By Jim Grosjean, Senior Staff Writer, Golf Talk America Corporation
Recently I was privileged to visit Mountain Air Country Club, the fabulous golf course community high above Burnsville, North Carolina. For years I’ve read about Mountain Air and was amazed by the spectacular photography in all the golf magazines. In reality, those pictures don’t do Mountain Air justice. This literally may be one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on earth.
Mountain Air encompasses all of Slickrock Mountain which reaches an elevation of 4919 feet above sea level. At that elevation, you can expect to find 10-15 degree cooler temperatures in the summer than you will find at the base of the mountain. You won’t even need air conditioning at night! Since the community’s inception in the early 1990’s, Mountain Air Country Club has steadily grown into one of the country’s most desired golf course developments. More than 400 families live at Mountain Air during the warmer weather months. While only a handful of hardy homeowners stay here year-round, they can be assured of clear roads and amenities that allow them to enjoy the mountain throughout the winter.
The centerpiece of the community is its Scott Pool designed golf course. When it opened in 1995, Pool’s layout earned a Golf Digest nomination for Best New Private Course that year. The accolades continue to this day. The 100 mile panoramic vistas are indescribable and in my experience, only the views at Primland Golf Club in Virginia can begin to compare. The front nine remains mostly on the mountaintop, so there are actually some holes without much elevation change. The back nine is the polar opposite, with over 900 feet of altitude change . The short fifth hole warms you up for this with a ninety foot drop from tee to green. I got a kick out of the trip from the fifth green to the sixth tee. The cart path takes you around the end of the runway of Mountain Air’s private landing strip. When planes are departing or landing, you’ll be warned by a stop light to wait until the all clear sign is given. It’s an exciting sight and worth the wait! Get out your camera on the par five eighth hole, for the green fronts a deep drop-off with a view for miles. First timers inevitably hit a tee shot from this spot just to watch their golf ball soar into oblivion. The par three tenth hole drops so far from tee to green, that a sign warns that the 211 yard hole plays 155 yards! Expect your tee shot to stay in the air for a long time and try not to be distracted by the views beyond the green. The next few holes continue down the mountain until finally number 15 begins the trek back to the top. The back nine is an interesting mix of long par threes and short par fours which require some exciting decisions on the tee. The round concludes with the number one handicap hole, an uphill par five that requires three good shots just to reach a green full of challenging contours.
Besides the stunning golf course, Mountain Air also features an award winning practice area, the Lost Chimneys Golf Learning and Performance Center. This complex includes a large driving range, putting green and chipping green, as well as an indoor facility with heated bays and state of the art teaching areas.
Many of the activities available to Mountain Air members involve communing with nature in some way. Since the Mountain Air property includes an Old Growth Forest preserve, nature walks along eight miles of paths can be a way to find peace and solitude, or perhaps a time to examine some of the plentiful wildlife that shares life on the mountaintop. Mountain Air employs its own naturalist to provide guidance and education that will enrich the experience, whether you choose a nature hike, bird walk or a “Salamander Safari.” On a clear night, stargazing is an awesome experience, too. The six community parks indicate how committed Mountain Air is to providing unique outdoor venues.
The hub of community activity at Mountain Air is the Slickrock Village Green. The complex includes the Mountain Air clubhouse, the Chautauqua Activity and Fitness Center, Orville and Wilbur’s Bar and Grill, a large putting green, the Mountain Market, the Falling Leaf Lodge, the Chautauqua Spa and the Slickrock Cinema. Dining at the beautiful clubhouse in the Oak Room is a treat for the palate, but also visually stunning for its commanding views of the neighboring mountains. This is Mountain Air at its most formal, yet the decor has a lovely, contemporary Western Carolina artisan quality that makes you feel at home. For a more casual good time as well as an excellent meal, members head to Orville and Wilbur’s Bar and Grill. You’ll be treated to more thrilling views while dining indoors or outside on the large patio. The deli inside the Mountain Market serves fresh handmade-to-order sandwiches perfect for a picnic or pick-me-up after nine holes. Service at all the venues on the mountain is friendly, caring and professional. Everyone makes you feel welcome.
While there are many golf communities that can boast of great golf courses, first class amenities, fine cuisine and the like; I believe Mountain Air is a cut above because of the people who live there. There is a very uncommon feel of camaraderie among the members. Most of them fell in love with Mountain Air the minute they set foot on the property. I heard many stories from folks who bought their dream retreat within hours or days of first visiting. Another comment that I heard more than once was, “Our residents check their egos at the gate.” That’s amazing considering the high levels of success obtained by many of the members. The focus just seems to be on how to make life on the mountain as pleasant as possible. Block parties evolve into whole community barbeques. Fourth of July fireworks, twilight golf, weekly farmers market, wine dinners and too many activities to mention are available to anyone who wishes to partake. To me, Mountain Air has a feeling of inclusiveness and that’s very refreshing. Giving back is also a high priority to the residents. Through the Mountain Air Community Resident’s Fund, a great deal of money has been raised to support non-profits in Burnsville and Yancey County to fight hunger, promote health, education, and literacy and many other good works.
If Mountain Air sounds like Shangri La, I would encourage you to investigate further. Begin at www.mountainaircountryclub.com. Visits can be arranged from this site.