Sometimes a club’s name is an instantaneous way to gauge the course’s core values, and with a name like “Hound Ears,” you would be correct to assume that fun is the foremost intent. Located in the state’s mountainous west, the rising and falling terrain will absolutely be a factor. That the course only measures 6,300 yards from the back hints at how gettable many of these holes are with just a few good shots.
In order to go downhill, you’ll need to start by trudging uphill. The No. 4 hole is a par five playing to just 495 yards, but it may seem as much as 600 during the ascent. The payoff is in the opportunity to come back down, however. Two holes later, you’ll be facing another 495-yard par five but this time you’ll be hugging the hillside as you descend dramatically from the tee, hoping to look at an approach for an eagle putt.
No. 16 will offer a similar opportunity, at just 477 yards. Your mind may be stuck on the previous hole, however: a 110-yard par three with a tee shot that drops nearly 50 feet to a green sitting behind a clear-flowing mountain stream.
The area around Boone is a mountain destination with breathtaking beauty, quaint towns, and limitless adventure. With so many housing communities established and being built nearby, it is no surprise that this region is also regarded as one of the strongest golf destinations of North Carolina. Even in the midst of so many elite, exclusive courses, the Hounds Ear Club stands out.
Visitors flock to the Blue Ridge to be inspired by the natural wonders of mountain life. It is this respect for the ruggedness of the land that impressed me most during a visit to Hound Ears Club. In addition to providing 18 fine championship holes, members can enjoy numerous other outdoor activities, such as fly fishing, right along the course.
The routing at Hound Ears Club reminded me of the Agawam Hunt Club near Providence, Rhode Island, in that it offered players the opportunity to explore every inch of the property. The holes at Hound Ears are bold, varied, and comprehensive, covering almost every inch of available terrain. There are holes which glide gracefully along the banks of the Watauga, while others creep slowly up steep hillsides before tumbling back down ridges. Ancient rock outcroppings play an integral role in strategy, a commendable alternative to dynamiting.
Hound Ears Club also manages to maintain desirable classic characteristics with a modern flare. As encountered at many golden age designs, the holes at Hound Ears seem to flow over and highlight the features of the topography. On the flip side, the placement and shaping of bunkers is treacherous, as many traps seem open-faced, ready to gobble up wayward shots. Hound Ears Club may not appear long on the card, but this is deceptive. The wise player will not be hitting driver off every tee, and any errant approach will find brutally thick rough and slick poa greens.
From arrival to departure, Hound Ears Club exudes a welcoming feeling. It is a place where any level player can not only enjoy a round of golf, but also soak in the beauty of Appalachian life. Even in its competitive market, Hound Ears Club is well-positioned to thrive as a golf community far into the future.