Golf Travel: Charlotte – On The Upswing

Gaston Country Club (Photo: Scott MacLeod)

“The Queen City” It’s a grand title and one befitting a North Carolina with all the dignity of the Royal Family member it was named after. But Charlotte, well, it’s way more than that.

A demur as its name indicates Charlotte is a charmer for a number of reasons, beyond manners alone. Although, you’ll hear the words “sir” and “mam” on a regular basis.

The largest city in the state of North Carolina (almost 900,000 core residents and 2.2 million in the metro area), is about as diverse as they come. And as much as they love their heritage, having been settled back in 1755, you’ll find this is one of the most progressive urban areas as a major banking and industry hub. While many residents are well-established, it is still a youthful city with young adults driving changes in the culture.

Progressive is also how the city sees and positions itself. In the 1980’s the town made a concerted effort to change the references to the city core to “Uptown”, believing “downtown” had a negative connotation. It has taken root and so has an attitude that Charlotte is always “on the way up.”

A minor change, yes, but a resounding one.

On a recent visit, it was proven to me just that it is not just talk, good things are happening in Charlotte. Things that make it even more attractive as a golf travel location.

Sure, there was the glitz of the 2017 PGA Championship going on at the Quail Hollow Club but that was not all that got my attention. As an aside to the major championship there was great golf, accommodations, restaurants, and attractions to be found.

Home Base

Whether you choose to hang your hat in the city centre (Hampton Inn), the outer edges (Ballantyne Resort), or more distance suburbs like Rock Hill, SC (Hilton Garden Inn), there are plenty of places to suit your budget and needs.

The Hampton sits just a few feet from the main convention centre as well as the NASCAR Hall of Fame, opened less than a decade ago and an important attraction with the city being the home of stock car racing.

It puts you within blocks of the EpiCenter, a multi-story restaurant and night club complex, or the more than 200 restaurants that populate the city core.

Further afield, The Ballantyne, a Luxury Collection hotel, is a four-star affair where more than forty PGA TOUR players chose to stay during this year’s PGA Championship. And it was not for location alone. (Although Upton and the airport are less than 30 km away).

The Ballantyne is an exquisite hotel where service is paramount and the staff deliver on the details. On top of well-appointed rooms, they feature a large spa, great outdoor spaces, the Dana Rader Golf School, and their own golf course often voted the best of the publicly accessible facilities in the city.

More Golf

For those in the know, it’s hard to mention the city of Charlotte and NOT mention golf. With more than 80 golf courses, including more than 50 available to the public, there are hardly any limits on what you can access in this heart of North Carolina, and slightly into nearby South Carolina. And if you have some connections or ask nicely, you might even find yourself on some private fairways.

On a recent pass through, said connection found our group on the tumbling property of the Gaston Country Club, the home of PGA TOUR player Harold Varner III. The course typifies many you will find in this region in that it has a lot more elevation that you might expect. As a result, tee boxes often present pleasing panoramas, and you see a witness another common thread in this mid-American weather zone – premium turf conditions.

Springfield Country Club (Photo: Scott MacLeod)

At a peak rate around $60 on weekend, the Springfield Country Club in Fort Mill (SC) welcomes visitors and provides full value for the price.

Even before stepping on the golf course our group was impressed with the service and amenities at Springfield.  The vast practice area features a golf school run by Canadian Marc Lapointe and the staff made all feel welcome with plenty of direction and an eager-to-please attitude.

From the first fairway that tumbled downward we were treated to a layout that was engaging in overall design, demanding a variety of shots and keeping our interest right until the head. Like Gaston, large elevation changes marked the course and fairways and greens were flawless.  It’s a difficult course for those who hit the ball out of position often but better players will appreciate the strategy needed to play it well.

Charlotte proved it can be a true golf destination and it would take years to complete a full circuit of their golf properties, restaurants, and other attractions.

All the more reason to make a few return trips, and for Canadians traveling north or south, it also makes a convenient stopover where you can have some fun along the length of your journey.

Fast Facts

Charlotte Travel & Tourism