BURNSVILLE, N.C. -- From the lush valleys and pine-covered slopes of the Blue Ridge to the snowcapped beauty of the Rockies, there is a magical quality to mountain golf. Thousands of feet above sea level the game simply takes on new perspective: Majestic scenery, crispness of the air and inherent challenge presented by jaw-dropping elevation change and endlessly rolling fairways. Even the most dedicated flatlander can't deny the pulse-quickening thrill watching golf shots tower against a mountain backdrop.
Golf soars to new heights at Mountain Air Country Club — a graceful and private aerie just 30 minutes north of Asheville that stands nearly a mile above sea level, and offers the most scenic long-range views and coolest summer temperatures in the western North Carolina mountains. Homes and activities atop their own quiet, pristine mountaintop boast 100-mile panoramic views.
The highest golf course east of the Mississippi River, Mountain Air is a dynamic layout that plunges an astounding 900 feet in just 11 holes. Carved out of the sheer outcroppings of granite and dense, verdant forest, Mountain Air's design and construction is a testament to the skills architect Scott Pool acquired through a decade of tutelage under Pete Dye.
"Most courses have one 'signature' hole they proudly display on their scorecards," said Mountain Air head golf professional Chris Parham. "Here, they can choose from 14 or 15 holes, each with its own character and panorama."
Spanning a pair of mountaintops, Mountain Air's terrain changes markedly from front to back nine and the golf course has a variety of personalities depending on the area of the mountain. Divided in half by the community's private airstrip, the front half is vast and open. The opening quartet of holes is narrow and fairly short playing along the edge of a ridge.
The second half of the front side plays down into a valley and offers wide fairways and breathtaking views. The eighth green provides a view of the 6,683-foot peak of Mount Mitchell — the highest point in the eastern United States — and nearly every hole provides a spectacular look at the surrounding forest-covered hillsides.
Mountain Air's back nine is more narrow, subject to greater changes in elevation — and opens with two of the most dramatic, back-to-back holes you will face anywhere. No. 10 at Mountain Air is the course's famed, 235-yard, downhill par 3, an engineering marvel that drops 212 feet from tee to green and therefore actually plays much shorter than it looks. Hitting a 7-iron more than 200 yards and anxiously tracking the ball as it endlessly remains mid-air — its hang time could be measured by sundial — provides one of the round's many fun shots.
Mountain Air's par-5 11th hole is one of the most dramatic and naturally conceived golf holes in the country. From the back tee perched at the steep crest of the valley that spills and curls left through a remarkable 388 feet of elevation change, the drop adds 80 to 100 yards to a golfer's tee shot that floats into a broad, natural landing area protected by a rock-lined creek and pond on the left and a large sand bunker on the right. Again, as at No. 10 the hang time can be thrilling and seemingly endless.
Risk and reward come into play at No. 11 if one chooses to cut the dogleg. The reward is an immense drive that will measure nearly 400 yards. The risk is successfully finding the landing area which narrows at one point to just 23 paces and is guarded by a spring-fed pond on the right. From there, the terrain continues to fall to the green that is built into the side of the mountain and heavily contoured from back to front. Whether golfers make three or eight at No. 11, they'll always want to go right back and tackle it again.
"We love the community and the golf course," said Ray Caron of Naples, Fla., who with his wife, Denise, has been a Mountain Air golf member for nearly 15 years. "Mountain Air's topography, of course, offers golfers a wide variety of shots, unlike anything you'd experience in Florida. Some of the views are so spectacular — it's hard to decide whether to gaze at your ball in flight or off into the 100-mile horizon."
Away from the course, Mountain Air members are able to tune their games at the Lost Chimneys Golf Learning Center. A two-tiered, driving range and short-game area including five indoor, heated hitting bays with computer-assisted swing analysis are located down the mountain in a valley that is so secluded that while practicing by oneself, the only thing disturbing the silence are a golfer's own swing thoughts.
On and off the mountain, the community's Outdoor Discovery Center staff keeps members busy shooting rapids, swinging on zip lines, fly fishing for trout, hiking and rock climbing, geocaching, scanning the night skies, skeet shooting and much more. Considering the appeal of a memorable golf course in a perfect mountain setting, amenities beyond compare and friendly, active people, little wonder Mountain Air has collected so many prestigious community development awards during its two-plus decades of excellence.
Learn more at www.MountainAirCountryClub.com.
About Mountain Air
Mountain Air is a mountaintop community and country club located a half-hour northeast of Asheville, N.C. Winner of numerous national and international awards including the prestigious "Gold Award for Best Community in America," this multi-generational community boasts one of the nation's most dramatic golf courses overlooking spectacular scenery in every direction. Members also enjoy a mountaintop airstrip runway, full-service amenities, a family friendly atmosphere and miles of nature trails through its own Old Growth Forest Preserve. www.MountainAirCountryClub.com
Martin Armes, 919-608-7260, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad King, 336-306-9219, email@example.com