By: Bill Kamenjar
It’s another one of those perfect days along the Outer Banks shores of North Carolina. Snow-white puffs of clouds – urged along by gentle Atlantic Ocean breezes – drift across the deep blue Carolina skies. Warmed by the glow of a golden sun, this serene setting is only broken up by the occasional collision of metal against dimpled golf ball and the sounds of good friends making friendly chatter across seas of grassy green, watery blue and sandy white. From several vantages along the Outer Banks (OBX), golfers can bask in the glow of a myriad of different-colored carpets.
This unforgettable panorama of beauty and color may seem more like something out of Travel Channel documentary as its producers slip away to some far off corner of the world. But in fact, for those organizing a trip for family, friends or even hardcore golf buddies, such a picture can be found right here in the Middle Atlantic. Courses with intriguing names like The Currituck Club, Nags Head Golf Links and Kilmarlic provide various twists off this theme. And the hospitality the region is known for goes hand in hand with the overall sense of golf paradise.
Road trips, golf getaways, buddy excursions — no matter what you call these sporting endeavors they almost always include a couple of important ingredients: Good friends and good fun. Golf trips are built around the entire experience, particularly the bonding with pals and loved ones; playing as much golf as a body can handle followed by a hearty meal and a few cold beverages while watching sports on TV; staying up late playing poker or hanging out on the porch; then getting up at the crack of dawn to do it all again.
There may be no better location for an affordable and memorable Buddy’s Golf Getaway than North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where seashore isolationism allowed the Wright brothers to create manned flight and the same privacy enabled wild Spanish mustang horses to form a unique habitat on similar sandy soil.
“Away from it all” is how you’ll feel when you tee it up on any one of the outstanding golf courses located in the OBX. But don’t think for a moment that this coastal destination is bereft of things to do once your group’s round of golf is complete. When not standing on a green or tee box looking out across the ocean or a sound, you’ll be busy living the good life in quaint villages and towns with funky names like Currituck, Corolla, Coinjock, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Duck and Kitty Hawk.
Here are 5 “must plays” on your next OBX golf getaway:
A famous expression was coined long ago at Cahoon’s Grocery and Variety Store in Nags Head. It goes, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” This OBX motto could easily be applied to its golf. From true barrier island links courses to modern parkland marvels located inland, the region is so chock full of variety, you truly don’t have to go anywhere else. The challenges are as spectacular as the coastal views they possess.
The Currituck Club, routed by world-renowned architect Rees Jones, rolls across diverse coastal terrain with sound-side views distinctly its own on the northern end of the barrier island. The grandest design along the coast is also the area’s most demanding, especially when the wind kicks up.
Located on the mainland five minutes from the Wright Brothers Bridge amidst 605 beautiful acres of maritime forest, Kilmarlic Golf Club is a popular Tom Steele design nestled along the sprawling wetlands of the Albemarle Sound. As home to the 2004 and 2009 North Carolina Opens, Kilmarlic also hosted the Old Dominion/Outer Banks collegiate championship the past four falls.
Nags Head Golf Links, crafted by Bob Moore, plays hard along the inner waterway on the southern end, where coastal winds and rugged shoreline combine, in true Scottish fashion, to create a unique golfing experience each and every day. The front and back nine closing holes along the sound are particularly spectacular. Nags Head’s bar and restaurant, not surprisingly, is also home to the most dramatic sunsets in town, with views not only across the immediate Roanoke Sound, but towards three other sounds (Albemarle, Croatan and Pamlico) that flow into it from the north, west and south as well.
The OBX golf experience is enhanced by two other courses on the mainland but certainly worth leaving the island to go play. The Pointe Golf Club and The Carolina Club are a pair of the most immaculately manicured and impeccably conditioned golf courses around. After all, the sister layouts are owned and operated by a man who also runs one of the region’s major turf grass companies, and both courses were built on what had previously been fertile farm land.
Here are five more “shore” things that make the Outer Banks of North Carolina a perfect destination for a 2014 golf buddy trip:
1.) A wide range of top-shelf and equally eclectic accommodations can be found all along OBX, from the iconic Sanderling Resort in Duck to the fully-equipped Kilmarlic Golf Cottage featuring golf course views of the mainland’s Tom Steele-designed championship course. If your group prefers to be closer to the shore, you can choose from a vast array of beach or sound-side homes that range from one-bedroom condos to multiple bedroom estates. Then, rest up between rounds at any number of privately-owned vacation residences with luxuries such as private pools, pool tables, high-definition televisions and much more.
2.) Ask any regular visitor to OBX and he or she will most likely clue you in about breakfast at Sam and Omie’s. Or lunch at Tortugas’ Lie. Or dinner at The Blue Point and Aqua (which also offers a killer golfer massage at its spa). Or takeout from Currituck BBQ Company. Or in-home catering from Red Sky Cafe. These are just a sampling of the timeless dining experiences you’ll discover. There’s always a fresh catch of the day at any number of other fine eating establishments (i.e., North Banks Restaurant & Raw Bar, Barefoot Bernie’s Tropical Grill & Bar and Ocean Boulevard Bistro & Martini Bar) that will keep you coming back for more.
3.) A wilderness of blowing dunes and sand flats in Kitty Hawk not only provided a remote test area for the Wrights to conduct their flights and study those results without distraction, it also provided for a memorable history lesson for visitors to the area more than a century later. The U.S. Government built the Wright Brothers Memorial site in 1932 and today National Park Service interpreters lead you through the historic events leading up to air travel. So don’t miss an opportunity to stand on the very spot where Orville and Wilbur first flew.
4.) Afternoon drives take on a whole new meaning along the coast just minutes north of Rees Jones’ 18-hole gem known as The Currituck Club. There, a unique après-golf excursion unfolds in the form of 12 miles of beachfront that is only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Known as “beach riding,” this one-of-a-kind activity leads you to nothing but sun, sand, ocean, some vacation rental homes and those wild Spanish mustangs that can be found grazing in an untamed area called the “Corolla Outback.” Spotting the feisty horses is a popular OBX pastime.
5.) From museums to parks and gardens, the Outer Banks golf destination is full of endless activities that reflect the area’s rich history and tradition. For those who like hunting lighthouses as much as they do birdies, the region is well known for a beautiful string of lighthouses that stretch from Corolla in the north all the way to Cape Hatteras in the south. One excursion that shouldn’t be missed is trip over to Knotts Island. A ferry operates from the mainland not far from The Carolina Club over to the marshy island bordered by the Currituck Sound, North Landing River, Back Bay, and Knotts Island Bay. Knotts Island is home to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge. For duck hunters, Knotts Island is home to numerous duck hunting blinds located in the surrounding waters and on land.
Outer Banks 2014 golf package information is available at www.PlayOBXGolf.com or 800-916-6244.