When discussing the best daily-fee courses in the Charlotte area, The Golf Club at Ballantyne will often find itself atop most peoples’ lists.
But nestled next to zMax Dragway and just a short drive down from Concord Mills, the Rocky River Golf Club at Concord offers perhaps the best golf experience of any nearby daily-fee course.
According to the North Carolina Golf Panel, Rocky River came in at No. 83 among the “Top 100 Courses for 2017” and No. 25 among the “Top 50 Courses You Can Play,” making it the Charlotte-area’s highest-rated public course.
“We’re very fortunate,” said Ryan Brickley, the PGA director of golf at Rocky River. “We’ve worked very hard to create a nice product that people like to play, but we definitely like to hang our hat on that as something to be proud of.”
Rocky River opened in 1997 and was designed by architect Dan Maples, who kept a majority of the natural setting intact, with various species of wetland grasses lining the fairways.
The Rocky River and surrounding wetlands border the course. On the back nine – specifically the par-4 14th and par-3 15th holes, which provide some of the course’s best scenery – you can easily forget how close you are to Charlotte Motor Speedway and the other nearby attractions.
“As long as there’s not a race going on next door, a lot of times you wouldn’t even know you’re in an area that’s got a lot of commercial activity,” Brickley said. “It’s very, very peaceful.”
Maples’ fingerprints are also evident on the signature third hole, a 555-yard par-5, where a large boulder in the middle of the slight dogleg left splits the fairway.
According to Brickley, the construction crew originally attempted to move the boulder. Then it tried breaking it up and blasting it out of the way. Ultimately, the crew decided to leave it, creating a rather entertaining hazard – unless you’re behind it.
“We run the gamut on the comments that we get,” Brickley said. “Some people are like, ‘Why would you ever put a rock in the middle of the fairway?’ Some people say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s beautiful.’”
Another big hit among golfers who frequent Rocky River is its MiniVerde Bermudagrass greens, which the club converted to in 2012. They’re currently in fantastic shape and running true.
A little over a year ago, the club made another significant change, adding GPS units to the carts. In addition to showing the yardage to the hole or any hazards, the units also feature an electronic scorecard.
But be warned: The carts restrict where you can go, such as too close to the greens or other certain areas, to help maintain the course conditions. Stray too far and the cart forces you to shift into reverse and return to the path before allowing you to drive forward.
Brickley said the most recent improvement Rocky River has made is that the greenside bunkers have been redone. He added that the fairway bunkers will be revamped within the next year and a half.
If you’re looking to improve your game, there are few places in the Charlotte area that are better to receive private instruction at than Rocky River’s Stubblefield Golf Center, located at the back of the practice range.
The facility– which features two indoor hitting bays, a full outdoor practice area and state-of-the art teaching tools, such as V1 video analysis and FlightScope technology – is primarily used by the Charlotte 49ers men’s and women’s golf teams. Although it’s not open to the public, annual pass holders and those who book a lesson can also use the Stubblefield Golf Center.
“It’s a great, great place to practice and very peaceful because it doesn’t get a lot of use,” Brickley said, “except during the spring and fall when the Charlotte teams are preparing for tournaments.”
For an adult to play 18 holes with a cart, it costs $49 Monday-Thursday, $59 Friday and $69 weekends and holidays when in season (March 19-Nov. 27). Twilight rates are $36, $44 and $47, respectively. Also, be sure to check out GolfNow for “Hot Deals.”