10 best public golf courses around Charlotte, ranked

10 best public golf courses around Charlotte, ranked
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[This guide has been updated with our new 2020 rankings. Author Chris Beeman owns and operates The B-Man’s Guide to Golf in Charlotte, a golf course review website founded in 2002 and built for the golfer, by the golfer. Beeman plays on the BAG Tour and the Charlotte chapter of the GolfWeek Amateur Tour.]

Looking to tee it up around Charlotte? Here are the 10 best public golf courses in the Charlotte area, ranked.

Charlotte has more than 40 public and semi-private golf courses within an hour’s drive. I’ve played them all and have collected other golfers’ reviews for the past two decades. Here’s the criteria I used to develop the rankings:

  • Conditions — consistently great year-round conditions (especially on the greens) are a must for this list
  • Layout — a mix of fun challenges and good design throughout 18 holes
  • The “wow” factor — something about the course that is unique and makes you want to come back and play it again
  • Amenities — practice area, restaurant/bar, clubhouse facilities, etc., that make your entire golf experience great

New COVID-19 policies: Charlotte golf course operators have responded with special precautions and new procedures. Expect these measures to remain in place for some time, perhaps permanently. They include:

  • Tee times/check-in — tee times spaced out more (15-20 min intervals), enhanced online booking, kiosk check-in, credit card only transactions, limited pro shop interaction required
  • Carts — single riders allowed, stringent cart sanitation procedures between rounds, sand bottles removed
  • Flagsticks and hole cups — strict no-touch policy on flagsticks, hole cup fillers in place (plastic rings or foam donuts are most common)
  • No rakes in sand bunkers — lift, smooth, and place rule in effect for shots played out of bunkers
  • Equipment — ball washers, sand bottles, and water jugs on course have been removed
  • Driving range — hitting stations are spaced farther apart

Honorable mentions:

  • Stonebridge Golf Club (Monroe) – pushed out of my 2019 top 10 only due to the rise of Skybrook, the practice area and regular golf clinics are some of the best in the area.
  • Red Bridge Golf & Country Club (Locust) – dropped out of my top 10 due to a decline in the fairway and tee box conditions over the past season. The layout and the price are still top 10 quality though!
  • River Oaks (Statesville) – very scenic and challenging course near Rock Barn. Make a 36-hole day of it and play both courses!
  • Monroe Country Club (Monroe) – fantastic Bermuda greens and an easier layout make this a fun, inexpensive round of golf.
  • Lincoln Country Club (Lincolnton) – great layout, immaculate Diamond Zoysia greens and a unique closing hole make this course worth playing year-round.

Okay, here are the 2020 Charlotte public golf course rankings!

No. 10: Warrior Golf Club

Built around the 52-acre Lake Wright and convenient to I-77 and I-85 north of Charlotte, Warrior Golf Club offers beautiful views, rolling terrain, and immaculate Bermuda greens.

warrior golf club 18 golf hole

18th hole at Warrior Golf Club, a 397-yard par 4

warrior golf course 9th hole

18th green at Warrior Golf Club

Location: China Grove (34 miles from Uptown)

Rates: $42 weekdays, $57 weekends

Type: Semi-private

Details: It’s a par 71. Champion tees are 6,609 yards (72.1/134)

Practice Area: Grass tee driving range with a spacious chipping/bunker practice green and a large putting green.

Layout: There are very few flat holes — so if you enjoy rolling hills and sloping fairways, you will love Warrior. The lake comes into play on several holes and has great scenic backdrops. The layout includes many scoring opportunities via reachable par 5s and with three of the five par 3 holes only requiring mid-iron approaches.

Greens: The large greens were renovated in 2018 and now have Champion G12 Ultra Dwarf Bermuda grass.

Memorable holes: My favorite hole is Warrior Golf Club’s short, downhill par-4 15th. Avoid the strategically placed pot bunkers in the fairway and you should have a great view and a short approach shot into the green which backs up to the lake.

I despise the 7th hole. This quirky 407-yard par 4 requires a precise, 175-plus-yard forced carry tee shot from a turf mat (impossible to get a tee into) and then an approach guarded by a hazard.

Watch out for the blind 2nd shot on the 11th hole with a large bunker fronting the green.

The risk reward par-5 17th is an exhilarating bookend to the layout with a great chance to go for the green in two shots.

Improvements: The renovation in 2018 also included removal of almost 2,000 trees to improve sunlight and airflow to each green complex. These changes made the course much more playable for all skill levels. The golf carts now have touch screen GPS to aid your distance measurements and course strategy.

No. 9: Edgewater Golf Club

Among the majestic pines of the South Carolina countryside in Lancaster, Edgewater Golf Club has excellent bentgrass greens and a challenging layout worthy of even the most skilled golfers.

edgewater golf course hole number 7

7th hole at Edgewater Golf Club, a 419-yard par 4

Location: Lancaster, S.C. (52 miles from Uptown)

Rates: Rates: $45 weekdays, $54 weekends

Type: Semi-private

Details: It’s a par 72. Champion tees are 7,103 yards (74.3/141)

Practice Area: Grass tee driving range with a chipping green, two practice bunkers, and a putting green.

Nature: Edgewater Golf Club is a young course (2008) that was built within a retirement community that has been developed slowly — meaning there are still few intrusions on the quaint and natural setting. I love courses like this where you can hear the birds chirping, fish jumping, and turkeys gobbling — yes, I’ve seen several on this course!

Greens: Edgewater’s A1/A4 bentgrass greens are similar to the A1 bentgrass at Augusta National, and they are typically smooth and felt-like year-round.

Layout: There are several scoring opportunities throughout both nines. I love the short par-5 17th hole. However, I’d love to skip the seemingly benign par-4 3rd hole. This dogleg right has a tall tree guarding the turn and then a lake that curls around the green, making for difficult tee and approach shots.

Advice: The service here is top notch and the club offers frequent player discounts and affordable memberships. The website includes a hole-by-hole guide with flyover videos. The drive can be lengthy from Charlotte, so plan a day and play 36. You can usually get a good replay rate on your second round.

No. 8: Skybrook Golf Club

This course came under new ownership in 2019 with a full renovation (including new Bermuda greens), an upgraded clubhouse with a revamped Skytop Grill overlooking the 9th hole, and a new attitude that has made this a Top 10 Charlotte course once again.

skybrook golf course hole 15 charlotte

15th hole at Skybrook Golf Club

Location: Huntersville (18 miles from Uptown)

Rates: $49 weekdays, $61 weekends

Type: Semi-private

Details: It’s a par 72. Champion tees are 7,028 yards (74.1/137)

Practice Area: Grass tee driving range with a chipping area, practice bunker and a putting green.

Layout: Skybrook has a distinct mountain course feel to it, similar to Verdict Ridge, with big elevation changes tee to green, sloped fairways, and undulating greens.

Renovations: Skybrook recently switched over from bentgrass to Mini-Verde Bermuda grass last summer. They did an excellent job ensuring the new greens would be receptive, well ahead of schedule for most new Bermuda greens that won’t hold approach shots for several seasons. Other renovations — which included bunkers — came with new ownership (Pinnacle Golf Properties, which now manages several other former Carolina Trail golf courses in Charlotte) and community support.

Closing holes: I consider the closing four-hole stretch at Skybrook to be the best in Charlotte public golf. From the short but well-bunkered par-4 15th to the long par-3 16th over water to the scary dogleg left pond-guarded par-4 17th — and finally the S-shaped signature closing par-5 18th — these four holes will make or break your round and have several risk-reward decisions.

New ownership: The management team here is helpful and also prolific on social media, with weekly updates on course conditions and new initiatives to maintain and improve the course. The upgraded clubhouse includes the Skytop Grill with large screen TV’s and outdoor patio seating overlooking the 9th hole.

No. 7: Eagle Chase Golf Club

The hidden gem of the Charlotte area, Eagle Chase Golf Club is a quaint, picturesque, challenging and fun course with some of the best-kept greens around.

eagle chase golf course hole 13

13th hole at Eagle Chase Golf Club, a 334-yard par 4

eagle chase golf course hole 12

12th hole at Eagle Chase Golf Club, a 220 yard par 3

Location: Marshville (37 miles from Uptown)

Rates: $36 weekdays, $49 weekends

Type: Semi-Private

Details: It’s a par 72. Champion tees are 6,723 yards (72.4/137)

Practice Area: Grass tee driving range with a chipping green and a putting green

Hidden gem: In the farms of Union County, Eagle Chase has no houses or other civilization intruding on your round of golf. Everyone who plays here is reluctant to brag about it because they want to keep it to themselves. Eagle Chase is all about the golf, with just a simple clubhouse and snack bar to accompany the practice area and 18 hole layout.

Greens: The course has Diamond Zoysia grass greens (installed in 2013) that are typically in immaculate shape.

Layout: It plays like a mountain course with an elevated tee or green on almost every hole. Both nines have a good mix of difficulty. The front includes two reachable par 5s, a dramatic downhill par 3 (6th hole), and one of the toughest par 4s around town —the 2nd hole, which is 412 yards from the elevated back tee with a large pond along the left side and a creek along the right. If you’d give me a bogey on that hole, I’d take it every time.

The back nine spoils you with a breathtaking stretch of 3 holes (11-12-13) where the elevation and two ponds make for awesome photo ops. The par-4 13th hole is one of my favorites, only 334 yards from the elevated back tee with a carry over the pond — a great birdie opportunity, with a view!

Value: Eagle Chase is the best value for your money in the area, which should make you feel better about the drive to get there. The only negative that fans of the course will admit to is the cart paths — on many holes it’s best to ride just off of them in the grass to avoid the bumpy and broken concrete. With all the rain we’ve had this past year, I can tell you that Eagle Chase drains extremely well. So when it’s a soggy day, know that you can trust this course to be playable at all times.

No. 6: Rocky River Golf Club

Located near the speedway in Concord and paired with the Embassy Suites hotel and spa, Rocky River Golf Club offers resort-like amenities and course conditions at a great price.

rocky river golf course hole 3

3rd hole at Rocky River, a 555 yard par 5

Location: Concord (18 miles from Uptown). Rocky River sits within earshot of Charlotte Motor Speedway and the zMAX Dragway. Often, you can hear drivers making their practice runs as you play the first several holes.

Rates: $49 weekdays, $69 weekends

Type: Semi-private

Details: It’s a par 72. Champion tees are 6,970 yards (73.5/137)

Practice Area: Grass tee driving range with a chipping green and a putting green

Layout: The Dan Maples design was renovated with Bermuda greens in 2012. It plays like a resort course, with well-manicured fairways and greens that meander through hills and valleys alongside the Embassy Suites hotel and the hustle and bustle of the Concord Mills area. Several holes require well placed tee shots, as water hazards, wetlands, and thick pines will swallow errant shots. Those challenges along with elevation changes and thick Bermuda rough can make this a difficult course to score on.

Scoring holes: You’ll need to take advantage of the easier holes, like the short downhill dogleg right par-4 14th hole with those wetlands on the left but out of play.

My favorite hole is the par-5 3rd hole, which has a humongous boulder in the middle of the fairway — I’ve seen a tee shot bounce off the top and leave less than 150 yards in for the approach! The boulder (“Gragg’s Rock”) is named in honor of Floyd Gragg, one of the area’s longest-serving golf professionals who oversaw the opening of the course in 1997.

The risk-reward opportunities throughout the course can make for a fun, memorable round.

Closing hole: The 18th hole is a tricky, snaking par 5 with trees and bunkers guarding the turns. The approach into 18 plays right in front of the Stonehouse Grille with the zMAX Dragway visible in the distance.

Advice: Concord residents and Embassy Suite guests can get $10 discounts off the rack rate. The website includes a hole-by-hole strategy guide with flyover videos.

No. 5: The Golf Club at Ballantyne

The only resort course in the Charlotte area, The Golf Club at Ballantyne has the best amenities in town and is the premier public course for golf outings or stay-and-play packages.

ballantyne golf club hole 14

14th hole at Ballantyne Golf Club, a 550-yard par 5

ballantyne hole 18 charlotte

18th hole at Ballantyne Golf Club, a 420 yard par 4

Location: The Golf Club at Ballantyne is right off of I-485 in south Charlotte and is associated with the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge (16 miles from Uptown).

Rates: $62 weekdays, $82 weekends.

Type: Public. The course is also home to the Ballantyne Golf Academy, which offers lessons for all ages as well as one-day clinics and three-day school packages. The resort offers spa treatments, tennis, luxurious accommodations, and the acclaimed Gallery restaurant.

Details: It’s a par 71. The championship tees are 6,740 yards (71.7/132).

Practice Area: Spacious driving range with a chipping green and a putting green. The Ballantyne Golf Academy on the other side of the range has additional practice areas and clinics.

Course conditions: The service, amenities, and course conditions are all what you’d expect from a pricey resort course but you do get what you pay for here. The greens were redone with Champion Ultra Dwarf Bermuda grass back in 2009 and are the fastest of any public course in town.

Layout: The par 71 layout has five par 3 holes, including the 10th with a short iron carry over a pond. The back 9 has three par 5s, all of which are reachable in two good shots. The signature par 4 finishing hole plays right in front of the hotel and you’ll have often have spectators watching as you play your approach to a two-tiered green with a pond guarding the right side. Hit the green, make your putt and wave to the crowd!

Big news: The golf course will eventually close. It’ll be redeveloped into a 25-acre town center. No date has been officially set and the golf course is open for business as usual right now. Play it while you can!

No. 4: Mooresville Golf Club

A former municipal course, Mooresville Golf Club has transformed into a must-play, links style layout with country club amenities and a superior practice complex.

mooresville golf club 7th hole

7th hole at Mooresville Golf Club, a 157 yard par 3

Location: Mooresville

Rates: $43 weekdays, $55 weekends

Type: Public

Details: It’s a par 72. Champion tees are 6,803 yards (73.0/135)

Practice Area: Dual-sided grass tee driving range with a short game practice area including a sand bunker, chipping green and putting green. One of the best practice spots in the area.

Renovation: Mooresville Golf Club completed a $5 million renovation by Kris Spence in 2016 and is now home to a 17,000-plus square-foot clubhouse. The new links style layout has TifEagle Bermuda greens, and it’s walkable and reasonably priced for the quality of conditions and amenities. When it reopened, memberships were offered (now sold out) and tee times were a tough score. It’s easy to see why golfers love it and want to play it often.

The original layout of 9 holes was designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1948.

Layout: Among the 18 holes, there are five par 5s and five par 3s. I enjoy the unique mix of fun and difficult holes. The downhill par-4 4th hole takes you right into the clubhouse and parking lots – careful you don’t go long on your approach!

The par-4 9th hole has a dramatic elevation drop and a long, difficult approach shot over a creek to the green, with the new clubhouse in the background. With the elevation changes, it pays to play your first round here with a veteran who can give you local course knowledge and help you avoid trouble.

Advice: The renovated clubhouse now includes On the Nines Bistro and banquet space for 150-plus guests. While memberships are currently sold out, they also have practice membership plans that give you unlimited access to the impressive practice complex.

No. 3: Rock Barn Golf & Spa (Jackson Course)

This older Tom Jackson designed course built in 1963 is part of the Rock Barn resort that includes a second 18-hole private course (designed by Robert Trent Jones II), a spa, and several restaurants.

rockbarn golf course hole 5

5th hole at Rock Barn’s Jackson Course, a 424-yard par 4

rockbarn golf course jackson course hole 15 par 3

15th hole at Rock Barn, a 398-yard par 4

Location: Statesville (47 miles from Uptown)

Rates: $35 weekdays, $45 weekends (great value)

Type: Semi-private

Details: It’s a par 72. The champion tees are 6,427 yards (71.9/135)

Practice Area: Turf mat tee driving range with a large putting green

Layout: Several breathtaking holes and risk-reward scoring opportunities that will increase your heart rate. Almost all of the five par 3s and several other holes require carries over water. Conditions are pristine here and kept like a resort course, with quick and well-maintained bentgrass greens.

The 10th hole is what this course is all about in a nutshell — a stunning elevated tee shot to a dogleg left fairway some 50 yards below the tee box. Depending on how you fare with your tee shot, you can choose to challenge the large pond between you and the green and reach this par 5 in two (minimum 170-yard carry) or play it “safer” down the right side of the pond and try to avoid the fairway bunkers guarding the layup route. Whichever route you take and no matter your score, you will talk about this hole after your round and want to play it again.

Combining the great conditions, fun challenges, value price, and great amenities, this course is an absolute must-play.

Memberships: Memberships you full access to the Jones course as well as the Jackson course, the spa, and the Champ’s Bistro.

No. 2: Carolina Lakes Golf Club

This relatively young course (2007) is kept in pristine condition and has fun challenges for all ages and skill levels, with a great practice area and excellent restaurant.

carolina lakes golf course hole number 15

15th hole at Carolina Lakes Golf Club, a 383 yard par 4

Location: Indian Land, S.C. (25 miles from Uptown). It’s situated in the Sun City retirement community just across the state line, south of Ballantyne.

Rates: $55 weekdays, $69 weekends

Type: Semi-private

Details: It’s a par 72. Champion tees are 7,140 yards (74.1/142)

Practice Area: Grass tee driving range with a chipping green and a putting green

Layout: With the residential homes lining most of the holes, there are a ton of out-of-bounds areas to go along with many natural hazards. I consider this to be one of the most “bunkered” courses around town — hopefully, your sand game is solid. The layout has a variety of holes, including doglegs, elevation changes, shorter risk-reward par 4s and reachable par 5s.

The downhill par-4 11th hole is only 290 yards from the men’s tees — while it’s worth a go with the driver, there’s a large pond guarding the entire right side.

Watch out for the par-3 16th hole with its intimidating 175-plus-yard carry over water and bunkers from the back two tees.

Greens: Carolina Lakes is one of the few public courses in the Charlotte area to still roll bentgrass greens. Those greens are large and several are two tiered — making your approach shot accuracy important. The course is kept in great shape year-round.

Advice: The Tavern on the Lakes restaurant looks over the practice area and is top-notch. While the club only offers memberships to Sun City residents; it does have a frequent players program offering discounts to non-residents.

No. 1: Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club

One of the most stunning courses in the area. Verdict Ridge offers beauty, challenge, conditions, and amenities on par with nearby private clubs.

9th golf hole at verdict ridge golf course

9th hole at Verdict Ridge, a 347-yard par 4

Location: Denver

Rates: $54 weekdays, $74 weekends

Type: Semi-private

Details: It’s a par 72. The Champion tees are 6,926 yards (74.4/144)

Practice Area: Grass tee driving range with a chipping green, practice bunker, and two putting greens

Layout: Verdict Ridge plays like a mountain course, with steep hills and valleys. Expect sidehill and uneven lies. The course is kept in great condition year round, with fast Champion Bermuda greens. My favorite hole is the 347-yard par-4 9th hole — one of the most beautiful in the Charlotte area. With water all along the right side, it’s best to play an iron from the tee off the left slope. Then you have a short iron approach into a green guarded by a small creek on the left and the pond on the right — with a waterfall behind the green offering a backdrop.

Two of the trickier holes are the long par-4 4th hole and the hazard-heavy par-5 18th. If you can score well here, you’ve earned it.

Advice: Plan to spend some time in Guilties Bistro after the round for dinner and drinks. If you live nearby, check out their membership options. The club is affiliated with ClubCorp — which gives you reciprocal access to an array of upscale private clubs across the country.

verdict ridge waterfall

Author Chris Beeman, taking a selfie by Verdict Ridge’s 9th green. You can follow Beeman on on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Related Agenda golf guides: Top 10 country clubs in Charlotte, ranked — including pricing data and best driving ranges in Charlotte

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