North Carolina boasts some 600 golf courses, earning it a ninth-place ranking with the National Golf Foundation’s list of states with the most courses. This bounty means you have plenty of options when planning a road trip to one of the Tar Heel state’s great golfing destinations. To help you plan your itinerary, we’ve detailed some of the best courses around, from the mountains to the coast and in-between.
MountainsSituated in the heart of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in Roaring Gap, Old Beau Golf and Country Club is artfully sculpted into an easterly mountain ridge, providing stunning vistas and overlooks. Ranked as one of Golf Week Magazine’s top 50 development courses in the Southeast, this challenging yet accessible course makes more than 1,500 feet in elevation changes with the result being a par 72 that measures 6,710 yards from the tips. And in the spring and summer the course is alive with colorful wild flowers and mountain laurel.
Old Beau Golf and Country Club729 Olde Beau BoulevardRoaring Gap, N.C. 28668336-363-3333www.oldbeau.com
The PiedmontRock Barn Golf & Spa is about an hour north of Lake Norman in Conover. It’s home to two championship courses, including one that hosts the Greater Hickory Classic, a PGA Champions tour event. Designed by legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., this challenging course is noted for its large greens surrounded by even larger sand traps, as well as Lyle Creek, which winds through much of the course’s undulating terrain. Don’t look for much relief on the other championship course, designed by Tom Jackson, which is always in impeccable condition.
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Rock Barn Golf & Spa3791 Club House Drive Conover, N.C. 28613-9456828-459-9279www.rockbarn.com
On the other end of the state’s Piedmont in Greensboro is the Grandover Resort. Cut into more than 1,500 acres of oak-, pine- and dogwood-covered hills are two of the state’s most impeccable courses. The two courses were built and designed by David Graham and Gary Panks, and offer very different experiences. The east course is tight and long, placing a premium on accurate tee shots. More forgiving and generous off the tee, the west course is a bit flatter, shorter and easier to navigate.
Grandover Resort1000 Club RoadGreensboro, N.C. 27407336-294-1800www.grandover.com
SandhillsThe Sandhills get their name from the centuries-old strip of beach dunes that divide the coastal plains from the Piedmont. The region is known for porous and loamy soil that makes for some of the world’s finest golf courses. The grandfather of them all is found at Pinehurst Resort, which in June 2014 will host both the men’s and women’s United States Open Championships at the incomparable Pinehurst No. 2. The Donald-Ross designed course recently underwent substantial renovations, and remains one of the world’s most famous courses. Seven additional courses on the property are certain to keep you coming back.
Pinehurst Resort80 Carolina Vista DrivePinehurst, N.C. 28374800-487-4653www.pinehurst.com
CoastDeep into North Carolina’s Brunswick County along the east side of Cape Fear River is Bald Head Island Club, which is accessible only by ferry. The beautiful, George Cobb-designed course is worth the trip as it provides some of the best golf on the coast. Old Baldy, the oldest lighthouse in N.C., stands sentry over the course that, as you might imagine, has plenty of water hazards.
Bald Head Island ClubSalt Meadow TrailBald Head Island, NC 28461910- 457-7300www.bhiclub.net
Kiawah IslandAlthough not in North Carolina, Kiawah Island Golf Resort is only about a four-hour drive from Lake Norman, and boasts no less than five championship courses. The upscale resort, located just outside Charleston, S.C., draws golfers from all over the world who come to experience the design mastery of storied names such as Nicklaus, Dye, and Fazio. In August the resort’s famed Ocean Course will host the PGA Championship, the season’s final major.
Kiawah Island Golf ResortOne Sanctuary Beach DriveKiawah Island, S.C. 29455843-768-2121ww.kiawahresort.com
Local linksWhile road trips are fun, there are plenty of great golf courses right here in the Lake Norman area. Below is a sampling of both public and private courses.
Daily Fee/Public Golf Courses
Birkdale Golf Club16500 Birkdale Commons ParkwayHuntersville704-895-8038www.birkdale.comThis course’s Arnold Palmer-designed layout was voted one of the top five public courses in the state when it opened in 1997. It is known for its tight fairways and fast greens.
Fox Den170 Club House DriveStatesville704-872-9990www.foxdencc.comThe unique layout at this course offers mountain-, coastal- and sandhills-style holes all in a compact design.
Highland Creek Golf Club7001 Highland Creek ParkwayCharlotte704-875-9000www.highlandcreekgolfclub.comHighland Creek Golf Club is known as one of the area’s best and toughest public golf courses.
Mooresville Golf Course800 Golf Course DriveMooresville704-663-2539 http://www.mooresvillegolfcourse.comA hidden gem, Mooresville’s layout features a front nine that were designed by Donald Ross.
Rocky River Golf Club6900 Bruton Smith Blvd.Concord704-455-1200 http://www.rockyrivergolf.comThe closest course to Charlotte Motor Speedway, Rocky River boasts views of the ZMax drag strip from its property.
Verdict Ridge Country Club7332 Kidville RdDenver704-489-1206www.verdictridge.comSome of the finest green complexes in the region, Verdict Ridge is a true shot maker’s course on the west side of Lake Norman.
Private Golf Courses:
Skybrook Golf Club14720 Northgreen Drive Huntersville704-948-6611www.skybrookgolf.comThis championship, John LaFoy 72-par course features over 7,000 yards of mountain-like terrain with rolling fairways and scenic views.
Cowan’s Ford Golf Club 761 Club DriveStanley 704-827-3088 http://cowansford.comCowan’s Ford is a picturesque and immaculately groomed golf course that presents a wide variety of challenging and fun-to-play shots for all levels of golfers.
The Peninsula Club19101 Peninsula Club DriveCornelius704-896-7080www.thepeninsulaclub.comThe Peninsula Club boasts an 18-hole championship course designed by Rees Jones. The layout blends into the natural terrain, including 16 holes with lake views.
Trump National Golf Club, Charlotte120 Meeting House SquareMooresville704-799-7300http://thepointlakeandgolfclub.comThis Greg Norman-designed course located on the shores of Lake Norman is both challenging and scenic. The Trump Organization, which recently purchased the course, promises upcoming changes and improvements.
NorthStone Country Club15801 NorthStone DriveHuntersville704-948-4286 www.northstoneclub.comThis challenging course has strategically placed bunkers, G2 bent grass greens, and Meyer Zoysia fairways. There’s also a state-of-the-art instructional golf facility
River Run at Davidson18608 River Ford DriveDavidson 704-892-9898River Run boasts 7,100 well-manicured yards of Bermuda fairways and Bentgrass greens year round. The 18-hole course is ideal for beginners and professionals alike.
Westport Golf Club (Semi-private)7494 Golf Course Road South Denver704-489-8088http://westportgc.com/index.htmlOpen to public play, Westport Golf Club accommodates players of all abilities, with beautiful tree-lined fairways and scenic rolling hills. --Michael J. Solender