For most of its history, Mecklenburg was a county of golf haves and have nots. The rich could enjoy rounds at Charlotte Country Club, Myers Park Country Club or Quail Hollow. Everyone else took advantage of a few public courses–Revolution and Larkhaven in particular–or they drove to surrounding towns to get their fix.
That all changed in the late 1980s and 1990s when the area saw a boom in new public and private courses, especially north of the city and east in the Mint Hill area.
Today, there are dozens of courses to keep it interesting for even the most avid golfers. For those looking to stretch their dollar, I put together this little list of tips that will help you maximize your golf while minimizing the cost.
(1) Go east. If you’re willing to drive about 30-45 minutes east, you’ll find some of the best public course in the area and at reasonable rates. Charlotte National and Eagle Chase in particular offer well-conditioned courses, great practice areas and stiff challenges all at reasonable rates. I challenge any course in Charlotte to offer holes as difficult as No. 18 at Charlotte National, or No. 12 at Eagle Chase.
(2) Shoot out the lights. There are a few par three courses around town including Paradise Valley in the University area. My favorite is Pebble Creek along Highway 74 in Indian Trail. Yes, it floods often. And yes, the tee boxes leave something to be desired. And yes, it’s short even by par-3 standards. But in the summer, you can sometimes play under the lights, and for less than $20. Night golf? Oh yeah.
(3) Get deals online. My buddies and I had an unspoken pact a few years ago: Never, ever tell anyone where we were finding the best golf deals online. Keep it secret. Since most of us are now raising families, and watching golf on TV has become more common than actually playing, it’s time to spread the word: Go to GolfNow.com and TeeOff.com. If you are willing to play at off-peak times, you can do so on top public courses for sometimes under $20. Don’t forget to Google “promo codes.”
(4) Take a mini trip south. Most people know about the stellar coastal courses in South Carolina, but few know about the great finds inland. I recommend the venerable White Plains in Pageland for the best deals and a highly playable course. You can also get great deals at Edgewater in Lancaster–a Fuzzy Zoeller course with reasonable rates, scenic views and fun, but challenging golf holes.
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(5) Walk, don’t ride. Yes, you heard me. Forgo the cart and get some damn exercise while you play. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper and if you choose a less hilly course like Sunset Hills, you can get in at least 9 holes after work. (Try avoiding courses built around housing developments where the walk between holes can be longer than the holes themselves.)
(6) Play on punched greens. A few times a year, golf courses aerate their greens. If you’re looking to get reduced rates, and can stomach bumpy greens, take advantage of these times. I recently played Stonebridge near Waxhaw on a Sunday morning for $39 because they aerated earlier that week. Make the most of it by agreeing with your playing partners to take nothing more than two putts. It speeds up play and is somewhat relaxing knowing there’s no possibility of three-putting.
(7) Practice for God’s sake. All public courses allow you to practice putting and chipping for free. Take advantage of it. Revolution (Charles L. Sifford) for example, has one of the best practice areas around. Go once a week for an hour after work, and you’ll get really good, really fast at pitch and chip shots. Result: Lower scores when you play for real.
(8) Play later in the day. Personally, I’d rather play at 7 am. However, most people don’t like getting up that early on a weekend. if I want to save some money, and have the time, I’ll look for a twilight rate. Play after 4 or 5 pm and you can usually save at least $10 or more.