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.