The official “restart” of the golf season at Rumbling Bald is so close, we can feel it in our golf club grips. Which course will you play first? Championship-caliber Apple Valley, with its gently sloping fairways and generous greens, or Bald Mountain, one of North Carolina’s purest mountain golf experiences?

How about both? That’s what we’re talking about.

Until then (and then feels like it is just around the corner) we asked Golf Operations Manager Adam Bowles to curate his Rumbling Bald “Dream 18,” calling upon holes from both layouts to create one of the best mountain course compilations east of the Mississippi.

Feel free to follow along by pulling up the hole-by-hole descriptions for Apple Valley and Bald Mountain. Or, if you want to go really deep on your preparation, check out Bowles’ full video tour of Apple Valley, front nine tour and back nine tours of Bald Mountain.

And we’re off, starting with the front nine.

No. 1 (No. 1 at Apple Valley, Par 4, 367 Yards)
The opening par-4 at Dan Maples-designed Apple Valley is the epitome of a great starting hole. At 367-yards from the tips and 292 from the forward tees, it eases golfers into the round like a cool glass of sweet tea. Maples estimated that 75% of all shots at Apple Valley are either flat or downhill. No. 1 obliges with a laser-straight fairway playing slightly downward. Relish the reprieve, as the course ramps up from here.

No. 2 (No. 9 at Bald Mountain, Par 5, 483 Yards)
Of the three par 5s on the front nine at Bald Mountain, No. 9 is the big hitters’ dream. At 483 yards from the tips and a friendly 463 yards from the white tees, it is reachable in two perfectly struck shots. There’s really no danger off the tee to give any pause to pulling driver. And the large green is receptive to approach shots from long irons and hybrids.

No. 3 (No. 13 at Apple Valley, Par 4, 361 Yards)
This mid-length par-4 is a pure approach shot hole. A dogleg right that plays slightly uphill, it features views of Youngs Mountain as its backdrop. The green is snug against the back left side, and slopes severely from front to back. The ideal approach shot lands short and feeds to the middle or back of the green, depending upon the pin placement.

No. 4 (No. 3 at Bald Mountain, Par 4, 417 Yards)
No quarter is given on this unadulterated mountain golf two-shotter. The dogleg right hugs the out-of-bounds line. A raised green with a false front will leave most golfers coming up short and facing a difficult chip shot. Playing to a stout 417 yards from the blue tees, No. 4 is rated the No. 2 handicap hole on the course, but Bowles says it’s usually the hardest. 

No. 5 (No. 14 at Apple Valley, Par 3, 172 Yards)
One of the most photogenic holes on either course, this one-shotter stares right into the rock face of Youngs Mountain. It’s not overly long from the tips and plays a tad downhill, but precision is paramount. Left, right, short and long can all lead to a bogey or worse. Play for par here and enjoy the sheer beauty of the hole.

No. 6 (No. 15 at Apple Valley, Par 5, 557 Yards)
No. 15 has something of a split personality. Playing straight away to center (to borrow a baseball phrase) and dead downhill, it would seem to present a viable birdie opportunity. Yet, at 557-yards from the tips, it is a true three-shot par 5 for most players. For those who do get on in two, a tricky two-tiered green makes two-putting the exception, not the norm.

No. 7 (No. 14 at Bald Mountain, Par 4, 380 Yards)
This sporty, relatively short par 4 is hidden amid Bald Mountain’s unforgettable back nine. Playing 380 from the back tees, it’s a stern test and the No. 3 handicap hole. It eases up on the throttle from the white and yellow tees at 365 and 293 yards, respectively. Accuracy is key off the tee as the right side is lined with a golf ball-swallowing creek. A three-tiered green produces more three-putts than any hole on the course.

No. 8 (No. 8 at Apple Valley, Par 3, 194 Yards)
Without question, the eighth hole at Apple Valley is the most picturesque on either course and is certainly the most photographed. Golfers are treated to a view of the entire mountain ridge towering over the resort including famed Bald Mountain. While it plays slightly downhill, No. 8 usually plays true to its yardage

No. 9 (No. 10 at Apple Valley, Par 4, 432-Yard)
The front nine of the Dream 18 ends with a brutally challenging par 4 known for its trademark Maples pine tree in the middle of the fairway. According to Bowles, the tree has proudly baffled golfers for more than 36 years. Drives and approaches hit down the right-side risk the out-of-bounds line, but right center is fine as shots will carom off the right to left sloping hill.

Be sure to visit the Rumbling Bald Blog next week to check out the back nine of the Dream 18.