Golf writer Brad King was born and bred in North Carolina, and claims he literally bleeds Tar Heel blue and white. The former senior editor of LINKS Magazine and longtime golf columnist for the Hilton Head Island Packet newspaper is now a Traveling Golfer staffer.
King and the rest of the Traveling Golfer staff will be bringing you a series of monthly “Best Of” lists featuring what we consider some of golf’s greatest hidden gems and best bargains.
With Traveling Golfer staff’s association with the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO), this feature will encompass destinations from around the world.
King and the original “Traveling Golfer” himself, Claudio DeMarchi, recently teamed up to visit some of the best courses around the Carolinas.
Here are some of their favorite hidden gems and outstanding experiences across the Tar Heel State:
The Sandhill’s region of North Carolina encompasses the iconic Village of Pinehurst and one of the prettiest little towns in the state, Southern Pines. More than 70 courses to choose from when extending east toward I-95.
Talamore Golf Resort, Village of Pinehurst, NC
- 2 Great Courses.
- 2 outstanding options for accommodation (Talamore Villas and Mid-South Lodge) for Stay & Play or even extended stay!! www.talamoregolfresort.com
Talamore Golf Club
- Rees Jones design, converting to Champion Bermuda greens in late spring like Pinehurst No. 2, Pine Needles and Mid Pines have already done.
- New Llama Pen Sports Bar & Grill serves a mouth-watering Southern breakfast buffet – helps you fuel up for 623-yard first hole.
- All resort guests pig out Thursday nights at Pig Pickin’ dinner’s spring through fall.
- Make sure you visit their world-famous Llama caddies between 13th green and 14th
- Arnold Palmer Signature Design and a Traveling Golfer favorite in the Pinehurst area.
- U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open Qualifier.
- Spectacular collection of golf holes, including No. 9 and No. 18 framed beautifully against stately clubhouse and greens heavily guarded by a large lake.
Tobacco Road Golf Club, Sanford, NC
The Traveling Golfers favorite Golf Course in North Carolina!
- Their website starts off with Breath taking. Exhilarating. Heart-pounding Golf! We agree and add that it has the most intimidating first tee in golf!
- Designed by Mike Strantz with a most creative and unique flair for golf course design. Unfortunately for the golf world he was taken from us at much too early an age.
- Accolades aplenty on website but note: Tobacco Road reached #50 in the World – Golf Architecture Magazine as voted by 240 architects in 28 countries.
- Stay & Play with Tobacco Road Golf & Travel http://www.tobaccoroadgolf.com/golfpackages.cfm
- If the Traveling Golfer only had one course left to play in his lifetime as much as he loves the Ocean Course at Kiawah – this might be it!
- Play all Mike Strantz designed courses if you can. http://www.mikestrantzdesign.com/clubhouse.htm
- There are many intimidating tee shots here. Know that there is much more landing area beyond what the eye can see (a yardage book is always helpful).
- Whatever you do on 10 and 11, stay out of the bunkers on the right!
- Watch the online Flyover on tobaccoroadgolf.com
Tot Hill Farms, Asheboro, NC
Located about half way between Charlotte and the Sandhill’s and just south of Greensboro.
- Another unique and awe-inspiring Mike Strantz design.
- Course winds its way through a maze of magnificent rock formations and creeks.
- 5 sets of tees…play the right ones!!! Don’t be a hero – just enjoy!
- Bring a camera!
- North Carolina Zoo is located nearby.
Bayonet at Puppy Creek, Raeford, NC
Located about half way between Pinehurst and Fayetteville
- Willard Byrd design features many more elevation changes than normally found in the Sandhills while winding through many rolling hills bisected by Puppy Creek.
- Renowned for optimal course conditions as owners are in the turf grass business.
- Features one of the best course names around according to Golfweek’s course guru Brad Klein.
- Four-and-a-half stars from Golf Digest with weekend green fees under $60.
The Outer Banks
Go golf with the wind in the northeast corner of NC. Along with its storied Lighthouses, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, famed Wild Mustangs of Corolla, Wright Brothers Memorial and scores of watering holes overflowing with fresh seafood and spirits, here are our three favorite courses.
Nags Head Golf Club, Nags Head, NC
- At just over 6,100 yards this will be the longest and most challenging short course that you will ever play according to Golf Digest.
- Spectacular setting along the Roanoke Sound brings coastal winds into play as four holes (5, 9, 15, 18) play hard along the sound.
- Walk up the clubhouse stairs to take in more views like the Atlantic Ocean, Roanoke Island and Bodie Island Lighthouse.
- The southernmost course on the iconic barrier island.
Currituck Golf Club, Corolla, NC
You need to go through DUCK to get here – DO NOT SPEED!!
You are at the closest point to the Wild Horses so make sure you have some time either before or after your round for a four-wheel tour. You will not be disappointed.
You need to go through DUCK to leave here. DO NOT SPEED!!! But make a pit stop at Duck Donuts on the right.
- A Rees Jones design and another member of the Club Corp family like Nags Head.
- Spectacular seaside vistas with my favorites at No. 7 tee, No. 11 green and No. 15.
- Just under 6,900 yards of fairways that take you around dunes, over wetlands and even a few woodland areas. The in-cart GPS system is a huge bonus.
- Note that one of the horse tour options is located down the hill from the club.
Kilmarlic Golf Club, Powells Point, NC
- An OBX mainland gem located in the marshland of the Albemarle Sound five minutes from the Wright Brothers Bridge.
- Water features come into play on 15 of the 18 holes with many birdie opportunities on this enjoyable risk-reward design.
- Golfweek Top 15 You Can Play in North Carolina.
- Ultimate Stay & Play at Kilmarlic Cottage, a four-bedroom golfing haven, and note that many more cottages will open later in 2016. obxgolftravel.com
- Strike up a conversation with long-time Director of Golf Bryan Sullivan, PGA, a former North-South Amateur champion and an All-American at UNC with Davis Love III.
Southern Coastal Courses
Carolina National Golf Club, Bolivia NC
- Fred Couples design, part of Traditional Golf Properties group.
- 27 holes of coastal Carolina golf about 20 miles south of Wilmington.
- Coastal flair with the 3 nines distinctly named Ergret, Heron and Ibis.
- Custom quote for your Stay & Play Package: http://www.golftgp.com
- Bring your ball retriever!
Rivers Edge Golf Club, Shallotte NC
- Arnold Palmer design located 35 to 40 minutes north of the NC/SC border.
- Often considered part and Stay & Play can be arranged through many Myrtle Beach packagers.
- Green fees in the $50 range (January)
- If the 9th is not one of your most memorable holes ever we need to hang with you a bit!
- Winds along the bluffs and tidal marshes of the Shallotte River.
- Keep the ball retriever handy here too.
Grandover Resort, Greensboro, NC
- North Carolina’s premier Conference and Golf Resort.
- 36-hole facility with distinct and challenging layouts.
- Headquarter hotel for the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship.
- West Course has hosted a number of NCAA and Web.com events since 2011.
- Kick back and enjoy an extraordinary Stay & Play Experience.
- Exceptional Spa experience.
- Try the lamb dinner.
- Spoil yourself!
Rocky River Golf Club, Concord, NC
- Dan Maples design, a premier public course in the Charlotte metro.
- Operated by adjacent Embassy Suites offering Stay & Play packages.
- Home to UNC-Charlotte golf program.
- Winter Rates to March 18 are $52 and under.
- Peak Season weekend and holiday rate is only $69.
- You are in NASCAR Country – you can hear the roars from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
- Beautifully contoured course bordering the Rocky River wetlands.
- Watch out for the big boulder on the 3rd hole!
- Concord Mills shopping mall and Great Wolf Water Lodge located across the highway.
UNC Finley Golf Club, Chapel Hill, NC
- This was a George Cobb original but totally redesigned by Tom Fazio.
- One of Golfweek’s top college courses in the country.
- Writes Brad King: “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.”
- Stay at the iconic Carolina Inn on the heart of campus and enjoy one of the most historic, luxurious venues on any collegiate setting in the country and an amazing meal at Crossroads Chapel Hill Restaurant.
- Visit: https://www.uncfinley.com/
Statewide Golf Lodging Option
Summit Hospitality owns and operates 19 hotels in Pinehurst, Triangle, Charlotte and Wilmington as a franchisee of Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt brands – most of which offer golf packages. www.SummitHospitality.com