The Warrior Golf Club: Golf for the Common Man (and Woman)
Editor's note: Warrior Golf Club is the No. 6 Course on our Top 10 Best Values of Charlotte list. Read on for reviews of our No. 5 course, Waterford Golf Club, the No. 4 Crescent Golf Club, the No. 3 Olde Sycamore, as well as reviews of our No. 2 course, Charlotte National, and our No. 1 selection, Stonebridge Golf Club.
CHINA GROVE, NC The Warrior Golf Club may intimidate a few players with it's in-your-face name. But intimidation is about the last thing that this Stan Gentry designed layout just 30 minutes north of Charlotte is about.
"Few people leave here with a bad taste in their mouth," says head professional Brian Lee. "We are out here to serve the average golfer. If we wanted to tighten up our fairways and put the tees back, the course can play tough. But day to day, we like it just where it is."
Where "it is" is just over 6100 yards from the blue tees - a throwback in these days of the 7000-yard course. True, the Warrior stretches out to over 6600 yards from the tips. But even a round from the back tees can be player friendly if you are a ten handicap and under.
The Warrior opened its doors in the summer of 1999, and has since hosted over 44,000 rounds of pure, traditional golf. The course is officially dubbed "semi-private," which seems to be all the rage in the Charlotte area these days.
But as of this writing, the Warrior has brought only 100 members into its fold, and still relies heavily on outside play. And for what you get for the money, it is no wonder hordes of golfers from Charlotte are making the trek up I-85 to take on the Warrior.
Like many of the courses to open around Charlotte in the past five years, the Warrior offers great course conditions, bent grass greens, country club style service; and all for under $50 most of the year. But the one thing that separates the Warrior from other Charlotte area, semi-private venues is land - as in "whoa, what a piece of land!"
The course is nestled along the shores of Lake Wright in the small dale of China Grove. The lake rarely, comes into play, but the rolling hills and thick strands of hardwoods that surround it make for one of the best layouts in the western Piedmont.
"It is a tough piece of property to build on because of erosion," says Lee. "There are sediment ponds that take the course runoff and filter the water back into the lake."
Lake Wright is actually the nearby town of Landis' secondary source of drinking water, and the Lake itself is technically located in within the Landis town limits. Throughout your round at the Warrior, players cross back and forth over the property's main bridge. Signs posted on either side of the lake let players know they will actually be oscillating between China Grove and Landis.
Ah, but whether you find yourself in Landis or China Grove, you will be smitten with the real estate. With such a prime piece of property, it may come as no surprise that the Lake Wright property was slated for golf course construction before the advent of the Warrior.
Hatti Wright, the lake's namesake, attempted to build a nine hole golf course on the site many years ago, but ran out of money after clearing two holes. Fast forward to the late 1990's, and Lee and the Warrior's other principals, Todd Johnson, Gerald Staton and Rick Houston have put the finishing touches on their dream course.
The original plan was for Lee et. Al. to build a course in the Salisbury area, just north of China Grove. But when the Lake Wright property became available, no way could these golf purists resist. One thing that savvy golfers will immediately notice is the lacking of ubiquitous housing along the courses fairways and greens.
"The partners here were committed to golf first, housing second," says Lee. "The four families that own the course are all golf purists. Other than holes No. 4, No 3. and No. 5, the course will be just as it is now."
The way the course is now is just fine for most of us, thank you very much for asking. First time players may find themselves a bit unnerved by the number of uphill approach shots, but you know what they say about blind shots on a golf course - they are only blind once.
One a number of holes, greens are actually visible from the tee boxes. Traditionalists should find this Warrior-attribute particularly refreshing, along with the walk-ability of the course. The only time a die-hard hoofers cardio program will be tested is during the rather lengthy distances between a few of the holes.
If you find yourself in the Warrior's 19th hole crying in your beer about missed scoring opportunities, it is no fault of the course itself. The par-5's are reachable in two from the middle and blue tees, the par-4's are generally less than 370 yards, and the par-3's are basically downhill with all trouble visible from the tee box.
Lee's favorite holes are No.'s 16 and 17, mainly due to the options they provide. Sixteen is a stunning par-3 that can play as long as 223 yards from the racks, or as short as 93 yards from the ladies tees. Seventeen is a classic risk/reward par-5 that requires only a mid-iron to get home if you paste your drive into the center of the fairway.
Another hole to take note of is the Warrior's No. 1 handicap hole - the par-4 7th. Unlike almost every hole on the course, No. 7 features all kinds of trouble, mainly in the form of small sediment ponds on either side of the fairway. The approach shot is to a precarious green perched well above the fairway.
When it comes to a little friendly insight as to how to negotiate the course, Lee's advice is simple? Know thy handicap.
"The first thing I do for new players is recommend a tee box," says Lee. "Ten to 15 handicaps should play from the blue. You don't have to drive it dead straight every time on this course because of the wide fairways. The key is trying to get the ball to the pin every time. The greens are huge so you can three putt easily."
Typical of Charlotte area golf, the Warrior is an affordable option on both weekdays and weekends. You can play 18 holes with a cart for just $35 Monday through Friday, or pay $45 on the weekends. After 4:00 p.m., take ten dollars off the usual price for all you can play until sundown.
Getting There From Charlotte, take I-77 north to I-85. Take I-85 north to exit 68. Turn left onto NC 152 and follow for five miles to Lake Wright Road, where you'll hang a right and eventually run into the course.
Practice Fac.: B
Club House/Pro Shop: B
Pace of Play: C
Overall Rating: B
Stan Gentry Making a Name in North Carolina
Local Gentry: Golf course architect Stan Gentry's designs tend to be player friendly, and why not? Gentry is the lead designer for the congenial Hale Irwin. Gentry's courses, including the Meadowlands just up the road in Salisbury, typically feature wide fairways, huge greens, and few penal bunkers.
"We wanted to make this course player friendly with generous fairways and large greens," says Warrior Golf Club head professional Brian Lee. "He [Gentry] produced a wonderful product and we see a lot of repeat play because of it."
On the Green: Gentry and the courses principals elected to use the new A-1 strand of bentgrass on the course's greens - a decision that is paying off hand over fist. The Warrior's greens see a lot of play, but still roll as true as you putt it, and are in near perfect condition despite the 44,000 rounds the course played host to in its first year of operations.
"This is the same grass they used on the new greens down at Tidewater [in Myrtle Beach]," says Lee. "A-1 is easier to maintain and is as hardy as Bermuda, but still looks and rolls like bentgrass. It is the best of all worlds."
Practice Makes Perfect: The Warrior already sports solid practice facilities, complete with a practice tee, pristine putting green, chipping area and bunker. But according to Lee, some additions are on the way.
"We wanted to make a nice spacious range, for obvious reasons," says Lee. "There will be a teaching complex at the back right of the current range that will feature a 5000 square foot putting green, four bunkers and four driving stations." The new facility should be completed next month.
It is all in the Name: Lee on the naming of the Warrior: "The name fell right in our laps. All the existing roads had Indian names, so we just went with the same theme."