Add "accessibility" to the many virtues of Mimosa Hills

Add "accessibility" to the many virtues of Mimosa Hills

"Distant" memberships at this Donald Ross gem in the Blue Ridge are well within reach

Reid Spencer Publisher
image (Photo courtesy of Mimosa Hills)
The Colonial clubhouse at Mimosa Hills Golf & Country Club in Morganton, N.C., is symbolic of a course steeped in history and tradition.

In the North Carolina mountains, where legendary Scottish golf course architect Donald Ross did some of his most memorable work, Mimosa Hills Golf & Country Club in Morganton stands out as one of the most pleasurable and authentic Ross experiences in the state.

Strikingly beautiful, with inescapable vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains at every turn, Mimosa Hills is as steeped in the history of the game as it is spectacular to behold. 

This is the course where renowned amateur Billy Joe Patton developed the short game that carried him to a myriad of titles, five Walker Cup appearances and a near-miss at the 1954 Masters , where Patton aced the par-3 sixth hole in the final round and finished 1 stroke shy of a playoff between Ben Hogan and Sam Snead.

Golfers in the North Carolina mountains still invoke Patton’s name when one of their playing companions hits a deft pitch to kick-in range. “Billy Joe Patton,” they’ll exclaim, and it’s meant as the highest form of compliment.

At one point, Mimosa Hills simultaneously had on its membership rolls two Walker Cuppers—Patton and Dale Morey, who went on to win two U.S. Senior Amateur Championships.

But Patton and Morey aren’t Mimosa Hills’ only claims to fame. It was at Mimosa Hills that LPGA pro Dana Rader began to develop the techniques she now imparts to others through the Dana Rader Golf School in Charlotte.

A fixture in lists of top 100 teachers in the United States, Rader has served as president of the LPGA Teaching & Club Professional Membership.

Then there’s the late Joe Cheves, who served as head professional at Mimosa Hills from 1951 to 1981. 

The lovely 15th hole at Mimosa Hills is a Donald Ross Classic. (Photo by Reid Spencer)

Cheves earned national recognition when he shot 64 at Mimosa Hills in 1999, a record 17 strokes below his age at the time—81.

But Cheves is remembered more for his contribution to junior golf and for his love of Mimosa Hills. It’s no coincidence that one of the most prestigious junior tournaments in the Carolinas—the Joe Cheves Junior Invitational at Mimosa Hiss—bears his name.

The course also has been host to numerous important state and regional competitions and is a favorite among professionals and top amateurs alike.

“I think we’ve had 13 CGA (Carolinas Golf Association) major championships,” said PGA Professional Jimmy Piercy, “between the North Carolina Amateur, Carolinas Amateur and some other small Opens.

Both in appearance and atmosphere, the course exudes history. Standing on the first tee, with dew-soaked grass under your feet on an early Saturday morning, facing a shot to a ribbon of fairway, you might get the feeling that Mimosa Hills hasn’t changed a bit since its opening in 1929.

But you’d be wrong. In 2002, the club hired architect Kris Spence, noted for his excellent, painstaking work on Ross courses, to restore the essential playing characteristics of the Scottish master’s original creation..

To say Spence succeeded is a colossal understatement.

As Keith Jarrett wrote contemporaneously in the Asheville Citizen-Times: 

“Kris Spence has done it again. The renowned golf course architect who worked wonders on the restoration of The Golf Course at Grove Park Inn has just completed a similarly impressive re-do of another classic Donald Ross design—Mimosa Hills Country Club.”

Piercy said Spence’s work was the only major renovation to the course since the 1960s, when Mimosa Hills installed its first irrigation system and converted to hybrid Bermuda fairways.

“We put some cross-bunkering back in that was eliminated over the years and took some bunkers out that had been added that were not original,” Piercy said. “The bunkering on the golf course is closer to the original now than it was pre-2002.

“We restored the original size of the greens, because you figure 75 years of encroachment, and we restored the depth of the bunkers. What had happened. with adding sand for all those years, our bunkers had become not very deep. I think, in some cases, we restored three or four feet of depth.”

Astoundingly, given its quality and history, Mimosa Hills is a course that, though private, is accessible for an extraordinarily reasonable investment.

The club has introduced a “distant” membership open to golfers who reside outside Burke County. For monthly dies of $100—and no initiation fee—non-residents can enjoy full membership privileges, including the ability to compete in club tournaments, such as the club championship and member-guests.

Non-resident members and resident members alike can avail themselves of the newly renovated dining room and casual bar-and-grill area. Given its convenient location and proximity to Interstate 40, Mimosa Hills provides an ideal location for regional corporate outings and meetings.

“We just find that it’s a good enough golf course that people are willing to drive 30 minutes to an hour to play it, if the rates are attractive enough,” Piercy said.

But, more than anything else, the golf experience is what keeps players coming back to Mimosa Hills. The variety of shot values is exceptional. Poor shots are punished in proportionately, just as great shots are rewarded.

Mimosa Hills is a welcoming course and club for female players, who get a fair and enjoyable test from the shorter tees.

The only thing that can really distract you from a pure golf experience is the scenery, which is spectacular. When you’re contemplating your second shot to the 15th green, with Table Rock in the background, it’s difficult to ignore the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Then again, why would you want to—even if it takes your mind off that 7-iron for a moment?


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