Meet Mark Ernst, the New Head Golf Professional at Bright’s Creek
At Bright’s Creek, golf is in our DNA. Our private North Carolina golf club features an exceptional Tom Fazio-designed golf course, tremendous views, and unmatched tranquility. With multiple membership options, our community is the perfect home for golf lovers and up-and-comers alike.
This month, our Bright’s Creek Membership Director, Jessica Justice, had the opportunity to sit down with our new Head Golf Professional, Mark Ernst. Discover what he has in store for the future of beautiful Bright’s Creek, and why there’s no better time to come visit, explore, and play than right now.
Mark, we’re so excited to have you at Bright’s Creek.
Thank you! I’m thrilled to be a part of the Bright’s Creek Club. It is a special place. When I drive through the gates everyday, I’m awed by the beauty of the facilities and the welcoming atmosphere.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve been a PGA professional for 30 years. Most of my work was done in the Upstate of South Carolina. During that time, not only was I a golf professional, but I performed just about every function in the golf club — other than being a chef. Nobody wants to taste my cooking! So, all of that experience brought me to Bright’s Creek.
How did you first hear about Bright’s Creek?
I was first exposed to Bright’s Creek by Golf Digest when it was named Best New Private Club in the country in 2006. There was a Korn Ferry Tour event and I remember the broadcast being of the 16th hole of the par 3 down the hill — and I just remember the WOW factor! What an incredibly beautiful spot. That’s what attracted me to Bright’s Creek.
Share a little bit about what your responsibilities are here and what you most enjoy about Bright’s Creek.
My responsibilities are to lead and service the golf operation here at Bright’s Creek. We look forward to offering world-class service to all of the people who visit and those who become members. What I enjoy most are the people. The team that we have here is a great team of individuals!
Tell us about your vision for the future of Bright’s Creek and its members.
As we progress with building the membership, new members will see a top 100 club experience. What I mean by that is not only the golf course, but also the level of service where we meet and exceed expectations. We also have a new amenity center that will officially open Memorial Day weekend and it’s just an exciting time to be at Bright’s Creek. I’ve been around golf a long time, and it is without question, one of the best facilities in the country. It does have the WOW factor on just about every key shot and every approach into the green, so it’s stunning from all angles.
Do you have a favorite hole on the course?
I’m going to have to defer to what Mr. Fazio said. He doesn’t have a favorite hole, but I think we have nineteen great holes! It’s very unusual to have nineteen holes, but here at Bright’s Creek, our nineteenth hole is called the ‘hog hole.’
Do you find that the course is great for all levels of the game, from new golfers to pros?
I think that’s what makes the design so unique. Whatever skill level that you’re at, it tests the tour players, but also players who are just beginning in their development of golf would enjoy the golf course as well. Typically one side of the green is open, so you can run a shot up onto the green. There’s not any forced carries that would require you to absolutely have to carry the ball. So, it’s a very fair, very playable golf course. Green complexes are slightly undulating, so it’s just a very fair design for all skill levels.
What are you most excited about for the future?
Well, we’ve got a nice tournament program and some outside events as well. We’re hosting Mr. Fazio’s Hunter Subaru Drive for Kids on May 15th. It’s getting to meet the people in the community and getting to meet our members as they come in for the season. When we have guests that come in to play with members through these community tournaments, we’ll see more and more people say ‘wow this is a hidden gem!’ I’ve heard the term ‘hidden gem’ about fifteen times in the last few weeks, so we want to let our light shine this summer and get people out. They’ll see what a truly magnificent facility it is, and I think we’ll have quite a few new members by the end of 2023.
You’ve been in the business for a long time and golf has really been a family event for you. Tell us more.
My daughter plays on the LPGA Tour — she’s a three-time tour winner. My son played collegiate golf as well. So, speaking of a family affair, as our kids were developing, my wife Melanie was really involved in all of their travel. My son actually ended up caddying for my daughter on the LPGA Tour. She was injured last year, but she’s going to make her comeback at the end of May at the Match Play Tournament in Las Vegas, so we’re excited about that.
But, probably the most exciting golf experience for our family was the 2017 Solheim Cup, which is equivalent to the men’s Ryder Cup. A few minutes before my daughter teed off, the LPGA got my wife and I, and we got to stand on the first tee and watch her tee off with my son there too. Sharing that moment was really special. It was thrilling for the four of us to be there — it’s one of my greatest memories of all time.
You founded the Mark Ernst Golf Academy. Share a little bit about that and about the opportunity that you’ve had to develop young players in the game.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with some tremendous young men and women. Right now, I’m a volunteer women’s coach for the Clemson University women’s team. I spend about an hour with each player each week, and it gives me the chance to be an extra set of eyes for them. They’re just tremendous women and student athletes. I really enjoy that time and getting to see players at an elite level.
In the academy that I have, it’s focused on developing players of all skill levels. It’s fundamentally based, so we go through a little bit of golf instruction. The golf swing starts with fundamentals which are grip, stance, posture, ball position, and aim — so that’s my main focus as we develop these players. Then obviously, shooting lower scores is the main goal for all golfers. So through the academy, I’ve had a lot of success over the years with developing young men and women who have won regional, state, and national events.
What is the biggest takeaway that you want guests to have when they come to Bright’s Creek?
The WOW factor! The golf course is incredibly beautiful. It’s a peaceful setting, and in my opinion, one of the top 100 golf courses in the country. It is just stunning, so for those who have not had a chance to come and play the course and be on the Bright’s Creek property, we welcome you to not only experience the sheer beauty of the property, but also the amenities and all that Bright’s Creek has to offer.
If you’re ready to make a move to the mountains and have access to one of North Carolina’s best golf courses year round, book your visit to Bright’s Creek today.
If you are interested in a club membership, contact Jessica Justice phone/email.
Contact our real estate team directly at (828) 600-5132 to start your NC mountain home journey.