Best Hidden Golf Gems around North Carolina
A Tar Heel's Guide to the Great Golf Courses
By Brad King
Golf writer Brad King was born and bred in North Carolina, and has seen and enjoyed many of the finest golf courses across the Tar Heel State's four distinct regions. Here, King rates some of his very favorite golfing experiences that might be slightly off the radar.
* Talamore Resort, Pinehurst: Though the Talamore Resort doesn't receive the acclaim of its bigger neighbor down the road in Pinehurst, this host golf and lodging facility for the annual U.S. Kids World Golf Championship sports two outstanding golf courses designed by Rees Jones and Arnold Palmer (Mid-South Club), and is particularly guest friendly with its popular Llama Pen sports bar, "Southern-style pig pickins" and much more. Not to mention, the Talamore Family of Clubs offers a unique multi-club membership opportunity, providing four outstanding clubs, including two others located just 45 minutes apart outside Philadelphia, Applecross CC and Talamore CC.
* Bayonet at Puppy Creek, Fayetteville: William Poole and his son, Joe, owned and operated a turf company as well as numerous acres of farmland in both North and South Carolina. For years, father and son kicked around the idea of constructing a golf course on one of their parcels. Though William died before their dream came to fruition, his son never lost hope. Poole told architect Willard Byrd that real estate lots were secondary to the design of good golf. Byrd ensured the dream shared by Joe Poole and his father came to fruition in 1995 on a beautiful tract of rolling hills between Pinehurst and Fayetteville bisected by a body of water named Puppy Creek - named, legend has it, because when he was passing through, Daniel Boone was forced to drown puppies in the creek when he couldn't afford to feed them.
* Mountain Air Country Club, Burnsville: From the lush valleys and pine-covered slopes of the Blue Ridge to the snowcapped beauty of the Rockies, there is a magical quality to mountain golf, and indeed the game soars to new heights at Mountain Air Country Club - a graceful and private aerie just 30 minutes north of Asheville that stands nearly a mile above sea level. The highest golf course east of the Mississippi River, Mountain Air is a dynamic layout that plunges an astounding 900 feet in just 11 holes. Carved out of the sheer outcroppings of granite and dense, verdant forest, Mountain Air's design and construction is a testament to the skills architect Scott Pool acquired through a decade of tutelage under Pete Dye. Spanning a pair of mountaintops, Mountain Air is divided in half by the community's private airstrip.
* Country Club of Asheville: The Country Club of Asheville (CCA) is the Tar Heel State's oldest private club, its origin dating back to 1894. CCA, which features a 1928 Donald Ross-designed golf course, was purchased in early 2015 by Raleigh-based McConnell Golf, the largest owner of private clubs in the Carolinas, giving McConnell Golf its long-awaited mountain course. McConnell Golf is now busy making substantial improvements to the CCA clubhouse and golf. "We want to make this a special venue in a beautiful setting and wonderful city," said McConnell Golf owner John McConnell." Adds McConnell Golf General Manager Christian Anastasiadis: "The Country Club of Asheville is the perfect match to our star spangled portfolio of clubs and courses."
* Nags Head Golf Club, Outer Banks: First things first: Nags Head Golf Links will not offer your everyday, run-of-the-mill round of golf. The grandfather of golf in the fabled Outer Banks of North Carolina, Nags Head GL provides a different playing experience on a daily basis. Uniquely and gorgeously situated along the Roanoke Sound, with its ninth and 18th holes finishing hard along the sound-side waters, Nags Head GL is shaped by its constant coastal winds. Most days even the heartiest of competitor will be challenged. Bob Moore designed this seaside stunner in 1986 and Golf Digest almost immediately dubbed it "the longest 6,126 yards you'll ever play." Nags Head GL and its sister course, Currituck Golf Club, in Corolla on the northernmost reaches of the Outer Banks are two of the most unique in the portfolio of Club Corp, the largest private club management company in the country.
* Kilmarlic Golf Club, Outer Banks: Frequent OBX visitors seeking exclusive golf access and top-shelf perks should look no further than the Kilmarlic Golf Club. Widely considered one of the premier OBX golf experiences, Kilmarlic Golf Club is a Tom Steele design nestled along the marshland of the Albemarle Sound and host course for both the 2004 and 2009 North Carolina Opens and an annual autumn collegiate tournament. Kilmarlic's amenity program is designed specifically for rental homeowners on the Outer Banks, allowing homeowners the opportunity to enjoy the highly-regarded golf facility at special rates, plus a variety of quintessential OBX experiences that include Corolla Outback Adventure wild horse tours, Kitty Hawk Kite activities, Jeep rentals and shuttle service to Kilmarlic from their rental home. "The Outer Banks golf experience is one of diversity," says Kilmarlic's long-time Director of Golf Bryan Sullivan, PGA, a former North-South Amateur champion and an All-American at the University of North Carolina.
* St. James Plantation, Southport: Just 30 miles down the Cape Fear River from Wilmington and dating back to 1792, Southport is a quintessential coastal town: a postcard-like setting featuring historical homes, waterside restaurants, and a harbor packed with pleasure crafts and working shrimp boats. Southport is also the ideal setting for St. James Plantation, a master-planned community with an equally coastal ambiance. At the heart of St. James Plantation are four-plus outstanding golf courses - 81 holes total - designed by a eclectic quartet of well-known architects: Nicklaus Design Group, Hale Irwin, P.B. Dye (son of Pete) and Tim Cate, all managed by Troon Prive. Not to mention four separate and equally luxurious clubhouses, a full-service marina village, a new, $6 million Signature Wellness Center, private beach club, Waterway Park and numerous other amenities. St. James Plantation really does have it all.
* Grandover Resort, Greensboro: The Grandover Resort's East and West Courses never fail to remind golfers that they are in the Carolinas, one of America's favorite heartlands of the game. The East Course, which opened in March 1996, features tree-lined fairways and offers the feeling of a nature preserve. Many of the East Course greens complexes were designed to provide a stadium effect and in 2011, the East Course added six new tee areas. The West Course opened one year after the East and was formed naturally by the North Carolina Piedmont region's naturally rolling terrain and elevation changes. The West Course is a links style layout that flows away from the resort for opening nine holes and returns for the inward half. As the headquarter hotel for the Wyndham Championship, the Grandover Resort played an important role in the PGA Tour event's 2008 return to nearby Sedgefield Country Club.
* Rocky River Golf Club, Concord: A round of golf Rocky River GC affords numerous views of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, which sits directly across the street as a centerpiece of rapidly bourgeoning Cabarrus County, located on the "racing side of Charlotte." Designed by Dan Maples of the well-known Pinehurst-area family (father Ellis worked closely with Donald Ross), Rocky River Golf Club is the premier public course in the Charlotte metropolitan area and is owned by the City of Concord. With a touch of ruggedness and links feel, Rocky River is a gorgeous golf course that utilizes many of the existing features of the area to provide a fun setting for golf. Rocky River is managed by the Embassy Suites-Concord - making it one of the only courses in the state to offer stay-and-play packages with a top-shelf hotel affiliate.
* UNC Finley Golf Club, Chapel Hill: Hey, what can I say? I'm a Tar Heel born and bred, and Finley Golf Course - located on the southeast of the UNC-CH campus - was the setting for many a (slightly) memorable round during my college days. George Cobb designed the original 1949 layout. But Finley GC was overhauled by master architect Tom Fazio in 1999, and is a completely different animal today than the one I used to play. Fazio, a resident of Hendersonville, started from scratch on the site and build an entirely new course, which became his 11th course designed in the state the legendary architect has called home since the late 1980s - one he said he would put up against anything else he'd done in North Carolina. Not to mention, golfers can stay at The Carolina Inn on the heart of campus and enjoy one of the most historic, luxurious venues on any collegiate setting in the country.
Revised: 12/26/2015 - Article Viewed 23,122 Times
About: Brad King
Writer, editor and media relations specialist Brad King is a former Atlanta sports writer and editor of LINKS Magazine - The Best of Golf. After founding Brad King Communications in 2002, Brad penned the golf column for Hilton Head's Island Packet newspaper and his writing continues to be published regularly. Brad has edited and contributed to numerous book projects, He has teamed with the Southern Pines Pilot to produce award-winning coverage of the 2005 U.S. Open, 2007 U.S. Women's Open and the 2014 U.S. Open and Women's U.S. Open.
Contact Brad King:
Brad King Communications 336-306-9219
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