September 30, 2015
Old Course at St. Andrews. Augusta National Golf Club. Pinehurst No. 2. Those are three names you’ll hear from any avid golfer when you ask for their golfing bucket list. The historic Pinehurst No. 2 is one of many courses in North Carolina’s Sandhills town of Pinehurst, and one of 400 in this golf-crazy state. Here’s a list of 10 of the best golf courses in North Carolina to play next time you’re in town.
Course designer Donald Ross called Pinehurst No. 2 “the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed.” That was in 1907 and it’s as true today as it was then. More golf championships have been played here than at any other course in America, most recently, the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open Championships in 2014. Book your tee times well in advance and get a look at this course as it should be seen: from the tee box.
Try not to get distracted by the big views of the Blue Ridge Mountains when you play a round at the Linville Golf Club. This mountaintop course is as stunning as it is challenging, and it is challenging. Small greens, holes that utilize the mountainous terrain, and more than a few blind tee shots are just some of the reasons Golfweek named Linville one of the “Best Courses You Can Play” in North Carolina.
Two miles off the coast of North Carolina, the Bald Head Island Club takes advantage of ocean breezes, maritime forests, and high dune ridges on a golf course that changes hour to hour. Originally designed by George Cobb and recently renovated by Tim Cate, this course is an elegant mix of manicured course and naturalized areas.
Host to the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, Sedgefield Country Club is one of two private courses on the list, but you can play it as part of the McConnell Golf Trail, a packaged golf tour that gives golfers access to nearly a dozen private courses in North Carolina (and a couple in South Carolina, for good measure). Sedgefield has two outstanding courses, one designed by Donald Ross with long, open fairways, and the other designed by Pete Dye, a course that will have golfers replaying that one lie in their dreams.
In the heart of the Piedmont, an hour northeast of Charlotte, is the Old North State Club. The second of the private courses you can access as part of the McConnell Golf Trail. Old North State is a Tom Fazio-designed course situated on a 2.5-mile (4 km) peninsula in Badin Lake; the North Carolina Golf Panel once said this course had “the best par three and best finishing hole” in the state.
Wetlands and maritime forests are the norm on the Outer Banks, and Kilmarlic Golf Club uses both to make this course one of the prettiest in North Carolina. Tall pines and thick-canopied oaks guard fairways and cover tee boxes, and water hazards protect many a green, but still the course is playable, though it may prove difficult at time for novice golfers.
The Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State University was designed by none other than Arnold Palmer and his team at Arnold Palmer Design Company (which happens to include a pair of NC State graduates). Incorporating views of the Raleigh skyline and glimpses of the NC State campus, this course is home to the NC State Men’s and Women’s Golf Teams.
The casual Hillandale Golf Course in Durham is well kept, fast paced, and one of only a handful of public courses in the city. Generous fairways make high-handicap golfers feel at home, and the course layout can reward aggressive players.
The par-70 course at Asheville’s Omni Grove Park Inn is another Donald Ross masterpiece, widely considered one of the best golf courses in North Carolina. President Obama has teed up here, as have PGA stars Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan, each of them sending shots down the tree-lined fairways and studying this lovely course from elevated tee boxes. After your round, celebrate the winner with drinks and dinner at one of Asheville’s lauded restaurants.
Since this list started with Pinehurst, it should end with Pinehurst. Tom Fazio designed Pinehurst No. 8, which opened in 1996 to celebrate a century of golf at Pinehurst. The 420-acre course is said to encompass every element of Pinehurst golf, from using the gentle, rolling hills and wetlands in the design to greens that look simple but offer a big challenge to the pleasure of walking all 18. Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, and Golfweek have named No. 8 to their lists of best public courses and best resort courses.
Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Book your flight to North Carolina today and tick a few of these golf courses off your list.
Written by Jason Frye