This guide was last updated in June 2023 with our 2023 rankings.
There are more than 45 public and semiprivate golf courses within an hour’s drive of Charlotte. Chris Beeman has played them all and collected other golfers’ reviews for the past two decades.
- Beeman lives in South Charlotte and runs The B-Man’s Guide to Golf, a site he founded in 2002 “for the golfer, by the golfer.”
- He is a member at The Club at Longview in Waxhaw and plays on TheGrint Tour, a PGA-style amateur golf tour. He also does web and social media marketing for TripCaddie.com and several other golf brands.
He uses five criteria to determine the top 10 courses:
- The “Wow” Factor: something about the course that is unique, makes you want to come back and that you tell your friends about.
- 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.
- Amenities: restaurant/bar, clubhouse, practice facilities, etc. that make your entire experience great.
- Value: bang for the buck, how the rest of the rating factors stack up to the price of greens fees.
Tidbits: Last year’s No. 1, Rock Barn, remains in the top spot with widely popular Eagle Chase surging into the Top 3 based on stellar year-round conditions. Carolina Lakes nearly dropped out due to a rough summer for their bentgrass greens in 2022.
- Local golfers are getting more vocal this year about public course conditions and rising greens fees – up 10-15% year-over-year across the board. Word-of-mouth, social media and course reviews on Beeman’s site have become invaluable for Charlotte’s golf community.
The Top 10 golf courses in the list below represent the best public-access golf around Charlotte. Here they are:
For the second straight year, Rock Barn takes the top spot for public access courses in the Charlotte area.
Location: Conover, about an hour north of Charlotte
Rates: $65 weekdays, $75 weekends
Scorecard: Par 72, 6427 yards
Description/Analysis: This older Tom Jackson-designed course built in 1963 is part of the Rock Barn resort that features a second 18-hole private course (designed by Robert Trent Jones II), a spa and several restaurants. Conditions are pristine with well-maintained bentgrass greens. The layout features several breathtaking holes and risk-reward scoring opportunities that will increase your heart rate.
Signature hole: The par-5 10th hole features a visually stunning elevated tee shot to a dogleg left fairway some 50 yards below the tee box. For your second shot, you can choose to challenge the large pond between you and the green and have a go at eagle. 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.
- Worth the money: The Jackson Course is one of the best weekend public golf values around at $75 with cart and range balls included. The practice area features the largest putting green you’ll find anywhere – in case you want to try a 200-foot putt!
One of the most visually stunning courses in the area, Verdict Ridge offers beauty, challenge, conditions and amenities on par with nearby private clubs around Lake Norman.
Location: Denver, about 30 minutes north of Charlotte
Rates: $69 weekdays (closed to public on weekends)
Scorecard: Par-72, 6926 yards
Description/Analysis: Verdict Ridge dropped from the top spot last year but only because it is no longer open for public play on the weekends. It plays like a mountain course, with steep hills and valleys throughout. You’re guaranteed to have some sidehill and uneven lies throughout your round. The course is kept in great condition year-round with fast Champion Bermuda greens.
Signature hole: The 347yd par 4 9th hole is one of the most beautiful in all of Charlotte. 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 scenic backdrop.
- Don’t miss this: Be sure to rub the “Good Luck Gavel” next to the first tee before your round – it was installed this Spring to honor the founder, former Charlotte mayor Eddie Knox, and commemorate the club’s 25th anniversary.
Once the hidden gem of the Charlotte area, Eagle Chase Golf Club is now widely known for its fun, picturesque layout and some of the best-kept greens around.
Location: Marshville, about 45 minutes southeast of Charlotte
Rates: $45 weekdays, $69 weekends
Scorecard: Par 72, 6723 yards
Description/Analysis: Eagle Chase is hidden among the farms in Union County with no houses or other civilization intruding on your round of golf. The course features Diamond Zoysia grass greens and it plays like a mountain course with an elevated tee or green on almost every hole. The front 9 includes two reachable par 5’s, a dramatic downhill par 3 (#6), and one of the toughest par 4’s around town (#2).
Signature holes: The back nine’s breathtaking stretch of Nos. 11-13 makes 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!
Bang for your buck: With a $45 weekday rack rate, this course remains the best value around town for your golfing dollar.
Within earshot of Charlotte Motor Speedway and paired with the Embassy Suites hotel and spa, Rocky River Golf Club offers resort-like amenities and course conditions in the midst of NASCAR country.
Location: Concord, about 15 minutes north of Charlotte
Rates: $59 weekdays, $79 weekends
Scorecard: Par 72, 6970 yards
Description/Analysis: Rocky River Golf Club sits right in NASCAR’s backyard and you can often hear drivers making practice runs as you play the first several holes. This Dan Maples design feels like a resort course, with well-manicured fairways and Bermuda grass greens meandering through wetlands and Carolina pines. It is a tight layout with thick Bermuda rough, however.
Signature hole: The par 5 3rd hole that features a humongous boulder in the middle of the fairway and gives long hitters a chance at eagle. 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.
Treat the fam: With its great amenities, Rocky River is a perfect spot for family and friends in town for a visit. In fact, my advice to the men is to buy your special lady a spa package and go play golf while she gets pampered – win-win!
A former municipal course, Mooresville Golf Club has transformed into a must-play, well-maintained layout with country club amenities and a superior practice complex.
Location: Mooresville, about 30 minutes north of Charlotte
Rates: $47 weekdays, $60 weekends
Scorecard: Par 72, 6803 yards
Description/Analysis: A $5 million renovation by renowned architect Kris Spence in 2016 included the installation of slick, challenging TifEagle Bermuda greens. With the elevation changes and several blind shots, play your first round here with a regular or use a GPS app (e.g. TheGrint) to avoid trouble.
Signature hole: The par 4 9th hole features a dramatic elevation drop from the tee and a long, difficult approach shot over a creek to the green, with the clubhouse in the background.
Muni roots: The original layout of 9 holes was designed by famed architect Donald Ross and opened in 1948. It is very walkable and the $60 weekend rate is a steal for the quality of conditions and amenities.
Built around the beautiful 52-acre Lake Wright and convenient to both I-77 and I-85 north of Charlotte, Warrior Golf Club offers beautiful views, rolling terrain and immaculate Bermuda greens
Location: China Grove, about 45 minutes north of Charlotte
Rates: $55 weekdays, $75 weekends
Scorecard: Par 71, 6609 yards
Description/Analysis: Warrior Golf Club features rolling hills and sloping fairways with the lake providing a scenic backdrop (and a watery grave for your golf balls) on many holes. The spacious greens were converted to Champion G12 Ultra Dwarf Bermuda grass in 2018.
Signature hole: The risk reward par 5 17th is an exhilarating bookend to your round, offering a great chance to go for the green in 2 and score an eagle.
Tech upgrade: The golf carts now feature touch screen GPS to aid your distance measurements and course strategy.
Since a 2019 renovation and change in ownership, Skybrook’s upgraded amenities and course conditions have made it a fixture on this list.
Location: Huntersville, 17 minutes north of Uptown
Rates: $62 weekdays, $78 weekends
Scorecard: Par 72, 7028 yards
Description/Analysis: Skybrook has a distinct mountain course feel to it, similar to Verdict Ridge, with large elevation changes tee to green, sloped fairways and undulating greens. Like many Charlotte area courses, Skybrook switched over from bentgrass to mini-verde Bermuda greens in 2019.
Signature holes: The closing 4-hole stretch is one of the best in Charlotte public golf, featuring: a short but well-bunkered par 4, a long par 3 over water, then a scary dogleg left pond-guarded par 4 and finally the S-shaped signature closing par 5. The risk-reward decisions on these four holes will make or break your round.
- RIP: Last year, the course lost its signature tree guarding the right side of the par 5 18th hole. This spring, the club added a long fairway bunker in its place.
A great value, Deer Brook features a scenic, challenging layout with top-notch course conditions that are worth the drive from Charlotte.
Location: Shelby, 50 miles west of Charlotte
Rates: $37 weekdays, $49 weekends
Scorecard: Par 72, 6950 yards
Description/Analysis: This hidden gem’s scenic layout features spots on both 9s where you have breathtaking views of several holes. Much of the difficulty of the course lies in the typically fast, tiered and sloped bentgrass greens.
Signature holes: The par-5 17th tempts you to go for the green in two, but your approach will have to carry the water that runs all along the right side. The long par-4 18th also features an approach shot over water to a sloped green that sits right in front of the clubhouse — where your buddies can watch you finish.
Of note: The course does not provide online booking for tee times, so give them a call to reserve a spot.
Built in 2008 and tucked among the majestic pines of the South Carolina countryside, Edgewater’s quaint, natural setting makes for a memorable and peaceful round of golf.
Location: Lancaster, SC, about an hour south of Charlotte
Rates: $49 weekdays, $64 weekends
Scorecard: Par 72, 7103 yards
Description/Analysis: Edgewater’s A1/A4 Bentgrass greens are similar to the ones at Augusta National and they are typically smooth and felt-like all year round.
Signature holes: The toughest hole is the dogleg left par-4 7th that challenges you with a dramatically downhill tee shot and a pond guarding the corner. You might have better luck on the closing stretch, though. The short, uphill, dogleg left, par-5 17th hole gives even the average hitter a chance at eagle.
Pro tip: Playing Edgewater can be a long roundtrip, so make a day of it and play Carolina Lakes (No. 10 on this list) for a second round on your way back to Charlotte.
Convenient to south Charlotte, Carolina Lakes is a stunning layout with fun challenges for all ages and skill levels and one of the best practice facilities around town.
Location: Indian Land, SC, about 30 minutes south of Uptown
Rates: $62 weekdays, $82 weekends
Scorecard: Par 72, 7140 yards
Description/Analysis: Just across the state line south of Ballantyne, this layout features several unique and picturesque holes with a wide variety of doglegs, elevation changes, shorter risk-reward par-4s and reachable par-5s. With homes lining most of the holes, there is a ton of out-of-bounds to go along with many natural hazards and hundreds – yes, hundreds – of sand bunkers.
Signature hole: Watch out for the par-3 16th hole with its intimidating 175+-yard carry over water and bunkers from the back two tees.
Update: Unfortunately, maintenance issues in the summer of 2022 kept many people away and dropped this course nearly out of the Top 10. Good news though: the bentgrass greens are back in great shape!
Springfield Golf Club in Fort Mill, SC. This club is part of the Leroy Springs collection that includes Fort Mill, Lancaster and Chester Golf Club. The course could easily be in the Top 10 with its immaculate bermuda greens and challenging, hilly layout.
Stonebridge Golf Club in Monroe. a great choice for those living south of Charlotte, the course is home to PGA Master Professional Nick Jacobi and one of the best junior programs in the area.
Red Bridge Golf Club in Locust, NC. A fun, exciting layout that features five par-3s and five par-5s, including the longest golf hole in town: The par-5, No. 18 hole stretches over 600 yards from the back tees.
Charles L. Sifford Course at Revolution Park. (Editor’s note: This is a Michael Graff add to the list.) Play this nine-hole course and feel connected to this city’s deep history with golf. Sifford, a Charlotte native, was the first Black man to play on the PGA Tour.
You can follow Chris on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – @charlottegolfer.