Johnny Palmer Grill: Badin’s Hidden Gem

October 14th, 2009

by Joyce Deaton

Next time you’re cruising around on Badin Lake, take an hour or so for lunch and explore a unique spot that many residents of the area don’t even know: The Badin Inn Golf Resort and Club and its Johnny Palmer Grill.

Tucked into a hillside on Spruce Street, about a mile from the main Badin access in the town of Badin, the grill makes it easy for you. Just tie up at the boat landing and give them a call (704-422-3683). They’ll send a six-passenger golf cart to pick you up. Have lunch on the verandah overlooking the putting green, look around the Inn, and they’ll return you to your boat when you’re ready.

Bryan Reece, food and beverage manager for the grill calls the place “a hidden gem.” After working in Charlotte for the Carolina Panthers and the Cheesecake Factory, Reece fell in love with the Inn when he drove down for an interview. “It’s so quiet and peaceful down here,” he says. “It’s a hidden gem.”

The Grill features “All-American home cuisine,” says Reece. Open for lunch and dinner except on weekends, when Saturday breakfast and Sunday brunch are added, the Grill serves up great sandwiches including homemade chicken salad, turkey Reuben, and prime rib with cheese. Chef Sandy Keys’ dinner entrees include a 12-oz. rib eye, T-bone with garlic mashed potatoes, stuffed flounder and a variety of salads. They’re a delight to the pocketbook, too, at prices ranging from $6.95 for sandwiches to $16.95 for steaks.

The eatery takes its name from Badin native Johnny Palmer, who began at the golf club as a 12-year-old caddy and went on to win eight PGA tour victories in the 1940s and ’50s, playing against legends such as Sammy Snead and Ben Hogan. The Grill is decorated with vintage golf bags and photos and articles chronicling Palmer’s career. His two sons, Jock and Jim, still live in Badin and are frequent diners.

Be sure to save enough time to enjoy the Inn and learn its colorful history. In 1913 the French company L’Aluminum Francais began working on a dam to produce hydroelectric power necessary to make aluminum. The Inn, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally built as a clubhouse and guesthouse for the French company’s single male employees. The town of Badin was named for Adrienne Badin, first president of L’Aluminum Francais.

When World War I broke out, the company sold its holdings to Andrew Mellon’s Aluminum Company of America and its workers returned to France. By 1924 local residents organized the Badin Golf Club at the site, and Alcoa made land available for a course. Initiation fees were set at $5 – reduced to $2.50 for members who were willing to work on construction of the course. In 1930, the club’s golf pro taught Johnny Palmer how to caddy and then to play. When Palmer became famous, other golf stars including Snead, Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Bob Hamilton played at Badin.

The club was private from 1924 to 1997, and in 2005 was bought by the current owners, who are restoring it to its former glory. The 23-room clubhouse once hosted W.C. Fields, Mae West when they played at the Badin Opera House. Its restored guest rooms are available for overnight stays and golf weekend packages, and its public spaces are popular settings for weddings, family reunions and proms – complete with catering from the Grill’s kitchen.

For a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner, plus a fascinating look into Badin’s unique history, the Johnny Palmer Grill at the Badin Inn offers a delightful byway for your next outing on gentle Badin Lake.

Top 10 Summer Watersport Safety Tips for Skiers, Tubers, Wake and Kneeboarders

October 14th, 2009

For many Americans, being pulled from the end of a long, slim tow line attached to a speeding motorboat is a summer rite of passage. The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety has these top 10 summer watersport safety tips for waterskiers, wakeboarders and tubers that will guarantee everyone has a great time:

1. Float first: Ensure anyone being towed has a properly fitting life jacket that won’t ride up over a wearer’s head if they take a spill. A Type III vest is best because it has the extra buckles to provide a snug fit and is built for taking a hard fall.

2. Talk to the hand: A rider has very little control over a tube, and skiiers and boarders need control help, too. Before anyone jumps in the water, go over a few standard hand signals, such as stop (hand slashing the neck), slow (thumb down), speed up (thumb up), OK (tip of index finger and thumb together), turn (point finger upwards in a circular motion) and return to dock (pat head).

3. Engine off: Always turn off the boat’s engine when a rider is entering or exiting the water. Not only can a prop rotate while the motor is in “neutral,” the engine exhaust produces carbon monoxide. Also never back up to retrieve a fallen rider.

4. Wait for the OK: Once a skier is in the water, wait until they are far enough away from the boat and signal that it’s OK to start the engine.

5. Spotter is a must: It’s very important to have constant visual contact with anyone being towed. It’s also the law in most states.

6. Look before turning: Let’s face it. It’s the turns that really make watersports fun. But don’t leave those at the end of towline guessing when the next turn is coming. The hand signal for turning is a pointing finger upwards in a circular motion, then pointing to the direction of turn.

7. Think big: Keep in mind that with kids on the end of long towline, your boat’s safety “footprint” is now much larger. That means being extra cautious when near other boaters, docks, navigational aids, and crossing wakes.

8. Two head turns for every “drop”: As soon as someone falls off the tube or a skier or boarder drops, the boat operator should always look to both sides before turning around for a pick-up.

9. Good to go: For riders after a knock down, clasp your hands over your head so those on the towboat know you are OK and ready for retrieval. In some states a red or orange “skier down” flag may need to be displayed.

10. Tip up and be seen: A skier who has fallen in the water can seen by others much more easily if they keep the ski tips above the water.

For more information on your state’s safety requirements, go to and click on State Boating Regulations.

Dream Dock on a Budget

October 14th, 2009

Nothing is more important for the enjoyment of your lakefront home than the dock – whether you use it simply to tie up your boat or as a sort of extra patio for sunning, lounging and entertaining. The ideal dock should be comfortable, stable and as close as possible to maintenance-free.

Looking to create your dream dock in these days when every purchase needs to be budget conscious? Pilot talked with Casey Nicholls of The Master’s Construction Co. in Ft. Mill and Charlie McEwen of Lakeside Marine Construction in Belmont to gather some money-saving tips for your project.

Unless you’re starting from scratch on a new dock, says Nicholls, think carefully about the one you have. How well does it work for the way you want to use your waterfront? “For example, if you live on a busy cove and you have kids, for safety reasons you may need to re-think a floating dock.” But if what you have is basically what you need – just not large enough or in need of a facelift – you can save significantly by simply freshening up or adding on to your existing dock. “Look at the skeleton, especially the poles,” says Nicholls. “If they’ve been there more than 20 years they probably need replacing, but it’s possible you can replace just a few and keep the existing frame.”

If decking boards have weathered but are still sound, and if they’re screwed on instead of nailed, a contractor can remove the screws and flip the boards, saving on both materials and labor. “We did this recently at Tega Cay Marina, and it looks like new,” says Nicholls. Or you can update your dock and lower your maintenance time by switching to synthetic decking. Keep in mind, though, that this will also require adding joists, since synthetic requires them at every 12 inches instead of every 24 as with wood. If you need more space and your dock is basically sound, add another section or two and wrap everything with new skirt board to blend old and new sections.

Starting from the beginning with a new dock? Nicholls suggests you work with your contractor to design your dream dock, then build it in stages. “It’s best to have the whole design on paper, and then you can spread the cost over several years,” he says. When you finish with all stages, you’ll have a unified design rather than a series of add-ons.

“Take your time and think ahead,” says McEwen. “What’s the biggest boat you can imagine yourself owning? Build your slip this size from the beginning. Will you need a place to put future Jet Ski lifts so you don’t have to use the ‘company’ side of the dock for that? If you entertain a lot, how many boats do you need to be able to park at your dock? Would it be smart to have at least one section of floating dock so it will be reachable during a drought? Put these things in your ultimate plan so you don’t have to tear out and re-do something later.”

Materials are a major factor, of course, and here both builders agree. Even though pressure-treated wood is cheaper, you’ll probably be happier with synthetic decking. Both favor the Azek brand, made entirely of PVC, which costs about 30 percent more than wood. “They don’t make pressure-treated wood the way they used to, and it will dry out and splinter a lot sooner,” says McEwen. “Also, you’re going to have to stain it immediately – and again about every year. That’s a lot of maintenance that most people don’t want to do.” To save significantly, however, McEwen says you can use pressure-treated wood for handrail structures and balusters, using PVC for just the top rail. Or, in a pinch, simply use rope for handrails. “Don’t cheap out on materials,” he advises. “Keep your ultimate goal in mind and build what you want, even if it takes two or three years.”

Another way to save? Start now. With the slow economy, contractors are offering great prices, and your dollars may go farther than they would next year.