Warrior Golf Club in China Grove, N.C.: Golf for the common man (and woman)
CHINA GROVE, N.C. -- Warrior Golf Club may intimidate a few players with it's in-your-face name.
But intimidation is about the last thing that this Stan Gentry designed layout just 30 minutes north of Charlotte is about.
"Few people leave here with a bad taste in their mouth," Head Professional Brian Lee says. "We are out here to serve the average golfer. If we wanted to tighten up our fairways and put the tees back, the course can play tough. But day to day, we like it just where it is."
Where "it is" is just over 6,100 yards from the blue tees -- a throwback in these days of the 7000-yard course. True, the Warrior stretches out to over 6600 yards from the tips. But even a round from the back tees can be player friendly if you are a ten handicap and under.
The Warrior opened its doors in the summer of 1999, and has since hosted over 44,000 rounds of pure, traditional golf. The course is officially dubbed "semi-private," which seems to be all the rage in the Charlotte area these days.
The course still attracts plenty of outside play. And for what you get for the money, it is no wonder hordes of golfers from Charlotte are making the trek up I-85 to take on the Warrior.
Like many of the courses to open around Charlotte in the past five years, the Warrior offers great course conditions, bentgrass greens, country club style service. But the one thing that separates the Warrior from other Charlotte-area, semi-private venues is land -- as in "whoa, what a piece of land!"
The course is nestled along the shores of Lake Wright in the small dale of China Grove. The lake rarely, comes into play, but the rolling hills and thick strands of hardwoods that surround it make for one of the best layouts in the western Piedmont.
"It is a tough piece of property to build on because of erosion," says Lee. "There are sediment ponds that take the course runoff and filter the water back into the lake."
Lake Wright is actually the nearby town of Landis' secondary source of drinking water, and the Lake itself is technically located in within the Landis town limits. Throughout your round at the Warrior, players cross back and forth over the property's main bridge. Signs posted on either side of the lake let players know they will actually be oscillating between China Grove and Landis.
Ah, but whether you find yourself in Landis or China Grove, you will be smitten with the real estate. With such a prime piece of property, it may come as no surprise that the Lake Wright property was slated for golf course construction before the advent of the Warrior.
Hatti Wright, the lake's namesake, attempted to build a nine hole golf course on the site many years ago, but ran out of money after clearing two holes. Fast forward to the late 1990's, and Lee and the Warrior's other principals, Todd Johnson, Gerald Staton and Rick Houston have put the finishing touches on their dream course.
The original plan was for Lee et. Al. to build a course in the Salisbury area, just north of China Grove. But when the Lake Wright property became available, no way could these golf purists resist. One thing that savvy golfers will immediately notice is the lacking of ubiquitous housing along the courses fairways and greens.
"The partners here were committed to golf first, housing second," says Lee. "The four families that own the course are all golf purists. Other than holes no. 4, no 3. and no. 5, the course will be just as it is now."
The way the course is now is just fine for most of us, thank you very much for asking. First time players may find themselves a bit unnerved by the number of uphill approach shots, but you know what they say about blind shots on a golf course -- they are only blind once.
On a number of holes, greens are actually visible from the tee boxes. Traditionalists should find this Warrior-attribute particularly refreshing, along with the walk-ability of the course. The only time a die-hard hoofers cardio program will be tested is during the rather lengthy distances between a few of the holes.
If you find yourself in the Warrior's 19th hole crying in your beer about missed scoring opportunities, it is no fault of the course itself. The par 5's are reachable in two from the middle and blue tees, the par 4's are generally less than 370 yards, and the par 3s are basically downhill with all trouble visible from the tee box.
Lee's favorite holes are nos. 16 and 17, mainly due to the options they provide. Sixteen is a stunning par 3 that can play as long as 223 yards from the racks, or as short as 93 yards from the ladies tees. Seventeen is a classic risk/reward par-5 that requires only a mid-iron to get home if you paste your drive into the center of the fairway.
Another hole to take note of is the Warrior's no. 1 handicap hole -- the par-4 seventh. Unlike almost every hole on the course, no. 7 features all kinds of trouble, mainly in the form of small sediment ponds on either side of the fairway. The approach shot is to a precarious green perched well above the fairway.
When it comes to a little friendly insight as to how to negotiate the course, Lee's advice is simple? Know thy handicap.
"The first thing I do for new players is recommend a tee box," says Lee. "Ten to 15 handicaps should play from the blue. You don't have to drive it dead straight every time on this course because of the wide fairways. The key is trying to get the ball to the pin every time. The greens are huge so you can three putt easily."
Typical of Charlotte area golf, Warrior Golf Club is an affordable option on both weekdays and weekends.
May 12, 2003