As you probably know, North Carolina is synonymous with golf. The two go hand in hand as the Tar Heel State features some of the most notable and revered courses not only in the region, but in the entire country. And the North Carolinian landscape with its smokey mountains, picturesque coastline, and warm climate make this gorgeous state a true golfer’s paradise.
To get you started on your North Carolina golfing journey, here are five North Carolina golf courses you need to play.
Pinehurst No. 2 (Best Overall Course)
Pinehurst No. 2 hardly needs an introduction. This magnificent track is the undisputed king of North Carolina golf. It has an illustrious history of well over 100 years and has hosted a long list of PGA and LPGA tournaments (with the U.S. Open slated to return in 2024). Designed by legendary golf course architect, Donald Ross, Pinehurst No. 2 puts a premium on shot making and requires golfers to constantly weigh the pros and cons of various approaches.
As the name suggests, the course is surrounded by tall, stately pines that form narrow corridors for each of Pinehurst’s immaculate fairways. And dotted throughout, in true Ross style, are unwieldy bunkers and a real links feel.
Things get underway on a medium length par 4 that features a slick, sloping green. The hole provides a worthy test as you begin your round.
The front nine finishes with an undulating green on the part 3 9th over a massive mixture of sand and desolate earth.
The last hole at Pinehurst No. 2 is as good as any and recalls some of the magical moments that have taken place here, including Payne Stewart’s triumph in ’99. Hitting the ball straight is the key on 18 as trees on the left and a deep bunker on the right destroy wayward tee shots.
From the tips, Pinhurst No. 2 measures 7588 yards and is a par 72.
Because the course is part of the Pinehurst Resort, it is open to guests only. Stay and play packages are quite expensive, though, so plan accordingly.
Wade Hampton (Best Private Course)
It is hard to believe that any course could give Pinehurst No. 2 a run for its money as best course in the state, but that is exactly what Wade Hampton does. Carved into the landscape of the mountains of the town of Cashiers, this spectacular track is by far the best private course in the state, and one of the best courses in the entire region. The gentle mountains around the course provide a breathtaking backdrop and each hole is a true testament to the beauty of the state.
The course features sprawling, well maintained fairways and large, sloping greens. Elevation changes are also strategically incorporated into the natural layout of the course.
Wade Hampton is a decent length too. It measures 7218 yards from the tips and is a regulation par 72.
While it would be great to be able to play Wade Hampton any time, it is only open to members and their guests.
Mid Pines (Most Challenging Course)
There are a lot of tough private courses in North Carolina that could easily be ranked the most challenging in the state. But in the name of profiling more courses that can actually be played, Mid Pines gets the nod for one of the most challenging courses in North Carolina. Another Donald Ross gem, the course has changed very little in the century since it was first opened.
Hole 1 features several cuts of grass as you make your way from tee to green. Like almost every other course in the state, tall trees prevail and make accuracy crucial. Number one also has strategically placed bunkers to contend with.
The back nine opens with an uphill par 5 that is a battle all the way. Beware a “natural” area to the left side of the fairway that is particularly difficult to get out of. The walk up 18 is both exhilarating and daunting as plenty of skill is required to make it out alive. The regal clubhouse provides the perfect backdrop for this prestigious track.
Mid Pines measures 6723 from the tips and is a regulation par 72.
A course of this quality isn’t played for free, however. During the peak season around of 18 will cost you $215 Thursday-Sunday. In the offseason during the week prices dip to a more reasonable $85.
Leopard’s Chase (Most Scenic Course)
One of the most scenic courses in the state is a relative newcomer. Opened in 2007, Leopard’s Chase has received stellar reviews for its unique layout and beauty. This striking course features Bermuda grass and makes excellent use of the man-made water hazards found throughout the course.
Particularly stunning is the 18th hole which boasts a man made waterfall. The cascading water is the perfect scenery to finish your round at this majestic course.
Leopard’s Chase is 7155 yards from the blacks and is a regulation par 72.
Rates at this gorgeous track typically hover in the $100 range but can get lower during the offseason.
The Omni Grove Park Inn (Best Deal)
One thing you will notice after a brief survey of North Carolina courses is that they aren’t cheap to play. It is not unheard of to pay well over $200 for a round of golf at a premier course. While Grove Park Inn wouldn’t be considered a great deal in some other states, compared to the high prices in north Carolina it really is a premier course that can be played at a decent price.
The course, like many in the state, features the requisite sprawling fairways and tight pin locations. It has the necessary trees and bunkers and everything else you could want. But at a lower price.
In the offseason you can get a round of 18 in at Grove Park Inn for $77.
Golf North Carolina
North Carolina really does have a treasured golfing legacy. It boasts some of the best courses in the region and with mountains in the west and ocean in the east, some beautiful, varied landscape as well. If you haven’t yet, you’ll want to head to The Tar Heel State sooner rather than later for a round. Happy golfing.
Did we miss a course? Share your North Carolina golf experience in the comments section below.