.
There are some distinguished private golf courses around the city, which you can read about below. But this article is all about highlighting the best Charlotte public golf on offer.
The best public golf courses in Charlotte, North Carolina
|1||Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club|
|2||Rock Barn Country Club & Spa (Jackson Course)|
|3||Rocky River Golf Club|
|4||Eagle Chase Golf Club|
|5||Warrior Golf Club|
|6||Mooresville Golf Club|
|7||Skybrook Golf Club|
|8||Carolina Lakes Golf Club|
|9||Deer Brook Golf Club|
|10||Red Bridge Golf Club|
|Value for money||Deer Brook Golf Club|
|Groups||Mooresville Golf Club|
|Clubhouse||Rock Barn Country Club & Spa|
|Views||Skybrook Golf Club|
1. Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club
We kick off our list of the best public golf courses in Charlotte with the superb Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club.
Located to the north of the city, a half hour’s drive up towards Lake Norman, the club occupies an idyllic and isolated spot. Surrounded by a dense wall of Carolina pines, this is an immensely popular semi-private club.
In fact, many golfers who play here, inevitably inquire into membership costs! And that is because the golf course at Verdict Ridge is consistently ranked as one of, if not the best public golf course in the Charlotte area.
One of the areas where Verdict Ridge differentiates itself is in course conditioning. The tee boxes, fairways and green complexes are more often than not, in pristine condition. You can tell this is a semi-private club.
Yet another attraction is the fact the course appeals to both high and low handicap golfers. For the better golfers, to score well here, local knowledge and clean execution are essential.
Having this local knowledge will help point out where to land your ball off the tee. Due to the rolling nature of the Carolina topography, there is rarely a flat lie. And therefore depending where you end up with your tee shot, will really influence whether you score on the hole or not.
Rapid but fair greens await when you do eventually hit the green.
2. Rock Barn Country Club & Spa (Jackson Course)
Next up is the super impressive Rock Barn Golf & Spa. Yet another semi-private club, Rock Barn Golf & Spa is located up in Conover. From central Charlotte, it will take about an hour to get there, but boy is it worth it!
There are two championship courses onsite, the Jones Course which is private. And the Jackson Course, which is open to the public.
The Jones Course was designed by the great Robert Trent Jones Jr. and is actually the more recent of the courses. It opened in 1993 and since then has been awarded numerous awards.
As for the Jackson Course, having opened in 1969 it is the original layout at Rock Barn. It was designed by Tom Jackson who across three decades was responsible for more than one hundred course layouts.
Having driven up towards the mountains, it won’t come as a surprise that the routing features plenty of movement and elevation change. Without pointing out the obvious, this is one of the main challenges to contend with.
Having a flat lie is clearly a luxury playing the Jackson Course. But if you do, you may score well, being iron and approach shot friendly.
All-in-all, this is an enjoyable and incredibly well conditioned course. Charlotte public golf doesn’t get much better than this.
3. Rocky River Golf Club
Let’s be honest here, if you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful round of golf, Rocky River Golf Club may not be your best choice.
As far as Charlotte public golf goes, it’s one of the best, so don’t worry about quality. It’s just, depending on what day you play, Rocky River has some rather noisy neighbors.
The club is located to the northeast of Charlotte, in the Charlotte/Concord metro area. And it is here that the iconic NASCAR racetrack, the Charlotte Motor Speedway is located. It also includes the zMAX Dragway, featuring a four-lane strip for drag racing.
Oh and throw in a dirt track as well, let’s just say this isn’t just golf and nature.
But please do not let that put you off!
For starters, this Dan Maples designed golf course is fantastic and without doubt one of the staples in the Charlotte public golf scene. Being affiliated to the nearby Embassy Suites, gives the course a kind of resort feel.
Despite the proximity to its loud neighbors, the routing is actually very much at one with nature. There is no housing bordering the course. Just dense forest, lakes and wetlands.
And what is unique about the course, are the boulders which weren’t moved as part of the build. You can tee off one on the third hole. Whilst on the same hole, a large boulder splits the fairway. Great fun.
4. Eagle Chase Golf Club
Down towards New Salem, southeast of Charlotte, is the immensely popular Eagle Chase Golf Club.
This part of Union County, Marshville, is renowned for having a hilly topography. So much so, these drastic elevation changes make golfers think they’re playing mountain golf.
This relatively unique playing condition is no doubt why Eagle Chase is so popular. And this being only a short drive from downtown Charlotte!
The routing was designed by Tom Jackson and opened in 1994. Due to the topography, this is one of those examples where the challenge in mapping out the routing would have simply been to make it playable.
But Jackson did just that and with a variety of different tee boxes, also ensured various levels of golfer can play here.
If you do play Eagle Chase, bring every club with you because you’ll need them. With twists and turns, uphill and downhill approach shots, this will be as tricky as it is entertaining.
5. Warrior Golf Club
Up towards China Grove, a forty-five minute drive from central Charlotte, is the fantastic Warrior Golf Club.
The name doesn’t really give you an indication of what you’re going to be up against playing here. In fact, you’ll need to have a warrior spirit not to lose a ball getting around 18-holes.
Warrior Golf Club is wrapped around the fifty-two acre Lake Wright. This provides a stunning backdrop to many of the courses’ holes. But it also provides an ever present hazard patiently waiting to swallow any stray shots.
The course opened in 1999 and was designed by the relatively unknown Stan Gentry. But experienced or not, Gentry was able to create an intriguing routing, which takes full advantage of the natural surroundings.
Half of the course is cut through the elegant woodland, whilst the other half interplays with the majestic Lake Wright. It’s fair to say some of the finishing holes are some of the more scenic ones, starting around the 15th hole.
6. Mooresville Golf Club
Mooresville Golf Club has a fascinating history, one which entwines it with one of the greatest golf course designers of all time, Donald Ross.
Back in 1948, Donald Ross was commissioned to design a 9-hole course for the exclusive use of the Burlington Mill employees. And for approximately three decades, it remained an exclusive nine-hole course.
However, in the mid-70s, it was sold to the town of Mooresville, at which point the name changed to Mooresville Municipal Golf Course. And the second nine-hole was built, work which was headed up by Porter Gibson.
Yet in 2016, one of the biggest transformations took shape here. The hugely talented Kris Spence was brought in to oversee a vast renovation, both upgrading and improving the course.
This multi-million dollar investment also witnessed a stunning new 18,000 square foot clubhouse as well as first-class practice facilities. It was also at this time the name changed to its current version, Mooresville Golf Club.
The course plays like two very different nines. The first nine holes are relatively open, easing you into the round. Some would even say links-style. Whilst the back nine is arguably more challenging, with tight fairways requiring the utmost accuracy off the tee.
This is a fine course and one to keep an eye on. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it climb up these rankings in the years to come.
7. Skybrook Golf Club.
This is another course worth keeping a very close eye on and one shaking up the Charlotte public golf scene. This is primarily because in 2019, the course underwent a major renovation as well as a change of ownership.
This investment has ensured Skybrook Golf Club is a firm entity on this list of best public golf courses in Charlotte. It may even help push the course much further up in the near future.
It is located in Huntersville, twenty minutes drive north east of Charlotte. This is Mecklenburg County, another area renowned for its hilly topography and rolling hills. Fortunately, this translates beautifully into designing a top class public course.
It was designed by John LaFoy and opened in 2000, making it one of the newest courses to open in the greater Charlotte area.
From the back tees, the course stretches to almost 7,000 yards. Scoring well from these tees, considering the mountain-style nature of the course, is no mean feat. In fact constant elevation changes is the main challenge playing here, although landing areas are relatively generous.
Five sets of tees make this a welcome venue for all levels of golfer. Slightly more expensive than some of the other courses on this list, but one well worth playing.
8. Carolina Lakes Golf Club
South of the city, just over a half hour’s drive, is Carolina Lakes Golf Club. It is located in the growing city of Indian Land, over the border in South Carolina.
The sprawling course was designed by Roger Rulewich and opened for play in 1981.
Set within a large retirement community, do expect housing to line around half the holes. Yet those holes not lined by housing are tucked into the verdant natural environment and many are very picturesque. Lined by maples, oak trees and pines, this is idyllic.
As to be expected, due to the housing comes a high number of out-of-bounds. This is one of the key reasons Carolina Lakes is such a challenging course.
Out of bounds on numerous holes, lakes, streams, narrow tree lined fairways, you need to have your wits about you playing here. And from the back tees, the course stretches to over 7,000 yards.
And you can’t forget the bunkers. There are tons and tons of bunkers. Good luck staying out of them.
The signature hole is unquestionably the 16th, a par-3 over water to a green protected all along the front by a huge bunker.
9. Deer Brook Golf Club
Over in Cleveland County towards the city of Shelby, is the fantastic Deer Brook Golf Club. You’re not quite in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but with the movement in the land, you can sense you’re close.
Opened in 1999, the course was a design completed by the duo of Richard Robbins and Brian Lussier. Both talented designers have enjoyed highly successful careers in golf course architecture.
They’ve also both spent time working in the Nicklaus Design firm, building the lofty reputations they’ve thoroughly deserved.
At Deer Brook, they’ve created a wonderful layout, which from the back tees stretches to just under 7,000 yards. There are some beautiful stretches of holes as the routing winds through the elegant woodland.
Landing areas are generous, so off the tee shouldn’t pose too many problems. It is around the green complexes you’ll need to be on top of your game. Fast greens with plenty of undulations and movement. Beware!
And conditioning is paramount at Deer Brook, giving the club a country club feel.
The term ‘hidden gem’ is used by locals when referring to Deer Brook. It might be a reference to the quality of the golf. Or simply due to the fact it doesn’t appear on any online tee time websites. Call to book.
10. Red Bridge Golf Club
From one side of Charlotte straight over to the other, this time we head due east towards Locust.
Just over a half hour’s drive from the city you’ll find Red Bridge Golf Club, which is without doubt one of the best public golf courses near Charlotte.
The routing stretches across the Stanly and Cabarrus county borders, occupying a gorgeous plot of land, very much at one with nature.
Red Bridge is one of the newest courses in the region, opening in 2009, and designed by David Postlethwait. Postlethwait worked for many years under the tutelage of Pete Dye, whilst then working at the PGA kicking off the TPC concept.
The semi-private Red Bridge Golf Club has a superb layout, and nearly always delivers.
It’s not the longest, with from the back tees the yardage measuring just over 6,700 yards. But it’s a true test of golf, with positionment off the tee critical. If not it really will play longer.
Where Red Bridge really does differentiate itself from the rest of the crowd is the quality of the greens. Plenty of movement and well defined, expect good speeds and a true roll.