Charlotte's Top Ten Golfing Values: Stonebridge Golf Club is Queen City's Best
CHARLOTTE, NC - If there is one thing you are going to get from a round of golf at Stonebridge Golf Club, it's your money's worth.
The greens are some of the best bentgrass putting surfaces you'll find in the western Piedmont. As a special treat to low handicappers and the hopelessly macho, the back tees are planted with a soft, finely manicured bentgrass.
Wooden steps lead to almost every tee box. Concrete cart paths run through the course like miniature highways. Yet walking is encouraged by a series of footpaths and greens that are only a stone's throw from tee boxes.
If you want to partake in some of Stonebridge's pampering, you won't have to worry about blowing half your paycheck. Eighteen holes with a cart will run you $35 on the weekdays and $50 on the weekends.
The same round of golf might cost over $100 at the beach, but courses around Charlotte just haven't gotten around to charging a small fortunate for a trip around the links.
"There are an awful lot of good golf courses in the Charlotte region," says Stonebridge head professional Tim Mervosh. "A couple of courses here are pretty high priced. But if the Charlotte golfer looks at conditions, layout, and design for the money, there are only a few golf courses to choose from."
Stonebridge is one of those courses. In fact, it is THE course according to our Top Ten Golfing Values of Charlotte for 2001. The traditional layout just down the road from the historic village of Waxhaw supplanted Olde Sycamore as the best course a reasonable amount of money can buy in the Charlotte area.
Ironically, it did so while going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, an ordeal that Mervosh says was never revealed to the general public.
"There is no way that someone would know by coming out and playing the course," he says. "One thing that we have never touched in our budget are the things that affect the members and the guests. We have gone to our new owner and said we have to have this for the golf course. We cut back on advertising, and that hurt the amount of play some. But our conditions and service are as good as ever."
If these rankings had anything to do with convenience or location, Stonebridge may have finished dead last. The course it located on a wonderfully bucolic piece of property about 40-minutes from downtown Charlotte.
"Our location is not the greatest," Mervosh concedes. "We are not across from the (Charlotte Motor) Speedway and we are not right off (Interstate) 485. We have to do everything above and beyond other courses. We can't move the golf course so we have to excel in conditions and service."
In fact, most golfers en route to Stonebridge have to pass by at least two to three other golf courses before arriving on site.
"We have to keep them driving past them," Mervosh says. "We are in the mid 20,000's in rounds annually, and that is by design to some extent. So many courses pack people in with eight-minute tee times. During the weekdays players can actually come out here and play unobstructured. Pace of play has to have a huge internal value to players. They know they can come out here and play in three hours, see great conditions and then be home in time to watch the ball game."
In fact, the only thing slowing up play at Stonebridge may be the course's unusually speedy bentgrass greens. The course employees a dominant bentgrass strand that is finer and can be cut lower than the majority of greens in the Charlotte area.
Even approach shots with high irons have a chance of running off the back of the green.
"Our greens are some of the best around," Mervosh says. "They were built to be great greens, not one item was skipped on this golf course. When you are doing 25,000 or so rounds it is easier to maintain them. The only other course I know of that uses the type of bentgrass that we do is Old North State. The greens don't recover as quickly, that is the only down side."
But it's not just the greens at Stonebridge that players rave about. The front and back nines are chalked full of some of the most memorable daily fee holes in Charlotte.
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 shotter at the beginning of the layout brings par and even birdie into play for average players.
The 379-yard second hole features a slightly elevated tee box that is nearly enveloped in Carolina hardwoods. The fairway below is long and straight and leads to an elevated green complex that is receptive only to eight iron and above on the approach.
The 400-yard par 4 fifth hole may be the most picturesque on the entire course, with its narrow fairway that meanders to the right and leads to a green framed by lush deciduous trees.
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.
On a windy autumn day, the 398-yard par 16th hole can bring even low handicappers to their knees. The hole's fairway is split by a stone wall, and the lower half spills into a small drainage pond in front of the green. The safe play is to aim at the little Oak tree on the upper fairway and hope for a six or seven iron over the water and into the green.
Stonebridge officially classifies itself as semiprivate, and currently boasts a small membership constituency. Once the planned housing development gets underway and the membership numbers climb, Stonebridge will contemplate closing its doors to the golfing public and becoming a private facility.
Until that time, make the drive out to Union County and enjoy.
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.