By Charlene & Richard Mixa
100 Years Old and Still Going Strong!
Fore! With grand views of the glorious stone structure of the Grove Park Inn, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the city-scape of Asheville, we tee it up on the resort’s historic 18-hole Donald Ross golf course. Considered among the top golf experiences in North Carolina, it celebrates the spirit of mountain golf. Donald Ross stated, “A course that continually offers problems – one with fight in it, if you please –is the one that keeps the player keen for the game.” Among the top ten courses 100 years or older according to Golf digest, it was masterfully restored in 2001and still reflects the glory and spirit of Donald Ross’ original design. The course has fight with its elevation changes, frustration with its bedeviling contour greens, is a great test of golfing skills and is FUN.
Tackling the course does keep us “keen on the game.” The 6,720-yard, par-70 course is contoured out of the rolling landscape with tree-lined fairways, challenging bunkers and receptive bent greens. And, its elevated tee boxes give amazing views. Each hole brings its own challenge between valley holes, uphill and downhill fairways, and nasty rough. Greens are huge, undulating and extremely difficult putt. Playing in early in the morning, we enjoy cooler temperatures and have an exciting game. Amazing! Maybe harder courses are my bag as I shoot well below my handicap.
Next on our “day escape” at this award-wining resort is a tour of the Grove Park Inn. Having just celebrated its 100 year birthday the Inn is steeped in history. Our guide, Hilary, shares a wealth of information on the Grove family, the Inn with its Arts and Craft style architecture, The Pink Lady Ghost, and other fascinating tales. An intriguing story is how the Inn lost its pool table for over 50 years but recently found it for sale on eBay. The hotel was the dream of Edwin Wiley Grove, who formulated a tasteless quinine to prevent malaria, a life-threatening disease in the South in the 19th century. Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic became a household staple earning him millions of dollars. Standing in the Grand Hall with its enormous granite fireplaces, it is unbelievable that the original 160-room hotel was completed in less than one year. Today it is a 514- room world-famous resort on the National Registry of Historic Places that continues to create vacation escapes for travelers.
What can you do with 43,000 square feet of subterranean space? Create a world-class Spa! A full afternoon in the Grove Park Inn’s unbelievable spa awaits us. Beneath the hillside is a spa featuring cavernous rock walls, arches, tunnels and 20 water features. After soaking in the whirlpool at about 116 degrees, it takes a lot of courage to plunge (or slowly dip) into a 67 degree pool. It’s exhilarating! Choices abound from the inhalation room, sauna, a eucalyptus-infused steam room and cozy indoor and outdoor private spaces in each of the Men’s and Women’s Lounges. After soothing and calming our aching muscles, we meet in the couple’s area with its great lap pool that has fiber-optic stars embedded in the ceiling and underwater music. Waterfall pools are refreshing! Sitting under the therapeutic waterfall, the force of the water loosens tight shoulder, neck and back muscles. Outside is a huge whirlpool with chaise lounges, a huge fireplace, and beautiful scenic views of the golf course and mountains. It’s a rainy afternoon so we opt for the Couples Lounge with comfy overstuffed leather chairs by a cozy fireplace. Sipping herbal infused water, under a warm blanket while enjoying healthy snacks, is the ultimate retreat. The Grove Park Inn Spa is a place to unwind and is truly “The Best Spa!”
As the afternoon rains continue, we are seated at our table for dinner at the Sunset Terrace, located on the outdoor terrace of the 100 year old Main Inn. An iconic upscale, classic restaurant it features traditional American cuisine and an award winning wine list, along with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. No sunset tonight but scenic misty mountains peek out of the clouds. The service is excellent! Starting with the luscious oysters on the half shell, we share the delicious roasted beet salad. Our savory entrees of the Sorrel Creek Trout with fingerling potatoes and Butter Roasted Sea Scallops are large servings and beautifully prepared. Our Warm Apple Cobbler scrumptious! The perfect finish to our wonderful “day escape” at this amazing and historical resort.
If you go:
For this visit we already had accommodations so it was just a “day escape”. In fact, the hotel was totally booked on our visit. We will definitely be back to stay at the Resort and further experience all it offers. Anyone visiting Asheville should at least visit the Grove Park Inn. Go for lunch, golf, the spa, or a drink just to see, experience, and enjoy this most amazing and historical resort.
The Omni Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804 (828) 252-2711; (800) 438-5800; www.groveparkinn.com