Great Golf Destinations: North Carolina
North Carolina is well-known for a few things, among which are basketball, Christmas trees, barbeque, and golf. One can’t speak of golf and North Carolina without at least a thought of Pinehurst. Touted as the “Home of American Golf,” the Pinehurst-Southern Pines-Aberdeen area is but one of four dramatically different landscapes across the state which house nearly 700 courses, with fees ranging from just over $10 to “if you have to ask…”
This wonderful state offers visitors and residents alike the opportunity to test their skills in a variety of scenic backdrops. In addition to the sandy, mostly flat pine forests of eastern North Carolina, great golfing opportunities abound in the mountains to the west, the Piedmont in between and, of course, the famed NC coastal region.
North Carolina mountain golf presents a challenge of its own to players of all abilities. Elevation variations from tee to green measured in yards rather than feet require one to forget about conventional club selection guidelines. On more than one occasion, a shot with my 9-iron that normally would have come to rest inches from the cup sailed not only over the green, but ten more yards of rough, a creek, and landed right in the middle of another fairway.
Add to that blind doglegs (it’s rather hard to see through hundreds of tons of granite mountainside), plentiful water sources and the potential for snowfall in the latter weeks of April and you have a recipe for either the greatest or worst game of your life. But even if your score card looks more like that of an Olympic gymnastics event, the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge will soften the blow. One can’t help but marvel at the scenic grandeur that is the NC mountain region. Panoramic vistas and 50-mile views will quickly make you forget the 6 you shot on that last par 3.
If you don’t think you’re quite up to that challenge, the Piedmont area of the state offers a much more traditional approach to the game. With hundreds of courses available, there is a little something for everybody. The rolling green hills and fertile farmland beckon one deeper into the links, not quite knowing but always anticipating what is around the next turn.
The Piedmont is home to PGA Tour venues such as the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, site of the Wells Fargo Championship, and Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club, where the Wyndham Championship is held. Obscure public courses and upscale private clubs dot the landscape throughout the Piedmont region and provide any player of any skill level with any budget an enjoyable spot to hone their skill.
Toss the clubs in the trunk, gas up the tank and head further east and soon the lush green hills and forests of the Piedmont will flatten into the vast expanse of pine groves in the Sandhills. As mentioned earlier, this region is the backdrop for the world-renowned Pinehurst Resort, which boasts 8 courses alone.
The Pinehurst-Southern Pines-Aberdeen area is home to 43 of NC’s best courses, all within about a 30 minute drive. Major golf publications have rated and reviewed the courses here and have consistently designated many of them as some of the world’s top golfing destinations.
The Sandhills links were designed by some of the top names, including Donald Ross, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, just to name a few. The chance to play any of these courses is one that no serious golfer should miss.
Turn in early so you can rise before dawn, pack up the car and make another short drive eastward and you’ll be at our final stop on the tour — the famed North Carolina coast — just as the sun starts to peek over the breakers, inspiring awe in those who are present to experience this daily show. Long known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” the coast is home to untold numbers of sunken vessels and windswept beaches.
The roughly 300 miles of coastline offers beachgoers many options and the golfing community has no shortage of opportunity as well. With around 100 courses available, some public and some very private, any lover of the links is able to find a fun round whilst visiting the beautiful scenery of the area. And while you’re here, take in some of the local sites and rich history the region has to offer.
Next time you start to plan that “great golf getaway,” add North Carolina to the list. If possible, plan a week-long trip and take in all that NC has to offer. One thing you’ll learn while in this great state is that life doesn’t have to move quickly. If need be, just let the next group play through.
This is your time; enjoy it. When you finish your round, kick back in that rocking chair, savor a chopped BBQ sandwich and a Cheerwine and prepare your mind for tomorrow. Remember, sometimes the deepest bunker is the one between your ears.