The 18-hole layout at Mimosa Hills Golf Club in Morganton is a Donald Ross design dating back to 1929. Measuring just over 6,750 yards from the back markers and playing to a par of 72, the recently restored course is configured with two returning nines.
Donald Ross is heralded for his unbelievable talent routing golf courses. Regardless of the property’s size, topography, and natural setting, Ross always managed to neatly arrange a course while still incorporating both the environs and architectural interest into his design. Think of a place like Seminole, which as we all just saw, so beautifully touched the two main dunes, or Wannamoisett, which packs a punch in barely 100 acres. At Mimosa Hills, Ross showcases his mastery again on a very rolling piece of terrain. In 18 holes, golfers not only play over a rollicking piece of land, but also experience tremendous views of the Appalachian Mountains.
Sitting in the foothills, Mimosa resides in the charming town of Morganton, NC. The club has a storied history of producing tremendous golf talent, and after just one round you will immediately realize why. Virtually every aspect of the player’s game – from flat to steep lies, aerial shots to run ups, and holes of every length – are tested in a loop at Mimosa Hills. While the corridors feel bold and brawny, a quick Google Maps search will show you how perfectly connected the routing is into its setting.
Ross was also incredible at using the land and bunkers to cause visual deception. Mimosa is full of holes that make one pause and think carefully about their plan of attack. Some of those include:
• #2: Although the second is a very short par four by modern standards, there is no shortage of trouble. Initially, it seems the tee shot is directly uphill, but importantly the fairway is also canted to the left. This poses a challenge, as the best angle into the blind green is from the right – a very difficult position to obtain. Furthermore, any player who is too aggressive with their drive may find a massive bunker in the left/center of the fairway, leaving a sand blast from an awkward distance.
• #3: This par five is relatively straightforward if one chooses to make it a three shot hole, but being too conservative may leave a downhill lie on the third shot to a uniquely pronged putting surface.
• #4: While the fourth may seem plain, I found the approach shot to be terrifying. Playing from a slightly downhill lie, the most common miss is thin, though there is no room at all behind this green banked into a pond. Once again, Ross showcases his genius by creating fear without moving any dirt on this flowing two shotter.
• #5: The tee shot at the dogleg left fifth is fascinating – a perfect yardage must be achieved from the tee to properly orient your second shot into this oblique putting surface, while also avoiding hanging branches from a large tree.
• #7: The land on this par five is tilted from left-to-right. Of course, on the drive, out-of-bounds and a bunker lurk on that right side.
• #11: The tee shot at the eleventh was intriguing and quite frankly, differs strategically (and correctly, in my opinion) from so many courses I play today. The fairway heads uphill with a slight cant to the right. The best angle into this green is from the left side, but to achieve it, one must carry a fairway bunker on the left. Too often, one sees the opposite – play away from traps for the best angle. Ross’s mindset gives true risk/reward options to the low and high handicapper on this tough hole.
• #12: Similar to the third, the approach at the par five twelfth is provocative. Going for the green in two is an option, but any shot left or long drops off severely and leads to a nearly impossible up-and-down. Laying back is also a possibility, but beware of a massive cross bunker and the forthcoming blind shot with a poor angle into the green.
• #14: While watching the “Donald Ross: Discovering the Legend” DVD, I heard some of Ross’ great holes described as “discovered” rather than constructed. The fourteenth at Mimosa Hills certainly fits the bill. This fairway is absolutely marvelous, and I wish I could hit drives to it with a bucket of balls all day. Severely canted from right-to-left, one must avoid a series of flanking bunkers and then cross bunkers on their journey down this par five’s corridor. Of course, the only angle to the green is from the far right portion of the fairway which is both difficult to stick, and leaves a sidehill lie. The way in which this fairway hugs the land generates both strategic interest and natural beauty.
• #15: The long par four fifteenth offers some respite for the average player, welcoming run-up shots. However, with virtually no room long, golfers must be precise with whichever shot type they pursue.
Relative to many other restored Ross courses I have played from this era, I found the putting surfaces at Mimosa Hills to be very small. This made many approach shots to be absolutely frightening for a ball striker of my (poor) caliber – especially with some very long par threes right near the parking lot, driveway, and clubhouse. However, when combined with such a superb routing, it became immediately apparent why so many fantastic players have called Mimosa Hills home. With a plethora of challenges and breathtaking views all mixed into the adventure, I cannot fathom rounds here ever getting old. Additionally, the staff were beyond welcoming, especially head pro Jimmy Piercy who took the time to show me some incredible pieces of golf history from the club.
If you receive an invitation to play Mimosa Hills, clear your calendar and make your way to Morganton for a spectacular round ahead!