Ranking the best golf courses in North Carolina is a bit like a 7-iron shot over water to a beautifully framed green – it looks like fun and it should be fun but there’s a chance you can mess it up.
These rankings are purely subjective. They’re not done on the basis of panel voting or with some complicated numerical formula that computes shot values, aesthetics and originality of design.
These are the golf courses I think are the best in North Carolina. I’ve been fortunate enough play many of them and those that I haven’t, such as Wade Hampton, I’ve heard and read enough about them to know they belong.
Ask 100 golfers in the state to make a list of the top 20 courses and you’ll get 100 different lists. There are that many good courses here.
I put Pinehurst No. 2 at the top of my list for a variety of reasons. If it’s good enough to host four U.S. Opens (three men’s, one women’s) in a 15-year stretch, that speaks for itself. Jack Nicklaus still calls it his favorite course from a design standpoint and when Ben Crenshaw, who is handling a restoration of the course with his partner Bill Coore, agrees.
Standing on the first tee at No. 2 remains a thrill.
There’s a prominent golf official in North Carolina who believes Grandfather Golf and Country Club should be No. 1 and he makes a valid case. There is no prettier golf course in this state than Grandfather and it’s on the short list of beauties anywhere. It’s also as challenging as it is gorgeous and if you can’t putt, you’re in trouble there.
I put Quail Hollow and Charlotte Country Club third and fourth, respectively, and they could easily be flipped. The layouts are major championship-worthy and both clubs understand and celebrate the spirit of the game.
Pine Needles ranks fifth on my list for two reasons – it’s an exceptional golf course with great greens and there may no place that’s more fun to play. It feels good being there.
The rest of the list is filled with special courses and there are many that could have been included. It’s one man’s list. We’ve added a place for your comments and would love to hear them.