Championship golf in Charlotte, North Carolina
By Bill Bauer
In the 1990s Smoky Bissell and his faithful Dalmatians walked a piece of Charlotte, N.C., farmland, with the vision of building a golf course. Bissell headed a committee of eight and, working with a design firm, slowly mapped out a course on the 200-acre plot. The addition of 1800 acres as part of a master plan for future development made the task more inviting. In 1996 construction began, and in 1998, The Golf Club at Ballantyne became a reality. Today, multi-story corporate buildings and the charming and elegant Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge surround the 18-hole, championship course. Located in the heart of south Charlotte, The Golf Club at Ballantyne (GCB) is in one word, spectacular.
Entering the Ballantyne complex off Johnston Rd. and I-485, you take refuge from the fast-paced city life that encircles the golf course and Ballantyne Corporate Park. GCB is all about making your golf experience first class, and it begins when you arrive and doesn’t end until you leave. “We pride ourselves in service, and offer a country club feel at a totally public golf course,” says PGA Golf Professional Matt Zvanut. There are no memberships at Ballantyne, but you feel like you have one, as every employee tends to your every golfing need. It is no wonder that Ballantyne has achieved Golf Digest’s prestigious, 4 1/2 star “Best Place To Stay” rating, which Director of Golf Woody Allen describes as, “A testament to our passion for delivering the best Total Golf Experience.”
Bissell’s original design has undergone several changes over the years. Some holes have been shortened and some have been made longer. Bunkers have come and gone, and the original pro shop and small restaurant have grown to a 214-room magnificent hotel, deluxe spa, and one of Charlotte’s top-rated dining spots, the Gallery Restaurant. It has been an “if you build it, they will come” mentality, that according to Allen has made Ballantyne a place to live, work, stay, and play. “The golf course came first, and the rest of Ballantyne has been built around it.”
At 6,740 yards from the championship tees, GCB is a true test of golf. Tight fairways, undulating, speedy greens, massive bunkers, a meandering creek, and several ponds provide the challenge. Generous landing areas from all tee boxes make the course playable for any level of golfer, as tilted fairways have a funneling effect helping to keep the ball in play. “It is a firm, fair, course,” claims Zvanut. “When it dries out you will get a lot of roll off the tee, but the greens are well protected by the bunkers. There are not a lot of holes that you can’t run the ball up.” Length should not be an issue if you choose the tee that suits your game. GCB is unique in that the front nine has two par 3’s and one par 5, but the back has three of each for a par 71 layout.
“You can score on the par 5’s,” says Zvanut, and he is right. All are reachable in three shots, but if you get off the tee you can get there in two. Avoiding the greenside bunkers and carefully placed approach shots are mandatory to get a birdie or eagle. Number 17, at 445 from the white tees, is typical of the par 5 design. From the tee box a daunting pond lines the left side of the fairway and three bunkers surround the green. Knowing the pin placement on this green, as well as the rest of the holes is a must. Zvanut says, “Good luck if you get above the hole or on the wrong side of a spine. Even the most benign pin placement is trouble if you are on the wrong level.”
The yardage from each of the tee boxes makes the par 3s exciting holes for all golfers. While the greens are not huge, they make perfect targets; each backed by trees and fronted with bunkers to catch an errant shot. After stopping at the Turnhouse for food and beverages, No. 10 is an eye-catching par 3. From the tips it plays a full 160 yards and requires a full carry over water. A hole location directly behind the bunker perched between the water and the green calls for a golf shot. The 16th is a bit lengthy at 225 but comes down to a respectable 160 from the forward tees, and has one of largest greens on the course. A huge bunker lines the left and leaves an opening for a pitch and run should your tee shot come up short.
The sights and sounds at The Golf Club at Ballantyne are many. Tree lined Bermuda fairways and well-landscaped natural areas lay in stark contrast to the modern edifices, harmlessly hovering above and around the course. A low-pitched, steady hum of traffic blends nicely with the shrill echoes of nature’s inhabitants. Your journey through GCB’s incomparable setting nears the end when you approach the par 4, No. 18, Ballantyne’s signature hole.
Standing on the elevated tee, all that typifies Ballantyne is before you. The meandering creek returns from the left and cuts across the fairway below. An elongated bunker lines an equally long lake along the right and juts out into the fairway, and three circular bunkers protect each side of the two-tiered green. Not to be overlooked is the majestic hotel and spa, restaurant, and golf shop that surround the putting surface. It is a stunning sight, as well as a very playable hole. Carrying the creek should not be a problem, but your approach can be delicate. The 18th is a composite of all you’ve experienced thus far.
The Golf Club at Ballantyne is a more than a golf course: it is a destination. The Forbes Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond hotel and spa provide the perfect venue for a stay and play golf outing. A full-service salon offers multiple manicure, hair styling, and pedicure stations, 18 treatment rooms for massage and body treatments and other services. A steam room and sauna, whirlpool, and indoor-, outdoor-, and resistance pools complement the facility. Single- and multiple-day packages incorporating golf, lodging, and spa services can be arranged for individuals, couples or groups. In addition to the on-site hotel, Ballantyne partners with Staybridge Suites Charlotte Ballantyne, Courtyard by Marriot Charlotte Ballantyne,, and Aloft Charlotte Ballantyne, which are just a 3-wood away and provide shuttle service to the hotel and golf course. With a full-service outing pavilion, clubhouse, golf shop, custom club fitting, and practice area, The Golf Club at Ballantyne is dedicated to delivering the best in course facilities and personalized service. Add the renowned Dana Rader Golf School, a GOLF magazine top 25 selection, offering a host of single- and multiple-day lesson packages, and the only thing missing is you.
Ballantyne is member of The Luxury Collection by Starwood Hotels & Resorts and is a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond rated hotel.
The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge
10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway
Charlotte, North Carolina
Reprinted with permission of Upstate Lake Living
— Photos courtesy Bill Bauer: No. 18, a gorgeous finishing hole; No. 10, a par 3 over water.
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