By Mike Dojc
Crisp mountain air and fairways and greens framed by an electric autumnal palette — you can’t beat fall golf. The Bald Mountain course at Rumbling Bald Resort is a classical Blue Ridge Foothills beauty routed by W.B Lewis back in 1968. The par-72 charmer measures in at 6,233 yards from the back tees with the longest hole clocking in at 509 yards but with all the elevation changes the sporty track doesn’t feel short in the slightest. There is a quintet of par-5’s along with a five-some of par-3’s, an interesting design quirk which heightens the on-course drama. Speaking of theatrics, if you’re a 1980s cinephile, the signature 16th hole, a par-3 over water, may feel strangely familiar.
The deja vu will hit especially hard once you walk out onto the “dance floor.” Nothing has changed at all in 33 years since the green was used as a filming location for Dirty Dancing in a memorable scene in the movie where Baby (Jennifer Grey) asks to borrow $250 from her father (Jerry Orbach). In the film, this is the golf course’s putting green but aside from that detail, the vista looking back down at the fairway towards a mountain backdrop is the same breathtaking view that captured the eye of location scouts and the cinematographer all those years ago.
“Any kind of claim to fame you get is good,” explains Adam Bowles, Director of Golf Operations and Head PGA Professional who takes film fans on a tour during the annual Dirty Dancing Festival in September.
He continues: “We line everybody up in carts. We pull down the road and lead a train out to 17 and then we walk up to 16. As we are climbing the hill to get to the green, I’m recounting the story and hyping it up — they often know more than I do. We crest over the hill to the location to see where it happened and people just light up.”
“On the lake on the south end, there’s a set of stairs from the movie where [Baby] walked down the stairs carrying a watermelon,” he shares. “You can get on a boat and go see that but this [at the golf course] is one of the last true scenes that hasn’t changed in 30 years. It looks just like it did when they filmed it.”
Nobody puts my Bridgestone in the corner I can’t help but murmur, a play on the film’s most enduring line, before gently coaxing my ball toward the flagstick on the Dirty Dancing green. It makes a left to right cha-cha-cha before plunking into the cup.
There are two courses to have the time of your golfing life on at Rumbling Bald. Following an extensive refurbishment Apple Valley is back open with new Champion Bermuda greens the color of Granny Smiths and carpet-like consistency that keeps putts rolling true.
“With everything that’s happened this year, we feel incredibly fortunate that Apple Valley reopened ahead of schedule,” says Rumbling Bald General Manager Jeff Geisler. “We now have the entire fall golf season ahead of us with 36 holes available, and we look forward to safely welcoming golfers from around the region.”
A social distancing conducive holiday spot, there are 150 vacation rentals, condos, and studios to choose from offering either golf course or mountain views along with a dozen scenic Class A motor coach lots. Beyond Rumbling Bald’s golf offerings, amenities include a wellness center with a spa and salon, indoor pool, and kids’ camps. There are also outdoor pools, a beach, boat rentals, sand volleyball courts, and tennis courts.
Need more golf getaway inspiration? Read on!