When it comes to golf family lineage in the Carolinas, it’s hard to trump Dan Maples, architect of Rumbling Bald’s Apple Valley Course. The Pinehurst, North Carolina native is the son of legendary designer and superintendent Ellis Maples, who crafted 70 courses throughout the Old North State and Southeastern U.S.
His grandfather, Frank Maples, worked with none other than Donald Ross in designing and building Pinehurst Resort courses Nos. 1 through 4. Dan apprenticed for years with Ellis, assisting on his father’s triumphant work at Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville, North Carolina (its Champion Course is one of the highest rated in the state).
Even after he retired, Ellis loved nothing more than to walk Dan’s courses during the routing and early design stages. As his health was failing in the early 80s, Dan bulldozed a path through Apple Valley while it was under construction so he and Ellis could ride the property together.
“Dad used to always tell me that walking is a slower pace and you can see more things,” Dan Maples once said. “I remember taking him around Apple Valley in a Wagonaire because it was the first course that he didn’t get to walk.”
As we all eagerly await a return to the new normal and more freedom to move about, here’s a list of must-play Dan Maples courses from around the Carolinas.
Apple Valley – Apple Valley at Rumbling Bald Resort in Lake Lure, North Carolina, stretches to nearly 6,800 yards and features expansive views of Bald Mountain and the surrounding Lake Lure area. Maples estimated that 75% of all shots on the layout are either level or downhill, virtually unheard for a mountain course. Shimmering mountain lakes adorn 12 holes on Apple Valley, but water only occasionally comes into play. The back nine is widely regarded as one of the best closing stretches in the Western Carolinas.
Heritage Club – With more than 600 acres of former rice fields to work with, Maples tied the True Blue and Midway Plantations together in forming a quintessential Lowcountry course in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Live oaks dating back three centuries frame several holes as the course winds its way along the Waccamaw River. The 506-yard par-5 18th is one of the best finishing holes in the state, punctuated by a Colonial plantation-style clubhouse.
Oyster Bay Golf Links – Located in Calabash, North Carolina, Oyster Bay Golf Links was golf-rich Brunswick County’s first championship caliber course, and Dan Maples first solo design. The routing takes full advantage of the property’s setting along the winding Calabash River. Water is in play on 15 of 18 holes, including two island greens. A par-70 playing just under 6,700 yards, Maples steps out of character with cavernous bunkers and severely sloping greens.
The Pearl Golf Links – The Pearl Golf Links (also in Calabash) is home to the East and West courses, both Maples designs. The twin-bill is the centerpiece of stunning, 900-acre swath of marshland along the Calabash River. West is considered the stronger of the two tracks, is more open off the tee and boasts a links-style feel. It flaunts four closing holes which seem to melt right into the river. It recently re-opened with new MiniVerde Bermuda grass greens, also in play on Pearl East.
Rocky River Golf Club – Northeast of Charlotte in Concord, North Carolina, Rocky River is one of Maples “newer” designs (having opened in 1997), and certainly one of his boldest. At nearly 7,000 yards, Rocky River is a modern marvel with a slope of 73.5 from its (back) gold tees. The terrain is unique for the area, featuring numerous wetlands and impressive rock formations along the Rocky River.
Willbrook Plantation – Two former rice plantations dating back to 1776 were combined to create one of the most historically-blessed courses in the Carolinas. Historical markers and gravesite memorials are spread throughout this Maples design in Pawleys Island along Myrtle Beach’s South Strand. In vintage Maples style, Willbrook is accommodating off the tee and receptive of approach shots into large, gently sloping greens.
The Witch – Longtime owner Claude Pardue swears by Maples’ work, so much so he retained him to design all three of his courses, The Witch, The Wizard and Man-O-War. The Witch is frequently rated as one of the best values in all of Myrtle Beach and is considered the strongest design of three. Routed through 500 acres of thick hardwoods, The Witch is a pure “core golf” experience devoid of housing.