The Country Club of Sapphire Valley – Mountain Golf Without the Climb


The Country Club of Sapphire Valley (CCSV) is recognized as one of North Carolina’s premier private clubs and offers members a great golf course in the mountains of Western North Carolina. There are a couple of things that make CCSV different from other private country clubs in the mountains. First and foremost in the staff; I’ve yet to come across a “team” like General Manager Ashton Harris has assembled. They are the kindest, most caring and compassionate group I have met. From the pro shop staff to maintenance and wait staff; they are ready and eager to answer your questions or in my case, help you find a golf ball! Secondly, although this is “mountain golf” there isn’t a lot of change in elevation; and the course is totally walkable!

This part of the country is known for its picturesque scenery, with the Great Smoky Mountains serving as a backdrop, and a temperate climate that makes the summer months and activities that much more enjoyable.

There’s a lot of history at CCSV. Back in 1954, Gene Howerdd, Sr., a retired executive of Georgia Pacific and a member of Augusta National, and his wife Katie purchased over 8,000 acres of land in the area, part of which included the 200-acre Lake Fairfield and The Sapphire Valley Inn.  The Howerdds tapped George Cobb, the architect who would build the par-3 course at Augusta National, as the architect for their new 18-hole course. The new course grew quickly in popularity and was soon nicknamed, “The Gem of the Mountains.”

As time passed by, The Inn, golf course and several acres of prime real estate were sold to a Florida-based development company. In turn, they sold their interests to the Certain-Teed Corporation. Eventually, there was one more owner – Fairfield Communities, Inc. of Arkansas – before the members began negotiations to purchase the club and facilities. In 1983, this purchase was complete and soon a Men’s Grill, Ladies’ Lounge, General Manager’s office and a new irrigation system were added. The 1990s saw a steady stream of improvements: greens were rebuilt to USGA specifications, a liquor license was acquired, and a new membership category was added for non-golfers.

As the club grew and membership increased, a major expansion was necessary. After capital improvement plans were approved, a new practice facility was installed and a state-of-the-art fitness center, pool, and tennis complex were completed in 2004. At the end of that year, the old clubhouse was demolished and the beautiful 32,000-square foot structure you see today was built.

Since then, croquet lawns and pickleball courts have been added. Croquet is so popular at CCSV that the club hosts a winter trip each year to a warm weather croquet school in Florida.

Although CCSV has a lot to offer its members, the 18-hole championship, George Cobb golf course is the main attraction. When it comes to golf, CCSV offers a mountain golf escape with unparalleled views. Cobb combined the beautiful vistas of the high mountain valley with the playability and enjoyment associated with a walkable course. If you’re walking the course, you don’t need to be part mountain goat either, the slopes you encounter are gentle and easy to handle. With features such as Bentgrass from tee to green, immaculate fairways and undulating greens, this meticulously maintained course is a pleasure to play. Golfers can play every day and the course will never play the same way twice.

CCSV features five sets of tees with combinations that produce 9 playable yardages. From the back tees, CCSV plays 6,841 yards with a course rating of 72.5 and a slope of 128. Move all the way up to the fifth set of tees and you’re looking at 4,855/67.7/121. As you can see, if you can swing a club, they’ve got a yardage that will suit your game.

As you make your way around the layout, you’ll be faced with several obstacles including a trout stream, ponds and strategically placed bunkers. Although homes can be seen throughout the layout, they are separated from the course by large wooded lots. With a lot of room off the tee, CCSV places an emphasis on second shots. This is evident on many holes. CCSV is full of memorable holes, but none more so than the stretch from 12 – 14. Twelve is a short par 4 – 277 yards from Tee II – that is all risk/reward, based on how far you can hit your driver. Option 1 is to hit your tee shot about 190 yards and layup short of the bunkers. Option 2 is to hit it 270 yards onto the green. Most players I know will choose option 1! The tee shot plays over water with bunkers on either side of the fairway and large pine trees on the left. A good drive will leave a short, uphill pitch shot to a small green, well bunkered on the right. Thirteen is a 434-yard par 4 from Tee II, and it plays every bit of it. Longball hitters may be able to fly the trees on the left and cut this dogleg left down a bit. Number 14 is the back side’s first par 5. It’s a dogleg right that keeps turning right. The hole plays 467 yards from Tee II and allows you to hit it as far as you can off the tee, just be sure to make it to the corner – preferably on the left side – past the covered bridge. Complete this task off the tee and you will be able to have a go at the green from just more than 200 yards. Just be sure to carry the creek that crosses in front of the green.

CCSV has a comprehensive practice facility with a full-length driving range that allows you to hit every club in the bag. There’s also a short game area with a large bunker and a good size practice green. The PGA certified staff at CCSV can provide individual and group lessons using the latest technology.

In addition to a fantastic golf course, the CCSV offers a variety of recreational sports including tennis, pickleball, croquet and a fitness center. For the tennis enthusiast, CCSV offers 4 Har-Tru tennis courts staffed by a USPTA certified and former world-ranked tennis professional. The Racquet Center has an array of programs for all ages and skill levels. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the world and provides a good cardio workout. The game is easy to learn and CCSV’s new facility has three Pickleball courts. No matter your skill level, they’ll match you up with playing partners to ensure you have a good time.

The Club’s Fitness and Wellness Center is designed to meet the needs and profiles of the members. Classes include from Yoga, HIIT circuit training, TRX sports fitness, spin classes and sport-specific stretching for golf & tennis. There’s also swimming, massage, sauna, and hiking led by the staff on the weekends.

To many Members, a Country Club is only as good as the dining experience it provides, and the CCSV doesn’t disappoint. The atmosphere within the 32,000 square foot Clubhouse is special and it’s a great place to enjoy the company of fellow members and entertain guests. Choose from semi-formal and informal dining rooms, with indoor and outdoor seating. Should you decide to dine outdoors on the Mountain Veranda, you are likely to encounter a number of butterflies and hummingbirds checking out CCSV’s wonderful array of flora. Member favorites include themed buffets, Twilight sporting events, and the Club’s signature, “Sand Trap Ice Cream Pie.”

The member-owned private club draws its membership from several cities and states. Members come from such cities as Charlotte, Atlanta, Greenville, and Birmingham, all of which can be reached within a few hours. The Asheville Airport is just a 50-minute drive, and the Club is just a few minutes away from shopping, including several boutique shops and a local farmers market. Some Members have made the mountain area their permanent home; others retreat here for their “mountain getaway”. Whether you are looking to become a full-time resident of the area or a part-timer, CCSV offers several categories of membership including Golf, Young Executive, National and Clubhouse memberships. A 30-day trial membership is also available so that you can experience life at CCSV before joining as a full member.

You’re not going to find many golf courses in the mountains of Western North Carolina that are as beautiful and walkable as The Country Club of Sapphire Valley. For more information, visit their website at

David Theoret

David Theoret has been in the golf and golf travel industry for over 12 years, primarily selling online advertising. For the past seven years, he has also been a golf writer, reviewing golf courses, resorts, destinations, equipment, golf apparel, and training aids – the latter of which never seems to help. What started as a dream years ago, by God’s grace, became a reality in 2015 when The Golfin’ Guy editorial marketing company was founded. Working together with golf course designer Ron Garl; David’s articles and reviews have been posted on many golf travel, equipment, and apparel websites.

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