Playing at Altitude

‘Mountain Golf’ at Rumbling Bald Offers an Escape, Visceral Connection to the Game We Love

For golfers, there’s always been an allure to mountain golf. In North Carolina, the Brunswick Islands and Outer Banks have their fair share of outstanding layouts. And the central Piedmont of the state is no slouch, either.

But there’s something special about packing up the car or SUV full of gear and heading into the Tar Heel State’s stunning section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Maybe it’s the cooler weather in the late spring and summer. In the fall, it is all about the colorful foliage and playing golf in a sweater or fleece pullover.

For most golfers, though, the connection is more visceral than the weather. Mountain golf is a way to escape the pace and stress of today’s hurry-up, always-on lifestyle. As of this writing, amid the spread of the novel Coronavirus, it is a respite from the barrage of news, updates and closings.

Then there’s the sheer exhilaration. Downhill tees shots that seem to hang in the air for hours before dropping to a tightly mown landing area or green. Bending doglegs lead into tree-lined corridors full of natural (deer, anyone?) and manmade (bunkers, everyone) surprises.

Ah, and those pesky uphill approach shots to green complexes unknown.

Of course, when it comes to mountain golf, we’d all be whistling Dixie if we didn’t cop to the sheer joy of adding more distance to each of our clubs, especially the driver.

Tips for Playing at Altitude

As a general rule, the distance gain above sea level can be calculated by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. While the math may seem complicated, a 250-yard drive at sea level would go approximately 10% farther at 8,000 feet – the elevation of the PGA TOUR’s highest venue, Club de Golf Chapultepec, in Mexico City.

That doesn’t account for slope (uphill or downhill), temperature, wind speed and direction, and humidity. Throw in such golfer-specific variables as ball velocity, trajectory and spin rate, and coming to a true yardage can prove challenging even for the game’s most skilled tacticians. 

“When I get to 3-4,000 feet, it’s about a 7-yard difference in distance for me,” PGA Professional Rob Labritz recently told “The higher you get, maybe it’s 10-15 yards. Don’t change anything in your swing but stand out there and figure out how far you’re carrying the ball. And then trust it. It takes a round or two to get used to.”

Simply put, the higher the elevation, the thinner the air. And less resistance means more distance.

Elevating the Game on Apple Valley and Bald Mountain

Adam Bowles, Head of Golf Operations at Rumbling Bald, is quick to point out that the resort’s two mountain courses, Apple Valley and Bald Mountain, are set at just over 1,200 feet above sea level.

But rather than the impact of elevation on distance, Bowles says the key to playing Bald Mountain, especially, is understanding the effects of uphill and downhills slopes. Longtime Laurel of Asheville golf writer Chuck Werle once said Bald Mountain designer W.B. Lewis was “part man, part mountain goat.”

“Bald Mountain is what most golfers would refer to as a classic mountain course,” says Bowles. “The back nine especially offers a mix of uphill and downhill holes that require adjustments in club selection, trajectory and spin.”

One case in point being the par-4 11 hole. The uphill approach shot is the most extreme on the course and can easily call for an extra club or two, depending on the wind speed and direction.

Apple Valley, on the other hand, is more of a traditional design that just happens to be routed through jaw-dropping mountain scenery. In fact, architect Dan Maples estimates that up 75% of all shots on the longer of the two layouts are either level or downhill.

“You get the best of both worlds on Apple Valley and that’s what keeps golfers coming back and new golfers coming in for the first time,” Bowles says.

COVID-19 Adjustments at Rumbling Bald

Golf can provide a refuge from the adjustments everyone is making in their lives around COVID-19, and social distancing is built-into most aspects and areas of the game. Rumbling Bald remains open and committed to the enjoyment, health and well-being of its guests and staff.

Apple Valley is temporarily closed, however, to allow for a more centralized operation from the resort’s hub. Resort officials will continue to monitor the situation and assess a suitable time for it to reopen.

For those playing Bald Mountain, staff is available at the cart staging area to check golfers in. Walking is encouraged for those who are able, and carts (sanitized after each use) are available for single riders subject to availability.

Flagsticks can remain in the holes (legal per new USGA ruling), and golfers can use their feet to smooth bunkers without picking up rakes. The driving range is open and complimentary range balls are placed at stations each morning, so there’s no need to come into the golf shop.

As a vacation rental-based property, guests are afforded ample personal space in homes, villas, condos and studios. Many units have full kitchens and outdoor grills available and guests can stock-up at the nearby Ingles grocery in Lake Lure.

While bars and restaurants have been closed in North Carolina temporarily, Rumbling Bald is offering the full Legends on the Lake menu for carry out to take the stress out of social distancing. Guests can call (828) 694-3032 to place orders. The resort’s talented culinary team, led by Adam Shirah, have put together a setup allowing for quick, clean process.

Golf Packages and Reservations

Due to the fluidity of times, we recommend contacting the Rumbling Bald Golf Vacation Planning team by emailing or calling (828) 694.3072. The onsite experts will be able to customize a golf experience for groups of any size.









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