On the rise: The sky's the limit for Etowah Valley Golf & Resort

Joe Avento • Jun 14, 2017 at 5:50 PM

 ETOWAH, N.C. — Etowah Valley Golf & Resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary next month, and the new owners are hoping the best is yet to come.

In fact, they’re banking on it.

“We’re not where we need to be, but we are sure excited about where we’re going,” says Tim Rice, one of Etowah Valley’s partners.

Since acquiring the property, an Asheville-based group of investors has poured more than $2.5 million into the course and its facilities over the past 2 1/2 years.

“We’re like plow horses,” Rice said. “We get up every day and we start a row and keep on going … and hopefully the fruits of our labor are already seen because we do have that dedication for hard work.”

Much of that hard work has gone toward improving course conditions and increasing the hospitality service at the resort, located about 10 miles southwest of Asheville Regional Airport.

Situated in a valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains with an elevation of 2,100 feet, you might say the sky is the limit for the popular golf destination that has been saved after its owners and founding family were forced to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012.

Earlier this week, Etowah Valley was the site of the eighth Battle of the Smokies, a competition between sports media teams from Tennessee and North Carolina. The three-day event, won by Tennessee for the second consecutive year, gave the media members a chance to experience the golf course and amenities for themselves. With a 33.5-26.5 victory, Tennessee evened the series at 4-4 and enjoyed every minute.

The course, located on a former brickyard, features three nine-hole layouts, the South, West and North. Each is very different than the others.

The original layout, comprised of the South and West nines, has withstood the test of time. Golf technology isn’t about to render the course obsolete because designer Ed Ault made it almost 7,000 yards from the back tees. Several other sets of tees make it playable for anybody.

“Golfers feel like they’re playing a different course each day when they pair two nines together,” said Rick Merrick, who has been the course’s professional for 26 years.

The resort has about 275 stay-and-play packages booked for this year. Some groups come every year and some book years in advance. In addition, weddings, retreats and church groups regularly use the facilities.

“People come here and love to park their car and not go anywhere,” Merrick said. “They just want to golf, eat and drink. They really enjoy it.”

With three restaurants connected with the resort, it’s not necessary to go anywhere else during a buddies’ golf trip. Zeke’s Greenside Tavern is in the clubhouse, and the resort bought the nearby BBQ Shack and renamed it the Etowah Smokehouse. In addition, the owners operate Chelsea’s events center cross the street from the pro shop, and that’s where the full breakfast buffet, part of the golf packages, is served.

Merrick was the pro when the course was riding the golf wave. He was also there during the 2008 recession.

“Our biggest year was 69,000 rounds of golf,” Merrick said. “A lot of days we did 400 players. I’ve seen it in good times and I’ve seen it in bad times too. I think golf’s coming back now. I think it’s coming back in the other direction. I’m excited about this new group here. I’m seeing some great things with this golf course.”

The folks running the course have managed to find a nice balance between having 286 members and offering public and guest play.

The lodge, which has been renovated, has 65 rooms overlooking the course. There’s also a large driving range and practice area in addition to a pool, a 200-seat pavilion and tennis courts.

A new fleet of carts is in operation and a new irrigation system was installed on the South Course. The course has undergone a tree study and workers have begun removing some trees so grass can grow better.

Rice says, as the work continues, Etowah Valley’s main goal is simple.

“We just want to give legendary service to our guests,” he said.

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For information on stay-and-play packages, call 828-891-7022 or visit www.EtowahValley.com. For other activities available in the region, go to www.VisitHendersonvilleNC.com.

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