Two Golf Courses Built On Whims
Hound Ears...now a classic development &
Grandfather Mountain Golf Club...#2 in NC
Story by: Bill F. Hensley
Two of golf’s most nagging problems—slow play and crowded conditions—are the reason that two of North Carolina’s best-known courses now exist.
Ironically, both were built on a whim and both are in the mountains only a few miles apart.
The popular Hound Ears Club near Blowing Rock and Boone was built because of slow play.
The popular Hound Ears Club near Blowing Rock and Boone was built because of slow play, and Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville was created because of crowded conditions at a nearby course.
Both seemingly trivial decisions came about in the early sixties. On a busy Saturday in Blowing Rock, entrepreneur Grover Robbins, the developer of Tweetsie Railroad, was stymied by the snail’s pace when he was playing with his brother Harry.
“This is ridiculous,” the frustrated Robbins said. “We have waited on every shot. To heck with this. Let’s build our own course.”
And so he did.
The following week the Robbins brother set out looking for a suitable site and found a beautiful 300-acre plot
at the bottom of Shull’s Mill Road bordering the Watauga River. The scenic location was at the base of the famed
“Hound Ears rocks” so named by locals because two prominent peaks resembled a dog’s ears.
In due time the land was acquired and noted architect George Cobb was retained to design the course.
Work was begun in 1963 and the club opened the following year. The Hound Ears Club now features more than 700 acres and nearly 500 luxury homes and condos. The club will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2014.
“Hound Ears has proved to be one of the High Country’s most popular clubs,” said longtime member John Andrews, a summer resident from Charlotte. “I am delighted that Grover Robbins encountered slow play and decided that the remedy was to build a course of his own. The entire area has benefitted greatly by his decision.”
In addition to Tweetsie and Hound Ears, the Robbins brothers also developed Linville Land Harbors, Beech Mountain, the Land of Oz, and the Elk River Club.
The Grandfather club story follows a similar scenario.
In 1952, Agnes (Aggie) Morton inherited nearly two thousand acres of gorgeous land at the western base of Grandfather Mountain. Over the years she rode horses and hiked the property often and marveled at its beauty.
At the same time, Aggie became one of the state’s top amateur golfers, winning four Carolinas Golf Association Women’s championships and at least 30 club championships. On a national level she was a quarterfinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Anxious to play the historic course at Linville, she tried several times to get a starting time but was told that nothing was available. Frustrated and disappointed, she told a couple of friends “you know, it’s about time I built my own golf course.”
And so she did.
“It is a truly great golf course and club,”stated Mrs. Agnes Morton Cocke Woodruff.
Impressed by the work of Ellis Maples of Pinehurst, who had learned the trade from the renowned Donald Ross, she contacted him to discuss designing a course on the land she owned. “We had similar ideas,” she recalled, “and after he visited the property, he agreed to be the architect.”
When construction began it was quickly noted that costs ran more than twice what she had budgeted, so she turned to her brother, Hugh Morton, for financial help. He, in turn, also enlisted the aid of his longtime friend John Williams, and the project was completed in 1968.
Today, the Grandfather Golf and Country Club features hundreds of homes and recreational amenities in addition to the highly regarded golf course which is currently rated as the second best course in North Carolina by the NC Golf Panel.
Now in her nineties, Mrs. Agnes Morton Cocke Woodruff, is extremely proud of the Grandfather Club.
Bill Hensly spends his summers at Hound Ears.
“It is a truly great golf course and club,” said said with a smile. “It has everything. My dream really came true.”
And, thankfully, slow play is never a problem at Hound Ears and crowded conditions at Grandfather don’t exist.
The success story at both courses has a moral: when mountain folks decide they want something, they are relentless in their pursuit. Just don’t get in their way……..