Location: Banner Elk, NC
Architect: Tom Fazio
October 3, 2009
This post about Diamond Creek is the first of several write ups for non-Top 100 courses that Iâ€™ll be putting up over the next few months. (Editors Note: effective with the 2011/2012 Golf Digest Top 100 list Diamond Creek Golf Club debuted at 87) A lot of times when Iâ€™m traveling to play courses on the list Iâ€™ll also get an opportunity to play a nearby course that is not ranked but is still a great course and well worth investigating. In the fall of 2009 I made a trip with my girlfriend to Tennessee where her family had rented a lake house for the weekend. Since her Dad and the other guys were going on a motorcycle ride and the girls were doing some tourist/shopping type of things I decided to play golf. In addition to arranging a game at Top 100 ranked Grandfather Golf & Country Club (Editors Note: effective with the 2011/2012 Golf Digest Top 100 list Grandfather Golf & Country Club is no longer ranked) I was also able to line up a visit to the exclusive Diamond Creek Golf Club. Through a very good friend in Virginia I had met the owner of Diamond Creek a couple of times over the years and when I found myself looking for places to play in the area he graciously invited me to be his guest for a day.
From where we were staying in Tennessee it was about a two hour drive to the North Carolina Highlands, so I left the lake house mid morning just as the other guys were leaving for their motorcycle ride. I couldnâ€™t help but chuckle at the contrast – me in my sweater, cap and pants loading golf clubs into a sedan while the other guys, decked out in leather, burned rubber out of the driveway in a cloud of dust and gravel with the exhaust pipes on their Harley Davidsons roaring. If I had been wearing plaid pants it could have been a scene out of Caddyshack.
So, Iâ€™ve been to the Asheville area many times before, but have never made it to the Highlands region which is an area rich with great golf clubs. A great time to visit this area is definitely in the dog days of summer. Because of the higher elevation in the mountains the temperatures manage to stay quite pleasant all summer long while areas in lower elevations are suffering from the typical southern heat and humidity. It also should be noted that visiting here in the fall is pretty incredible too as once the leaves turn colors the mountains are ablaze with gorgeous fall colors. You really cant lose visiting this area in the summer of fall.
After the two hour drive my GPS managed to guide me though the back roads of North Carolina and to the entrance of Diamond Creek. I took the photo below as I was driving through the gates. I like it because it was just a tiny little understated sign that could easily be passed right on by.
Diamond Creek opened in 2003 and the course was built by Tom Fazio. I donâ€™t know a whole lot about the club but itâ€™s my understanding that the membership is fairly typical of the area and contains a number of Floridians and other southerners who visit during the summer months when the heat in lower elevations is at its most oppressive. Many members have homes within the gates of Diamond Creek for for those who do not there are guest cabins available for the use of members and their guests. I did not see the cabins, but I can expect that they are every bit as spectacular as the rest of the club is. A nice extra that Iâ€™ve not seen anywhere else are the club run stable facilities so that members are able to board their horses while they are visiting the property. Basically, Diamond Creek has all the amenities anyone could ever want from a golf club as well as a couple more.
Upon arrival I parked my car and went into the pro shop where the pro on staff was expecting me. He loaded me into a cart and sent me up to the driving range to wait until the starter could get me into a game. At Diamond Creek all guests are required to play with a member, so even though I was there as a guest of the owner he had insisted that the rules be followed and that I play with a member. That impressed me as I have a lot of respect for someone who follows the rules when they probably donâ€™t really have to.
After about 10 minutes a couple of guys arrived on the range to hit a few balls and the starter informed me that they had agreed to have me join them for their game. We introduced ourselves, hit a few more balls and then drove over to the first tee to get started.
Typically I like to walk, but Diamond Creek is situated high in the North Carolina mountains and the elevation changes are quite severe. While I would have gladly walked with a caddie, or even toted my own bag, the culture here seems to be a riding culture, so I rode. When it comes to visiting golf clubs my philosophy has always been – ?â€śWhen in Romeâ€ť, so I happily took a cart and was just pleased to be playing golf at a neat club on a beautiful day.
My camera didnâ€™t really come out much while I was at Diamond Creek, so my photos are a bit sporadic at best. Iâ€™ll go through what Iâ€™ve got below.
My playing partners were a couple of older gents and wanted to play from the 6,155 yard middle tees so I was more than happy to join them there. The par for the course is 70. My first photo below is of the approach to the 3rd hole. This is a par 4 that we played from 380 yards. All the trouble on this hole is to the right. Shots going right will either find the bunker or much worse if the approach shot is badly sliced.
The photo below was taken from the side of the 4th tee box is fairly representative of the views at Diamond Creek. This was a fun par 5 that we played from 545 yards. Although the distance sounds pretty long, the elevated tee box and thin mountain air help to shorten this hole up considerably.
The 7th hole is a par 5 that we played from 540 yards. The photo below was taken from the fairway while on my way to my drive. The downhill shortens this hole a little bit as well.
Below is a photo taken from the 9th tee box. This hole played as a 440 yard par 4 from the middle tees and requires a good poke to carry the waste area between the tee box and the fairway. Note the clubhouse in the background which makes a pretty spectacular backdrop for this hole.
I really liked the 15th hole, even though I managed to lose my ball. This hole plays as a 375 yard par 4 from the middle tees and is a dogleg right. From the tee its difficult to get a grasp on how far it is to the waste area that runs across the fairway. I should have hit my 3 wood instead of driver. I hit a perfect drive down the middle with a slight cut on it and we never found the ball. I can only assume it went into the creek. Below is a photo taken from the tee box.
Below is a photo of the 15th hole approach. As illustrated the hole is downhill and with the fairways playing firm like they were itâ€™s quite plausible that my drive did indeed find its way into the waste area in front of the green as I speculated above.
The 16th hole, pictured below, is a 400 yard par 4 that plays WAY downhill. I normally hit the ball pretty low with my 8.5 degree driver but I caught it differently on this hole and hit it really high. Add that into the downhill nature of the hole and I had what felt like a good 30 seconds of hang time!
The 17th hole is a par 3 that we played from 160 yards. The photo below was taken from the tee. With the creek and the mountain backdrop itâ€™s one of the many picturesque holes at Diamond Creek.
After we wrapped up our game I took a quick tour of the clubhouse and hit the pro shop for a few purchases. This golf course is really fun and I found it to be a very solid challenge as well. Having been built into what is essentially the side of a mountain, the course presents golfers with a great deal of uneven lies and some quirky bounces that will keep the game interesting. Diamond Creek makes for a really fun game of golf and the fact that the setting is absolutely beautiful doesnâ€™t really hurt either.