Stonebridge Golf Club Making a Name for Itself in Monroe
MONROE, NC - It is a humid, Carolina spring day, and 40 minutes west in the bustling metropolis of Charlotte, temperatures are flirting with ninety degrees, taxi drivers are getting angry, and most of the citizenship is locked in forty-story skyscrapers.
But in the pastoral setting of rural Union County, the temperature is a little cooler, the breezes a little stronger, and there are more folks sitting on tractors than office chairs. And this is a good thing, because the fairways of the Stonebridge Golf Club are about as congested as a rural highway, and no less scenic.
If the Charlotte metro area has not established itself nationally as a golfing destination, it is no fault of courses like the Stonebridge Golf Club. Stonebridge is not a resort course, nor will you find it in any of Golf Magazine's or Golf Digest's Top 100 lists.
But what you will find is a traditional, well-maintained, cleverly designed course that has the ability to pluck savvy golfers from miles away and deposit them in a golfing environment that harkens back to the old parkland courses of England.
That is not to say that Stonebridge is a "Links" style course - few people, including course designer Richard Osborne, can put their finger on the type of course that Stonebridge resembles. Perhaps this is because Stonebridge is the rare course that defines its own space and creates its own label.
"Rich is a minimalist by design," says Director of Golf Tim Mervosh. "He does not like to move a lot of earth, but he does use the surroundings to give the feeling to the course. This is a golf course you can play everyday, it does not beat you up.
If you want to go back to the championship tees it will give you all you want, but if you want to play up, you will find you can take a couple of balls out here and still have them when you get done."
If you are a traditionalist, there are two things that will appeal to you at Stonebridge that few new courses these days have to offer. For one, not only is walking allowed at Stonebridge, it is encouraged in the course design. Tee boxes are located in proximity to greens, and scenic stone bridges and foot paths enable walkers to take more direct routes than their riding counterparts (one kicker, however, is that walking is limited to the weekdays).
Second, there are no homes along the fairways or bunched up around the greens. Unfortunately, this is too good to be true, as there is a residential community that will ultimately be inserted within the golf course.
"When we first came up here and were approached about this golf course, the developer wanted us to route the course through houses and floodplains," says Mervosh. "We said 'no,' we want to lay out the golf course first, then have the homes built, and because of that the course is easy to walk."
Even when the ubiquitous housing does arrive, Mervosh et al. have ensured that Stonebridge's pastoral layout will not suffer. Homes will be confined to two different locations along the course, and will be set back an extra one hundred feet. In addition, golfers will only have to cross two residential roads between greens and tee boxes during their round.
But homes and layout aside, a golf course has to deliver some memorable holes to garner repeat play, and Stonebridge does just that from the beginning. The opening hole is a 574- yard par 5 that plays along the road and features a double fairway that allows for two approach angles to the green. And having a "three shoter" at the beginning of the layout brings par and even birdie into play for average players.
Not to be outdone, the par 4 second hole is many players' favorite, and could easily pose as Stonebridge's signature hole. An elevated tee box framed by Carolina hardwoods affords players with views of a flat, narrow fairway that leads up to an elevated green.
But the front and back nines at Stonebridge are about as different as North Carolina and Texas style barbeque. While holes like No. 2 typify the front nine and it's meandering trip through the lush trees of Union County, the back nine is more wide open and presents golfers with a different set of challenges.
"Without the trees, the grass grows better so the rough is heavier, and there is more wind," says Mervosh. "We like to say you get to play in all the elements here at Stonebridge."
Par-3's may not make or break a course, but one-shoters are easy for players to picture in their mind's eye after a round of golf, and can go a long way towards forming an overall image of the course. Osborne has designed each par-3 at Stonebridge so it faces a different cardinal direction, thus bringing unique sun and wind elements to each hole.
Officially, Stonebridge is classified as a semi-private course, with tee times available to the paying public, but deference is given to the course's growing membership. As Mervosh explains, once the residential development is in place, and the membership reaches the desired level, Stonebridge will become a private facility.
But until that time, the course is a "must play," if visiting the Queen City, and is quite affordable, for that matter. A round at Stonebridge will run you about $36 on the weekdays, and $50 on the weekends.
If you live in, or are staying in downtown Charlotte and plan on teeing it up at Stonebridge, allow ample time to get there. The course is a solid forty-minutes from the Queen City's happening "Uptown" district.
"We would like to be in the shadows of downtown Charlotte for marketing purposes, but a lot of people like to get out here and play where there are no cars," says Mervosh. "I would like to see more accessibility to the course, but that is in the works. If you are looking for pure convenience, we are not it, but if you are looking for enjoyment we are the course."
From downtown, take Third Street until it merges into Providence Road. Take Providence Road to the Weddington Winn Dixie Plaza and turn left onto highway 84. Continue to Potter Road and take a right, driving five miles until you cross highway 75. Immediately after crossing highway 75 turn left onto Old Waxhaw/Monroe Road. The course is two miles down on the left.
The town of Waxhaw is a great place to walk around and take in some historic sights and sounds. Originally the home of the Waxhaw Indian tribe, the town offers quaint eateries, shops, and strolls along the storefronts.
Director of Golf - Tim Mervosh
Designer - Richard B. Osborn
Practice Fac.: C
Club House/Pro Shop: C
Pace of Play: A
Overall Rating: B