Pilot Knob Park looks back on 50 years
by Dean Palmer Civitas News Service
PILOT MOUNTAIN — Pilot Knob Park will be continuing a celebration of its 50th anniversary this fall, continuing a tradition of promoting the game of golf among local youth and families while also attracting golfers traveling through the area.
Established in 1963, Pilot Knob Park was designed by renowned course architect Gene Hamm. Located just minutes from Pilot Mountain State Park, PKP is a par 70, 6225-yard golf course featuring rolling 419 Bermuda fairways and Diamond Zoysia greens.
Lakes, streams, valleys and surrounding hills help to create a scenic challenge for the novice as well as the accomplished golfer. A multi-targeted driving range also is offered, along with a pitching and chipping range and a large putting green.
“From the beginning,” said PKP charter member and current President Van Dearmin, “our goal was to have a nice family-oriented golf course, available at a reasonable price. At that time, rural golf courses were very rare. But leaders in their respective communities from Pilot Mountain, Westfield, Shoals and Mount Airy dreamed of bringing a golf course here. They jumped on this and pushed it to happen.”
According to Dearmin, that dream became reality with the aid of a federal grant focused on helping to establish golf courses in rural areas. The grant allowed funds to be borrowed at a reduced rate that small communities could afford.
An initial board was elected to purposely include representatives from a diversity of local communities. The names of those who supported the park include a generation of local business and community leaders. Community meetings were also held to encourage support. Early supporters included P.G. Wall, Joe Pell, Dick Lawson, Flip Rees, Tom York, Guy Coe, Lee Vinson and Frank Stone.
“It was kind of a community thing,” Dearmin said. “We would join in to pick up rocks. It was interesting to see folks from Pilot Mountain, Westfield, Shoals, Mount Airy, Winston-Salem and King come together to play and get to know each other. And a lot of them became friends.”
Also included in the park’s amenities is a popular swimming pool.
“Our pool has thrived over the years,” Dearmin said. “And it’s still a big drawing card for us.”
PKP thrived during the 1970s and early 1980s, a time when golf was at its peak in popularity. During that time, membership topped at about 425 with a waiting list of another 50 to 100 names. Membership is estimated at about 310.
“Membership is down everywhere,” Dearmin noted. “Not as many people are playing golf now.”
Guest play at the semi-private facility is welcomed during the week. On weekends, guest play is available with a member.
The course itself has remained relatively unchanged throughout the years. Some three years ago, a difficult period of hot, dry weather did force one major change that has proven to be a benefit. To survive the weather, greens were switched from bent grass to the hardier Diamond Zoysia.
“We were the first in northwestern North Carolina to have Diamond Zoysia,” Dearmin noted. “It has thrived and has ended up being a big addition for us.
“Today,” he continued, “we still offer a nice family-oriented golf course that’s accessible for a reasonable price. We’ve encouraged our juniors to play through golf clinics and folks have donated clubs. This has been and continues to be a place for everyone to come together and to play the game of golf.”
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