Pat James: Why my trip to Mount Mitchell Golf Club was worth the wait

Mount Mitchell Golf Club’s 11th hole, a 145-yard, par-3, features one of the few significant elevation changes on the course. Photo by Pat James.

Growing up in Asheville, my father always told me stories about Mount Mitchell Golf Club in Burnsville. He told me about its gorgeous views, its well-maintained greens and that time when, in true “Caddyshack”-fashion, the greatest round of his life was cut short by a storm.

However, it wasn’t until last week that I finally made the pilgrimage myself. And it was certainly worth the wait.

It takes a little more than an hour to reach the course from Asheville. But as you wind your way up rural N.C. Highway 80, through Pisgah National Forest, you can tell you’re going some place special.

When my father, uncle and I arrived at the course last Thursday morning, we were greeted by a panoramic view of Mount Mitchell and the surrounding mountains that served as the backdrop for most of the front nine and hole Nos. 10 and 18. That was an easy distraction from the dark clouds above us.

The course, a friendly par of 72, sits in the Toe River Valley and at an elevation of about 3,000 feet. However, unlike most mountain courses, Mount Mitchell is mostly flat, making it accessible  to all types of golfers.

The only significant elevation changes come on the approach shot to the 10th green, the sharp drop on the stunning 145-yard, par-3 11th hole and the approximately 100-yard decline from tee to fairway on the 18th.

Mount Mitchell Golf Club’s 18th hole, a 400-yard, par-4. Photo by Pat James.

Measuring 6,495 yards from the back tees, Mount Mitchell is relatively short. Accuracy is key, though, as the South Toe River runs through and around the course.

Trout occupy the river, so make sure to stop by the snack shop before your round and purchase some fish pellets. The trout chase them like a pack of piranhas.

The river and tree-line fairways lead to the bent grass greens, which were in the best condition of any I’ve played this year. Overall, the entire course was in great shape, even though it was still a bit damp in some spots from Wednesday night’s rain.

Frequent thunderstorms keep Mount Mitchell green but also wet for most of the summer. Another major factor in the course’s pristine conditions is that it’s always cart path only.

If that concerns you, don’t fret – it’s an easy walk. My dad underwent knee surgery earlier this year and still navigated the course with relative ease as he outshot us all day.

Rain interfered with our round midway through the back nine, but it cleared up just in time for the final three holes. And as you move from the peninsula 17th green to looking down at the quaint clubhouse from the 18th tee box, you’re reminded one final time of why the course has garnered so much acclaim.

The lone course designed by architect Fred Hawtree in the United States, Mount Mitchell has been rated 4 1/2 stars (out of five) by Golf Digest Magazine. In the North Carolina Golf Panel’s 2017 course rankings, it came in at No. 39 among “Top 50 Courses You Can Play.”

Few courses in North Carolina can offer a golf experience that is as picturesque and consumer friendly.

For an adult to play 18 holes with a cart, it’s $49 Monday-Thursday and $65 Friday-Sunday. Mount Mitchell also offers some exceptional stay-and-play packages, starting at $69 per person (plus tax) for lodging and a round of golf, according to the club’s website.

At those types of rates, my return trip to Mount Mitchell will come much sooner than my first.

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One Reply to “Pat James: Why my trip to Mount Mitchell Golf Club was worth the wait”

  1. We have been playing that course a lot of years. You missed the excitement of the Sarge, but his picture is in the tavern. One of the prettiest courses I have ever played. We played it three times this past weekend and I birdied twelve twice. Lol. That won’t happen again I am sure, but for once it was very nice.

    Great article.

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