Uncork a Drive in Wine Country

North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley is home to 30 wineries and a number of fine golf courses. It’s a region where fairways and chardonnays go hand in hand.


By CRAIG DISTL

The combination of moderate elevations and gently rolling countryside not only makes an ideal setting for golf, it also creates the perfect topography for vineyards. Thus, it’s no surprise that golfers can find plenty of both in the burgeoning Yadkin Valley wine country of North Carolina.

The valley – located in the northwestern portion of the state – is named for the Yadkin River, which bisects a region of 1.4 million fertile acres spanning seven counties. Over the last decade, this wine region has experienced tremendous growth. There were only five wineries at the end of 2002. By the spring of 2010, that number had increased to 30, with more on the way.

Tourists are now discovering the Yadkin Valley much in the same way they discovered California’s Napa Valley in the 1970s and 80s. Golfers, too, are coming to the valley to enjoy all the region has to offer.

Folks interested in uncorking not just wine bottles, but also fairway-splitting drives, are advised to load up the clubs and set a course for Yadkin’s links.

A good place to start, providing you can play on a weekday, is Pilot Knob Park. This picturesque course sits adjacent to Pilot Mountain and its iconic 2,200-foot knobby granite dome. The club, about 25 miles northwest of Winston-Salem, is private on weekends, but open for public play Monday through Friday.

Pilot Knob Park was designed in 1963 by architect Gene Hamm. It traverses a hilly tract with Pilot Mountain’s peak visible on 13 of the 18 holes. The par-70 course is not overly long, measuring 6,225 yards from the back tees. It is a treat to play, with plenty of room to hit the ball off the tee, with increasingly difficulty as you approach the greens.

“It’s always in great condition. It’s scenic and a shotmaker’s course,” says director of golf Tom Gibson. “And Pilot Mountain is a big selling feature. When people come for a visit, it catches their eye.”

Another thing that catches the eye is the modest cost to play Pilot Knob Park. Greens fees are $34 for 18 holes with cart on weekdays, and the price drops to $30 at noon.

With rates like that, golfers can afford to purchase an extra bottle of the many fine wines available in the Yadkin Valley.

Cedarbrook Country Club near Elkin, NC is a fun-to-play layout designed by noted architect Ellis Maples back in 1962.

Another treat that awaits in North Carolina wine country is Cedarbrook Country Club near Elkin. Cedarbrook is a fun-to-play layout designed by noted architect Ellis Maples back in 1962. The course remains much as Maples designed it. He was a disciple of legendary architect Donald Ross, and the teacher’s influence on the pupil is easily seen in the greens complexes. Several are elevated in the Ross style, often sloping from back to front, another Ross trait.

“It’s a good layout, with a lot of subtly rolling terrain, and fun to play,” says head pro Zim Zimmerman. “Every hole is different. You don’t feel like you are playing the same hole twice.”

If the course has a signature hole, it would be the downhill par-3 eighth. The eighth is 190 yards from the back tees and 149 from the white tees, and it requires a well-struck shot over a pond to a two-tiered green fronted by a bulkhead.

Golfers who visit Cedarbrook discover a friendly staff and a traditional par-72 course of moderate length. It measures 6,873 yards from the back tees and 6,374 from the white tees.

There’s a nice practice facility, along with prices that don’t stretch the budget. Rates range from as little as $20 for a weekday twilight round, to $45 for a prime tee time on weekends.

Cedarbrook is located less than four miles from two popular wineries – Grassy Creek and Elkin Creek.

Cross Creek is situated just north of Mount Airy with a striking backdrop provided by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In the upper portion of the Yadkin Valley, a great golfing option is Cross Creek Country Club. Cross Creek is situated just north of Mount Airy, about two miles from the Virginia border with a striking backdrop provided by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The course was renovated and redesigned in 2007 by Greensboro architect Kris Spence. Spence took a pretty good course, which opened in 1973, and improved upon it. He lengthened several holes for modern play, while adding accents of traditional golf architecture that were absent in the original design.

The par-72 course now measures around 6,900 yards from the back tees, and it cracked the ranking of North Carolina’s top 100 courses for the first time ever in 2009.

“To me, our course is known for its four finishing holes,” says head pro Todd Hutcherson. “They are pretty demanding. It’s as good a finishing stretch as there is around here.”

Greens fees at Cross Creek, which is closed Mondays, are $45 Tuesday through Friday, and $55 weekends and holidays.

Hutcherson is excited about the emergence of the Yadkin Valley wine country and what that will mean for the local golf industry in coming years.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he says. “As the wine industry in this area grows, you’re going to see more and more people spending two or three days here, and I’m sure we’ll get some rounds of golf from that.”

For information on recreation, golf courses and wineries in the Yadkin Valley, visit www.YadkinValleyGolf.com.