The sound of the iron club as it approaches the white dimpled ball on its tee produces an exhilarating effect all its own. Once the ball departs from its resting place, it ascends into the distance like a free bird. For myself and others, it is an escape like no other. Welcome to the game of golf.
For some, golf is an occasional treat. With my busy schedule, I include myself in this group. Whenever I get on the fairway, golf is a mystery and a challenge. After each outing, I'm left wondering, "What is it about this game?" When you break it all down, it's just people hitting balls into holes.
For others, golf is religion, and I have met many of these devotees on my travels.
Whether you are an amateur or a pro, you can find a diverse number of courses throughout the Southeast.
Golfing among great scenery
Maggie Valley Club's golf courses can be described as playable yet challenging.
This club, nestled away in western North Carolina, offers fun, picturesque golfing opportunities. Its front "Valley Nine" allows you to warm up before hitting the challenging course, the "Mountain Nine."
When you work your way up to the Mountain Nine, you're rewarded with endless views of the area's vast mountains. Whether you have a good game or not, one thing is guaranteed: a game of golf at this club is a pleasure. Everyone who I encountered at Maggie Valley gave the experience positive reviews.
The Maggie Valley Club's course was hand-sown in the 1960s with a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye, which is the reason for its bright green hues.
Their clubhouse, which is part of an ambitious renovation project, offers a spacious workout room, luxurious locker rooms, restaurants and a state-of-the-art detached golf shop. To top it off, vast balconies and decks let visitors enjoy views of the golf courses set against the majestic scenery.
The Maggie Valley Club is a three-plus hour drive from the metropolitan Atlanta area. It is set more than 3,000 feet above sea level between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountain ranges.
Tee time in Tennessee
If golfing in the North Carolina mountains is too far for you, check out the Eagle Bluff Golf Club in Chattanooga. Golf-lovers say that Eagle Bluff demands concentration and patience.
The 6,700-yard course features elevation changes, contoured fairways and lush scenery. Eagle Bluff's course overlooks Chickamauga Lake and Harrison Bay.
Eagle Bluff is located about 15 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. If you plan to stay the night, check into the beautifully renovated Chattanoogan Hotel. After a day of golfing at Eagle Bluff, nothing will soothe sore shoulders than a massage in the Chattanoogan's spa.
Top the spa session off with a visit to the hotel's Broad Street Grille, which features delectable dishes including New York strip steaks and grilled organic salmon roulade. Retire in one of the Chattanoogan's spacious rooms, which provide comforts including fluffy beds and updated bathrooms.
Lanier is affordable, playable
Are you looking to save money on your next golf adventure? Look no further than the Lanier Club. The classic 18-hole, par-72, Joe Lee-designed club allows limited public play and low daily, weekend and twilight rates.
This course provides players with challenges that can be reached on any level of golfing experience. Set under quiet pine trees and on pristine slices of water, each of its holes are unique.
The Lanier Golf Club is home to a separate practice and driving range, as well as a clubhouse, pool and tennis courts. Hungry patrons can check into the Club Grill after a day on the fairway.
The best part about this club is that it's close to home. The Lanier Club is located off Ga. Highway 20 on Buford Dam Road in Cumming.
Pinehurst resort in central North Carolina is a golf mecca. Its eight courses are some of the most impressive that I have visited thus far in my travels. Each of Pinehurst's courses have their own history and individual design.
Course No. 7 is the legendary one I visited. It's a Rees-Jones-designed course that takes advantage of its natural habitat to provide a challenge to golfers.
The course that is getting all the attention this year is Course No. 2, which is celebrating its 100th birthday. More than 6,000 people who have played the course this year signed the registry.
Pinehurst is always improving. Rooms in its Carolina Hotel are being renovated through a multi-million dollar initiative. Flat-screen televisions, ultra-soft bedding and marble bathrooms are just a few of the amenities being installed in the rooms.
An improvement that is in its design stages is Pinehurst's Members Clubhouse, which is set to be completed next year. It will be similar to the existing 40,000-square-foot structure that was built in 1970.
"Pinehurst has always prided itself on innovation. It's what's kept us at the top of the list in the golf and resort industry, in realizing we can't rest on your laurels to serve our guests in a competitive market," said Janeen Driscoll, spokeswoman for the Village of Pinehurst, which is where the resort is located. "Pinehurst has made a deliberate effort to bring the best to this historic venue, and our ownership has committed to those same ideals."
SideBar: More Info
Maggie Valley Club
Eagle Bluff Golf Club
Lanier Golf Club
Did You Know?
The Maggie Valley Golf Course is an 18-hole, regulation-length course. It features 6,505 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72.
Legendary designer William Prevost Sr. designed the Maggie Valley course, which opened in 1962.
The Lanier Golf Club has been operating as a family-friendly golf institution since 1970.
North Carolina's Pinehurst will be the site of the 2015 U.S. Open for an unprecedented three times in 15 years.
Sources: Golflink.com, The Lanier Golf Club, Pinehurst Club