Eseeola Lodge at the Linville Golf Club – Elegance, Beauty and a Donald Ross Masterpiece
Sometimes history tells a funny story. Back in 1888, mining entrepreneur Hugh MacRae envisioned the Linville, NC area as a busy manufacturing hub with hundreds of buildings lining the streets and lots of hustle and bustle. Thankfully, he came to learn that Linville’s potential was in its existing beauty, not future industry. People were falling in love with Linville because it was already a special place. Travelers flocked to the area for the cool summer temperatures and friendly people. MacRae abandoned his initial plans and the town slowly morphed into a resort community. And, at the center of it all was – and still is – The Eseeola Lodge.
Work was completed on the original Eseeola Inn in 1891, a large Queen Anne-styled building. The Inn hired a baker and chef from New York for that summer, purchased the finest linens and china money could buy and created a first-class dining experience for guests that came to Linville for some rest and relaxation.
There was plenty to do at the Eseeola Inn. Guests could take a buggy or horseback ride through the mountains or enjoy trout fishing from the banks of the Linville River. Or they could indulge in a rousing croquet match, a few sets of tennis, archery, billiards or lawn bowling. The following year, the Eseeola Inn built a nine-hole golf course, giving guests one more activity to choose from. Another 5 holes were added in 1900 and as Howard E Covington wrote in his book Linville: A Mountain Home for 100 Years, “By playing four of the new holes twice, and shooting from different tees, Linville could claim an 18-hole course.”
Fast forward several years. As the season got underway in the spring of 1936, a fire broke out in the kitchen and the entire resort was destroyed. Guests were accommodated in the Chestnut Annex, named for its unique – and now irreplaceable – chestnut bark shingles, selected by world-renowned architect Henry Bacon. Because it had become so popular by guests of the resort, the company decided to add a lounge, dining room, and kitchen to the annex and officially renamed it The Eseeola Lodge.
The Eseeola Lodge is all about stately elegance. Although there are only a total of 24 rooms and suites, their level of service is impeccable. The rooms may not be as large as some of the national chains however they are very warm and inviting, and very well appointed. Resort guests can also enjoy other features of The Eseeola Lodge including the library, lounge, and bar, or wander around the numerous buildings that make up the property and take in the surrounding beauty of the grounds. On property, you’ll find a day camp for kids, which provides adults just enough time to indulge in a luxurious spa treatment. If you’re so inclined, head over to the pool and swim a few laps. You can also take advantage of the tennis courts and exercise and fitness room. If you’re an outdoor adventurer, you can play a round of croquet or go canoeing and fishing. There’s still plenty to do.
The Eseeola Lodge will take your dining experiences to a whole new level. A sumptuous breakfast is included with every night’s stay and if you’re on their Modified American plan, dinner is included as well. Executive Chef Patrick Maisonhaute and his staff of culinary experts will tempt your taste buds with dishes that meld together perfect ingredients. Among the assortment of dishes on their menu, you’re sure to find something that will pique your curiosity, perhaps using ingredients your palette has not yet encountered. Their desserts are unique as well. The Honey Crème Brulee is absolutely delicious as was everything else we sampled.
Kara Penland and her brother Brandon Wilson have been working at the Eseeola Lodge for almost 30 years. Brandon is Eseeola Lodge’s Sommelier and Maître d’; Kara is a Dining Room Manager with an added duty.
It seems Kara has always had a particular skill for making ice cream. When one of the club’s members fell ill with throat cancer, Kara took it upon herself to see that he had plenty of her specialty, Peppermint Ice Cream. It seems that the member became such a fan of the ice cream that he began sharing it with other members and friends. After he passed away, Kara was asked if she would be interested in making the ice cream on a regular basis. Now she makes it about three times each week and it is absolutely delicious.
Back in the day, many people from different walks of life saw Linville’s potential. World-renowned golf course architect Donald Ross was one of them. Ross visited Linville in 1924 and knew almost immediately that this was the place he wanted to build his next golf course. He spent barely two days scouting the soggy valley and forests in the area. Later that year, Ross and his company began construction of a new 18-hole championship golf course and the old course was abandoned. The Linville Golf Club was born!
To say Donald Ross did a magnificent job creating The Linville Golf Club is like calling the Titanic a boat. In true Ross fashion, the course is both playable and challenging. On most holes, there’s plenty of room off the tee, although some require something less than driver. There’s a lot of undulation and mounding in the fairways, creating uneven lies, but the biggest challenge when playing this course lies in the green complexes. They’re smaller than most and the undulation and pitch requires some skill to get it close and keep it close. Many greens have no sand bunkers around them; they don’t need them, the grass mounding is penal enough. On just about any hole, your best bet is to leave it below the hole, if possible.
Over the years, closely mowed collection areas around the green have been attributed to Ross, but that is just a fallacy. His goal in creating these collection areas around the green was to promote the art of chipping. You’ll see this as you make your way around the course, especially at the par 3, 6th hole. Miss the green off the tee and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The 3rd hole is a par 4 that plays 414 yards from the White tees and has been ranked as one of golf’s 100 greatest holes. I had a good drive off the tee and was still left with an uphill 165-yard approach shot into a green that slopes dramatically from back to front and has a lot of undulation. Score a par or better and consider the round a success!
During our stay, I met Bill Mechesney. Forty-nine years ago, Bill was the Assistant Professional at the Golf club. He and his wife Sue were back for the first time since he left. I asked him what differences he saw in the course then and now; his answer was “Very little.” That’s not an uncommon response when it comes to a Donald Ross golf course. Ross’s courses are classics that stand the ultimate test – time. His green may not be large, but they are indeed challenging. Many of the greens don’t have any bunkers around them – they don’t need them. The creek that meanders throughout the course makes you think about your club selection. Tee box landing areas are generous, and the course isn’t overly long, yet conquering it is an arduous task. It’s a course I can’t wait to play again.
There are two ways to play this incredible Donald Ross layout; become a member or stay at the Eseeola Lodge. For more information or to book your next stay at the Eseeola Lodge, give them a call at (828) 733-4311 or visit them online at www.eseeola.com.