North Carolina’s famed Biltmore Estate once had a golf course. What happened to it?

·2 min read

Question from a reader: As a longtime patron of the Biltmore Estate, I’ve often wondered why they haven’t added a golf course. They have evolved over the years into a truly multi-faceted attraction – something for everyone, every age. They have enough acreage, especially along the river, to build an attractive links-style course. Sounds like a home run to me … er, a hole in one!

My answer: I think a hole where you had to hit over the house would really liven up the visit for tourists.

Real answer: At 8,000 acres, the estate certainly could carve out a few hundred acres for a top-notch golf course, but don’t hold your breath.

“Throughout the years, the possibility of creating a golf course has been discussed, but there are no plans at this time,” estate spokeswoman LeeAnn Donnelly said via email.

I’ll note that this question has come in to me multiple times over the years, along with rumors that the estate is going to build an amusement park on-site, or at least a roller coaster. That’s not happening, either.

The estate, which George Vanderbilt completed in 1895, does have some history with golf, however.

“Historically, as part of the entertainment planned for George Vanderbilt’s first house party in December 1895, golf links were laid out in a field below Biltmore House,” Donnelly said. “Letters record rousing golf matches played almost daily throughout the holidays.”

It looks like Vanderbilt did have the golf bug.

“Soon afterward, Vanderbilt commissioned a 9-hole ‘golf ground,'” Donnelly said. “It is unclear what firm drew up the blueprints, but Vanderbilt was involved in their execution.”

In 1896, the Biltmore Estate laid out plans for the “Biltmore Golf Ground,” sited in a river bottom field below Biltmore House. The nine-hole course was built and used, but it’s unclear for how long. (Photo provided by Biltmore Estate.)

The estate, anchored by the 250-room French chateau, features rolling hills, mountain vistas and lots of riverside acreage, as well as a lagoon.

“The exceptionally scenic course offered a challenging yet entertaining game, including a treacherous water hazard at the lagoon,” Donnelly said. “More details about the ‘golf ground’ are included in ‘The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad’ exhibit housed in Antler Hill Village on the estate.”

The course kept flooding, according to reports, and was it was eventually abandoned.

Some evidence of the golfing craze was found as late as 2009.

“On display is a golf ball dating back to 1895 that was found in 2009 by an estate employee while fishing from the southwest banks of the lagoon,” Donnelly said.

Alas, we hackers will have to settle for tearing up the turf at the Asheville Muni and not the stately Biltmore grounds.