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Bald Mountain a star in own right

Rumbling Bald Resort's Bald Mountain made a cameo appearance in the 1987 box office blockbuster movie "Dirty Dancing." More than 30 years later, though, the W.B. Lewis-designed course is more than just a tourist attraction

LAKE LURE, N.C. —The Bald Mountain course at Rumbling Bald Resort hasn’t changed much since W.B. Lewis designed it in 1968.

“Actually, it hasn’t changed at all,” said Adam Bowles, the resort’s director of golf. “They put in new bentgrass greens in about 2000, and the trees have grown. That’s about it.”

Bald Mountain, though, has a unique attraction. In hitting the green on the par-3 16th hole, a golfer will have — almost literally — reached “the dance floor.” See, the green was used in a scene in the mega-popular 1987 movie Dirty Dancing and its role is designated with a sign behind the green.

“Everyone wants to take a picture from behind the green,’’ Bowles said. “It’s incredible to me how many people are still attached to that movie. It has a strange attraction. It’s funny how some movies have a cult following.”

Dirty Dancing, which starred Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, certainly has that. Lake Lure holds an annual Dirty Dancing Festival in September, though it was not held this year because of pandemic concerns.

Bald Mountain — Hole No. 17
Rumbling Bald Resort features two 18-hole courses — Bald Mountain and Apple Valley. Bald Mountain plays to par 72 and just over 6,200 yards from the tips. The course was designed by George Cobb, who also designed Augusta National Golf Club's par-3 course, and his protege, W.B. Lewis. The course stands out because it features five par 5s and five par 3s. The 16th green was a backdrop to a scene in the 1987 film "Dirty Dancing," starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

“It’s a really big deal,” Bowles said. “You wouldn’t believe how many people flock to this area. A lot of places that were in that movie have since burned down, and there’s not much remaining. It’s really the only place where people who love that movie can go where it was made. Pretty bizarre to me.”

The 16th hole is more than just a pretty face, as it features a daunting tee shot over water. The hole follows a striking par 5 that is pretty special, too. The 509-yard 15th plays downhill from tee to green with a covered bridge used to get golfers from the fairway to the putting surface. The green is blocked by a small, but troublesome, creek.

There are some other interesting holes at Bald Mountain, as well. Course designer Lewis was a protégé of George Cobb, best known for creating the par-3 course at Augusta National Golf Club.

“We’ve called 16 our signature hole because there’s so much history involved,” Bowles said, “but players have developed a love-hate relationship about No. 15.”

Bald Mountain plays to par 72 and measures only 6,233 yards from the tips, but it’s also unusual for having five par 3s and five par 5s. It’s a short, sporty layout with lots of doglegs and elevation changes. The steep, windy roads leading into the resort suggest the elevation changes on the layout are more pronounced than they really are. Bowles side the elevation is 1,500 feet, but that’s enough to make it interesting for a wide variety of players. The Carolina Golf Association, for example, plays between six and eight
events at Bald Mountain each year and junior events are also in abundance.

Rumbling Bald Resort, Bald Mountain Course — Hole No. 16 | Dirty Dancing
Bald Mountain's par-3 16th green served as a putting green in the movie Dirty Dancing, which starred Jennifer Grey, right, and Jerry Orbach.

The course has been owned by its homeowners since 1992, and Bowles envisions the day when the resort connection may be dropped.

“It’ll be more attached to the community, which is really what it is — more a homeowners’ course,” he said.

For now, Bald Mountain remains open to anyone. In August, its companion course, Apply Valley, which was acquired by the resort in 1986, reopened. The course, designed by Dan Maples, the son of course architect icon Ellis Maples, had been closed for a couple of months as the bentgrass was replaced by Champion bermudagrass.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to do something in a year we didn’t expect to do anything," Bowles said. “It was a tough financial decision, but it was the smartest thing to do. We’ll be providing something for people to look forward to.”

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