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North Carolina Travel Guide
Golf in NC

The best-known golfing getaway in the state of North Carolina unquestionably remains Pinehurst, but an abundance of signature holes are placing courses from Murphy to Manteo (or very nearly so) on every duffer's must-play links list.

What follows is an overview of some among the state's finest public, semi-private and resort courses, and some of its best bargains, grouped by region.

The Piedmont
Finley Golf Course, Chapel HillSome of the very finest golf courses in the state are in the Piedmont, an area generally north and extending west of the Sandhills. Many of them are private, but several semi-private and public courses rank right up there.

Finley Golf Course (photo) at the [University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill] is another fine public course and also a great value. It's a North Carolina Magazine Top 25 selection, and was originally designed by George Cobb and recently redesigned by Tom Fazio.

Tanglewood Park is one such, located just west of Winston-Salem in the town of Clemmons. Tanglewood is a public course - actually, two public courses, both designed by Robert Jones, and both recognized as among the finest public courses in the country. Both courses are also among the best values for your dollar in the state.

Duke University also lays claim to a quality course, at the Washington Duke Country Club. Considered one of the best college courses in the country, it was home to the 2001 amateur Men's National Championship. Beautifully wooded, the course plays long and is a serious challenge in general.

The Coast
While Myrtle Beach is regarded as the Carolinas' coastal golfing Mecca, North Carolina boasts some top-notch courses just to the north, on and near the Brunswick Islands, known to some as the "Golf Coast," home to some 35 championship courses.

Just after crossing into North Carolina from South Carolina, you'll hit the town of Calabash, famous for originating its own style of fried seafood (that being, appropriately enough, the
Calabash style of seafood), and home to Crow Creek Golf Club. Crow Creek is popular with both casual and championship players, and is ranked among the top 50 courses in the state by North Carolina Magazine. Calabash Golf Links is considered to be one of the best values in the area - a William Byrd-designed, family-owned course that is also favorable to both casual and expert duffers.

Just a couple miles up the road in Sunset Beach is the course generally considered to be the finest in the area,
Tiger's Eye. Challenging, well-kept greens have helped Tiger's Eye earn recognition from Golf Digest as one of the top public courses in the country and a Top 25 ranking from North Carolina Magazine.

Another Sunset Beach course worth a mention is
Thistle Golf Club, which earned a recent "Rave of the Day" from WorldGolf.com, saying, "There are better courses along the Grand Strand, certainly more challenging ones, but none more relaxed than the Thistle Golf Club."

The course most often cited as the second best in the Brunswick Islands is [
Bald Head Island] Country Club, designed by George Cobb and the recipient of four-and-a-half stars from Golf Digest.

Continuing north, one course in particular in [Wilmington] worth checking out is
Landfall Country Club. Landfall's two courses - one designed by Jack Nicklaus, the other by Pete Dye - offer only a limited number of reservations for nonmembers.

Another Wilmington course that consistently earns high marks is
Porter's Neck Plantation and Country Club, a friendly place to play and, as home of the 1999 North Carolina Amateur, a challenging course.

The Outer Banks
Not traditionally considered a golfing destination, the [Outer Banks] are attracting increasing attention among those enthusiasts who are looking for a different sort of golfing challenge and a relaxed, beautiful setting in which to play.

Golf Digest's course critic Ron Whitten says, "The Currituck Club, on North Carolina's Outer Banks along the edge of the Atlantic, is a pleasant surprise…. On Golf Digest's 10 point scale (1 being Unacceptable, 5 being Good, 10 being Absolutely Perfect), I score Currituck at 8.1."

Wind and water challenges are seldom more than a five iron away at
Nags Head Golf Links, situated smack up against the Roanoke Sound. It's a tight little course that affords one of the most scenic golfing experiences in the state. After your round, climb up the clubhouse observation tower for a good look around.

The Ellis Maples-designed
Duck Woods Country Club, just across the Wright Memorial Bridge in Kitty Hawk, is another course at which you'll never go dry (water abuts 14 holes), and a bargain at right at $50 with cart.

The Sandhills
Here, essentially, we're talking Pinehurst, which, as noted above, remains the king-daddy destination for the dedicated duffer - but there are other excellent courses in the immediate vicinity, with the Sandhills being selected as the "#1 East Coast Greatest Golf Destination" by
Golf Digest.

The Village of Pinehurst, surrounded by more than 40 golf courses, was designed by the legendary Frederick Law Olmstead. It's all about golf here at Pinehurst.

The experience begins with
Pinehurst Resort No. 2, home of the 1999 U.S. Open. No. 2 is, according to North Carolina Magazine's golf panel, which ranks it as the top course in the state, "By all accounts, the signature work of famed designer Donald Ross [and] also his favorite." No. 2 is simply one of the finest golf courses in the world.

Next up is
No. 4, Pinehurst's second-highest rated course and a perennial North Carolina top ten selection, followed very closely by No. 8, the newest of the Pinehurst courses.

Rivaling the Pinehurst Resort courses - in fact, according to a number of experts, surpassing them all save Pinehurst No. 2, and a bit less expensive - is
Pine Needles Resort, located in nearby Southern Pines, and home to the 1996 and 2001 U.S. Women's Open.

Rounding out a duffer's dream week in the Sandhills area would be
Mid Pines Golf Resort, generally a statewide top twenty pick and recipient of a four-and-a-half-star rating by Golf Digest, and The Pit Golf Links. Insiders' Guide's Golf in the Carolinas says of this Dan Maples-designed public course, "Ask locals, even good golfers, what they think about The Pit and there's a sudden moment of silence followed by a slightly glazed look punctuated with 'It's like going to the dentist,' 'It's quite a track' or 'It's awesome.' You'll either love or hate the Pit."

The Mountains
As with the Piedmont, most of the best of the best in the mountains are private courses - but there are still some very fine accessible courses in the area. And …
ah … not much finer than an autumn day on the links in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Besides,
Linville Golf Club ranks with the best of them, considered by many to be one of the ten best courses in the state. Linville was designed by the legendary Donald Ross in 1924, and little has changed since: a simple, elegant, sublime golfing experience. And oh, those mountains …

Another very good course in Linville is
Linville Ridge Country Club, selected number twenty-one in the state by Gold Digest. On that same list, at number seventeen, is Elk River Club in nearby Banner Elk. And quite a few folks are partial to Hound Ears Club in Blowing Rock, also north-east of Asheville.

In and around [Asheville], a round at the course at the
Grove Park Inn Resort makes for quite a pleasant, imminently scenic golfing afternoon. And want to play a Donald Ross-designed course for well under fifty bucks? Buncombe County Municipal Gold Course (good ol' Muni) offers this rare and enriching experience.

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