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GOLF TOURNAMENTS

GOLF

By Larry Gavrich, Founder & Editor,
Home On The Course, LLC

Golf - Tournaments

Wells Fargo Championship | Quail Hollow Country Club | Charlotte, NC
Photo Credit: Wells Fargo Championship


In North and South Carolina, it is easy to find a place to live and golf where the pros play. All three men’s professional tours – Champions, PGA and Web.com – make at least one stop annually at a Carolina golf course. Only the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) does not use a Carolina golf course for a tour event, although the LPGA has a rich history of annual stops in such places as Aiken, SC, and Bluffton, SC; and, of course, the U.S. Women’s Open was played at Pinehurst #2 in 2014. As for other future major events, the PGA Championship will return to Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course in 2021 and the U.S. Open to Pinehurst in 2024 after its own successful run there in 2014. (Note: The Symetra Tour, which features future LPGA professional golfers, holds an annual event in Asheville, NC.)

The PGA Tour makes a stop early in the season (April) at the famed Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head for the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. A month later, it’s on to the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, NC, the 7th best golf course in the state, according to the North Carolina Golf Rating Panel. The last PGA Tour stop of the year in the Carolinas is in August, at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, a classic layout designed by Donald Ross in 1926. It is the only Ross-built course on the PGA Tour.

The golf courses designed during the Golden Era of golf architecture in the first half of the 20th Century tend to be shorter than the behemoths laid out in recent years and, therefore, are often cannon fodder for the much longer hitters of today. Yet the 51-year-old Davis Love III stunned the golfing world in August when he won the Wyndham at 17 under par, testimony to the notion that Sedgefield is a course better managed than assaulted.

The Web.com tour, the apprentice tour for the PGA, made a stop last month at River Run Golf Club on Lake Norman, north of Charlotte. Earlier in the year, the BMW Charity Pro-Am was played on three courses in the Greenville area – The Reserve at Lake Keowee, Green Valley Country Club and Thornblade Club – before all competitors who qualified for the final round finished at Thornblade, a Tom Fazio design. The Rex Hospital Open, another Web.com event, was played at TPC Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh (see below).

The one and only Champions Tour event in the Carolinas was held earlier this month at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, NC, just outside Raleigh. (After the loss of a full sponsor for 2015, the Seniors tour did not return to Rock Barn Country Club in Conover, NC, after a decade-long run.)

One surprising aspect about the 10 golf courses that hosted these professional events is that they are all located inside the boundaries of golf communities. (They also span geography from the coast to the mountains.) Folks who choose to live in such neighborhoods have the bonus of not only free admission to the competitive rounds of golf, but also the opportunity to volunteer their time out on the course as spotters, crowd controllers and other helpful aides and, in some cases, serve as host families for players who might be in need of local accommodations. (The BMW Charity event, for example, is spread across three golf courses that are about one hour apart.)

Although a few resident club members may grouse about losing a long weekend of play on their own golf course and being denied access while the course is set up for the tournament, most club members are quite pleased to see how professional golfers play the holes on their courses in a competition (and playing them from remotely set tee boxes from which most of us wouldn’t dare to attempt play).

I chatted with a volunteer couple at The Reserve at Lake Keowee a few years ago, and they were thrilled to have the Web.com players on their course. Most of those players are not exactly household names, but their presence provides validation for the course the members play a few days a week. One additional bonus: Typically, the day after tournament play ends, the greens keeper leaves the flagsticks where they were for the final round so that members can enjoy play the course as the pros played it.

Most of the golf courses for tour events in the Carolinas are private, member-only clubs, but anyone serious about golf and with a few hundred dollars to spend on their passion can gain access to Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island. For the other golf clubs in the professional rotation, the cost of memberships range from a few thousand dollars in initiation fees to nearly six figures, with most clustered between $10,000 and $25,000. Dues range anywhere from around $500 per month to $1,000.

One of the more intriguing memberships in the Carolinas is the one offered by the McConnell Golf Group at Sedgefield in Greensboro, the site of August’s Wyndham Championship. Members of any McConnell-owned golf club maintain privileges at the other nine company-run clubs in the Carolinas, including another Donald Ross designed gem, Raleigh Country Club. McConnell has collected some of the best private clubs in the region, designed by virtually all of the big name modern architects (Fazio, Dye, Nicklaus, Palmer as well as Ross); spent millions of dollars to spruce them up; and offers arguably the best comprehensive golf membership in the Southeast.

Two other professional events, the aforementioned Rex Hospital Open and a women’s Symetra (developmental) tour event, were held last year at McConnell’s TPC at Wakefield Plantation and Country Club of Asheville courses, respectively. For serious golfers relocating to a warmer climate with year-round golf, the communities adjacent to McConnell golf clubs in the Raleigh, Durham, Myrtle Beach, Greensboro and other areas are worth considering.

If you are interested in joining any of these tournament clubs or finding a home adjacent to them, please contact me (see info below) and I will be pleased to provide you with more information. Who knows? Within just a few months, you could be playing where the pros play.

THE CAROLINAS PRO GOLF SCHEDULE
(2016 season/2015 winners)
PGA TOUR

RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing
Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head Island, SC
April 14-17
2015 winner: Jim Furyk


Wells Fargo Championship
Quail Hollow Country Club
Charlotte, NC
May 5-8
2015 winner: Rory McIlroy


The Wyndham Championship
Sedgefield Country Club
Greensboro, NC
August 18-21
2015 winner: Davis Love III

WEB.COM TOUR

BMW Charity Pro-Am
Qualifying Rounds at Green Valley Country Club | Greenville, SC
Reserve at Lake Keowee | Sunset, SC
Thornblade Club* | Greer, SC
2016 dates to be announced
2015 winner: Rod Pampling
* Host of final round


Rex Hospital Open
TPC at Wakefield Plantation
Raleigh, NC
May 9-15
2015 winner: Kyle Thompson


Small Business Connection Championship
River Run Country Club
Davidson, NC
2016 dates to be announced
2015 winner: Chez Reavie

CHAMPIONS TOUR

SAS Championship
Prestonwood Country Club
Cary, NC
2016 dates to be announced
2014 winner: Kirk Triplett

SYMETRA TOUR

Mission Health Wellness Classic
Country Club of Asheville
Asheville, NC
2016 dates to be announced
2015 winner: Jimin Kang