Bob Berghaus: Asheville-area course aiming at return to its glory days

Rick Merrick has worked at Etowah Valley Golf & Resort for 27 years, the past four as the head golf pro. Photo: Bob Berghaus

ETOWAH, N.C. — There was a time when Etowah Valley Golf & Resort was recognized as one of the top golfing destinations in the country.

Located 10 miles south of Asheville Regional Airport, Etowah Valley has three distinctly different nine-hole courses with the South and West layouts making up the challenging 18-hole championship course, which opened in 1967. The Edmund Ault design includes panoramic views of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains.

Like many courses, Etowah Valley suffered during the recession in 2008 and when repairs were needed there wasn’t money to put back into the course. Ownership filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013, which raised concerns about the future of the resort.

“At one point four or five years ago I didn’t know if I’d be looking at cornfields out there,” said Rick Merrick, who has worked at the club for 27 years, the last four as Etowah’s head pro.

“I just didn’t know what was going to happen. There’s a beautiful neighborhood that surrounds the course and the home owners themselves were upset and wondering what was going to happen.”

Those concerns began to dissipate when the lodge was purchased in 2013 by Kevin Griffin, who soon began spending money on improvements to the resort and golf course. Two years later, Griffin sold most of his holdings to WNC Resort Properties, LLC, made up of Asheville-area businessmen who continued with the plan for upgrades started by Griffin, who still has partial ownership.

“It was exciting to see Kevin take over the course and put money into it,” Merrick said. “It’s exciting for me to see the course get back into the shape it used to be in. It’s going to return to its glory days.”

The main changes to the golf course include installation of a new irrigation system into the South course, improving the tee boxes, removing 250 trees and promoting the spread of Bermuda grass.

“That will take up to three years,” Merrick said. “We now have a mix of three types of grass throughout the course.”

Rooms were also upgraded in the lodge, which overlooks the golf course.

As for the course, there are five different tee boxes (including ladies) on each nine.

The South course, which measures 3,422 yards from the tips, is mainly flat, but has the tightest fairways. The West has wider fairways and is the longest at 3,503 yards with a finishing hole measuring 584 yards. The North course (3,318 yards from the back tees) has three par-5s and is the hilliest of the three.

The signature hole is No. 4 on the South course, a 431-yard par-4 with water running along the right side of the fairway. Big hitters can avoid the dogleg by attempting to drive over the pond, which requires a carry of about 280 yards from the back tees.

“I love playing the championship course because both nines are different,” said Larry Knebels, of Greenville, S.C.

“Etowah’s always been one of my favorite courses because of the layout and because it has a country club feel despite being a public course.”

Golf rates for walk-ins

Weekday (Green Fees & Cart): $45 / Monday–Thursday

Weekend (Green Fees & Cart):  $49 / Friday– Sunday

Weekday (Green Fees & Cart): $39 Senior / Monday–Thursday

Weekend (Green Fees & Cart): $45 Senior / Friday–Sunday

Weekday (Green Fees & Cart): $25 Junior / Monday–Thursday

Weekend (Green Fees & Cart): $30 Junior / Friday–Sunday

Weekday Twilight (Green Fees & Cart) – (After 3pm): $30 / Monday–Thursday

Weekend Twilight (Green Fees & Cart) – (After 3pm):  $35 / Friday–Sunday

To schedule a tee time call 828-891-7141 or 828-891-7022.

Stay and play packages

Rates Monday through Thursday begin at $120 per person based on double occupancy.

Weekend rates begin at $135 per person based on double occupancy.

To book a room call 800-451-8174.

Other amenities

In addition to golf, there are tennis courts and a swimming pool. Guests can also play croquet.

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