The following op-ed from Luke Davis, PGA, represents his impassioned vision to save a municipal golf course.
The year is 2027.
It’s a bright June day waking up in the mountains of the Hickory Nut Gorge. There’s a gentle breeze blowing from the west that’s just fast enough to balance the warmth of the sun.
I pop the top on my water bottle and chug a few gulps, spilling more on my shirt than I consumed. A large fan sits next to the third green and I stop to catch a quick hair dryer session. It’s the little things.
Hole No. 3 was quite the hike and making par there is always a treat. On the walk your breath is trying to keep up and your legs are talking to you. First, the tee shot required some trust in the blind test. Then, a hidden fairway to the left leads you further upward between two green guarding bunkers. Despite the tough climb and tricky shots called upon, it’s still my favorite. Completing it meant there was an upcoming view worth every second thus far. Up and up further around a bend is a tunnel of trees foreshadowing the fourth.
Finally, a bench appears, and behind it, you’ll find the signature vista of the golf playground in the mountains.
Off in the distance, butterflies and bees bumble along among native grasses and wildflowers surround the creek. I hope my ball doesn’t bound there today (albeit I get lost too in its natural beauty). I’ve had a nasty case of the blocks.
There’s a group of Lake Lure Classical Academy kids hiking from the adjacent trail leading from school, laughing along their way to the clubhouse and putting green for a gym class practice. A woman and her two golden retrievers walk along the path down below. I think, ‘what a beautiful day to be a dog.’
I’ll sit and wait, soak in the view, and let them lead the way. Today I was in no rush. But whenever I was here, that was the case.
This year marks the 100 year anniversary of Lake Lure Golf Course, quite a historic feat that very few get to claim.
Over the past century it served as a community staple and ample golf challenge, a Scottish ode to the likes of Old Tom, where perhaps you even try your fare with a set of 100 year old wooden shaft hickory sticks. People have played it with discs and soccer balls to boot, at night, and among music concerts, candle-lit meals and drive-in movie showings. People have slept here under the stars and the setting full moon on the horizon reminds me I should soon, too.
But then I wake up, “The Sound of Music” vignette darkens as I open my eyes.
It was just a dream.
The Town of Lake Lure was established in 1927, a vision of Dr. Lucius Morse. He discovered the area in 1900 and was immediately captivated by the cliffs, waterfalls, and rock formations. It was the perfect place to establish an outdoor recreational heaven.
And he wanted golf to be at the epicenter of the offering; the Lake Lure Golf Course opened with the Town in 1927. They even celebrated the launch of the first property deeds with Walter Hagen hitting five golf balls off the point of Chimney Rock. Walter Hagen toured the course early on with Dr. Morse, who hired Stiles & Van Kleek to design the original routing (with murmurs of Ross involvement).
It became the 9 hole Lake Lure Golf Course, a place where you could show up as you are and were welcomed to rock a t-shirt or walk with your well-leashed furry friend. The residents loved it for the accessibility and affordability, and lucky tourists who heard about it were treated to a classically routed piece of golf art.
Unfortunately in 2020, the Town of Lake Lure decided to close their almost 100 year old golf course. And when not sleeping or dreaming, for the past 2 years I’ve been fighting to try and reverse the course of action with our team at Lie + Loft. There’s too much historical importance. There’s too much connection with the community.
Lake Lure needs this golf course just as much as golf needs Lake Lure.
When a golf course is set to close, to me it feels like the extinction of an animal species. Like a loss of a bird, you’ll never hear their song again. Specifically, when it’s a municipal, it hurts even more. These are the facilities that build up the golf ecosystem, a feeder system for beginners to learn the game in a welcoming way. If it weren’t for places like this, the resorts and high-end courses of the world would struggle. I’ve been a Golf Professional at TPC Sawgrass and Westchester Country Club, and know they wouldn’t thrive without the places I’m talking about.
Like the course where I learned how to play golf, Snyder Park in Springfield, OH, which closed down after 2008. Or Green Hill north of Raleigh, which was bought by a developer and still haven’t been built any homes, a ghost for Louisburg golfers. Or Lake Lure, a 9 hole course that welcomed you to Town with a flowery wave.
I’ve never shaken the emptiness of a course when it is gone. This is certainly the guiding inspiration behind why I became a PGA Professional.
For the past 2 years we’ve pitched and partnered with the Chamber of Commerce, presented and met with Town Council and community in public and private forums, put together petition signatures, business plans, proposals and financial pro formas for us to restore and operate the property in a long-term lease agreement. It’s been more 4 hour car drives than I can count (often back and forth in one day). I’ve learned a lot about local politics too, let’s just put it that way.
But today I write you sad. Some local stakeholders let me know that the Town is looking to move forward with re-locating Public Works to the golf course grounds. This would initiate storage for a sewer + dam project, a pipe yard, among other needs. Basically, officially finding a new use for the golf course and starting to deconstruct the grounds. A nail placed in the coffin.
I know that a lot of community and residents of Lake Lure and surrounding areas feel strongly against closing the course. I’ve talked to them individually, they gathered stacks of signatures in support of the golf course re-opening, they’ve come and supported us in various meetings.
And now, it’s the moment of truth, it’s up to this local community to save their beloved Municipal. The Town Council meetings are on the second Tuesday of every month.
Because once the golf course is gone, it is truly gone. I don’t believe Dr. Morse had that in mind almost 100 years ago, and we don’t believe the Town of Lake Lure does either.
Yours in golf,
Luke Davis, PGA