It has been 50 years now since Barron Connell and his son, Butch, converted the old dairy farm off Camp Stewart Road into a golf course they named Larkhaven.
The trees are taller now and the 100-year-old farmhouse that served as the original clubhouse has been replaced by a newer building that's no fancier than the hot dogs they sell in the lunch room there.
Several years ago, they flipped the nines from the way Barron and Butch designed them on their tractor, pushing up some dirt to build greens and mowing the grass down to make fairways.
Now the first hole is a short, quirky par-4 that plays uphill from a tee that's so close to the clubhouse you can practically scrape the building with your backswing.
The 10th tee still sits close enough to the parking lot that the pickups and sedans parked there are in danger of getting dinged by quick slices and pop-ups off the toe.
In a city that loves its own sparkle, Larkhaven is a grassroots reminder of how Charlotte used to be and how golf, for most of us, will always be.
It is not a country club and has never tried to be one. It's the oldest 18-hole daily-fee course in Charlotte, a place where for $32 (or $45 on weekends) you can play a round of golf on a good layout where your birdies will feel well-earned just like your bogeys.
They don't sell $100 shirts in the pro shop but Larkhaven's regulars wouldn't buy them anyway. You can buy balls and shoes and a nice $45 shirt if you need one.
If you want to ice down a few cold ones in a plastic bag to take on the cart while you play, that's allowed. So are the homemade golf swings that are as common at Larkhaven as Top-Flites.
It's easy to believe that golf is played only by the wealthy on pristine layouts where they serve shrimp bisque for lunch and imported beer in the lounge. There are plenty of those places, to be sure.
But golf lives just fine at a place like Larkhaven where working people spend their cash to play 18 holes. It may not be elegant but golf at Larkhaven is just as special to the people who play there as it is to the members of rich private clubs.
Barron, his wife Jane, and Butch are gone now but Larkhaven stayed in the family and they've worked to sustain and improve what was started in 1958.
They're proud of how green Larkhaven stays year-round and they should be. Most places don't spend the money to overseed their fairways in the fall and winter like Larkhaven does.
The greens aren't great but they're fine to play on.
There are some easy holes and some tough ones. There's no better par in Charlotte than one made on the tough par-4 12th hole.
In spots around the clubhouse, there are benches and plaques dedicated to the Connell family, reminders of the people responsible for creating Larkhaven 50 years ago.
There's also a parking lot full of cars, two groups on the first tee and a feeling that a day at Larkhaven is a good day.
Those are the nicest reminders.
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