Golfing The Crystal Coast
For years, North Carolina's Crystal Coast has been best known for its quaint fishing villages, its boat-building craftsmen, the towering lighthouse on Cape Lookout and the abundant seafood restaurants. Now this unspoiled part of North Carolina is starting to be known for something else: The superb quality of golf it has to offer.
Here's just a small sampling of the beautifully conditioned courses that await you.
The Emerald Golf Club
The town symbol of New Bern is a black bear, taken from the city after which it was named: Bern, Switzerland. It is perhaps appropriate, then, that nearby you'll find a real bear of a golf course – albeit a relatively tame one – The Emerald Golf Club.
The Emerald prides itself on being a delight for players of all levels. Each hole has five tee locations, allowing you to personalize the course to fit your individual game. Rees Jones sums up his user-friendly approach this way: "I like to design courses that are challenging to the typical golfers. Too many courses today are being built for the one-week PGA tournament."
Water comes into play on five out of 18 holes. On the 521-yard par-5 fifth hole, water lurks on the right, while trees guard the left side all the way to the green. A yawning bunker waits to gobble up any timid shots. The signature hole is the 18th, with rolling mounds on the left side and water on the right.
Cypress Landing Golf Club
This course, the youngest of the golf courses on the Crystal Coast, was opened in 1996 and is located 25 miles from New Bern. Much like The Emerald, Cypress Landing was specifically designed to be challenging and fun for golfers of all handicaps. One way it does so is by offering four different sets of tees on every hole. But that's not all.
"This may be the most fair facility I've ever seen for the average golfer," says former Head Professional Rob Calamari. "The majority of the holes move from left to right. So there's ample room for that shape of shot – which of course is the shot pattern of most amateurs."
The signature hole is the par-3 15th, 160 yards from the back tees with a vertical drop of 45-50 feet to the green below. "Pamlico Sound stretches for about two miles behind the green," says Calamari, "affording the golfer a spectacular view."
Star Hill Golf Club
The only 27-hole course on North Carolina's Crystal Coast, Star Hill offers you more than 9000 yards of superb golf. Each of the three nine-hole courses is set between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Croatan National Forest. Different eighteen-hole combinations of two of the three nine-hole options are offered each day.
The Lakes Course is considered the stoutest test of the three because of the presence of, you guessed it, a large freshwater lake. On the signature No. 1 hole, a 220-yard carry over the lake is required from the back tees, after which your approach is over a creek guarding the green.
Ironically, the layout of the Pines Course has more water on it than the Lakes Course. The signature par-5 second hole requires three well-struck shots to reach the green. "It's 550 yards from the back tees, and there's a pretty large ridge in the middle of the fairway, which cuts down the roll on your tee ball pretty significantly. There's also a creek in front of the green, so you can't just roll a long second shot on," says Head Pro Mick Brown.
The Sands Course features yet another terrific test of a golfer's mettle: the par-4 eighth hole. Brown says, "It's 441 yards from the back tees into a prevailing wind, and the elevated green requires all carry. It takes two mighty well-struck and well-directed shots to get on that green in two."
Minnesott Golf and Country Club
You've heard the expression "it's not how you drive, it's how you arrive"? Well, the unusual thing about Minnesott is that you can't drive there. You have to take a ferry. The 15-minute, free ferry ride is just one of the joys of this club. "This course offers the golfer a lot of nice surprises," says Head Pro Terry Bobbin. "First of all, there are only two bunkers on the whole course [on the 12th and 17th]. However, they're Pete Dye-style traps, complete with the wood facing. You don't want to be in 'em!"
To protect par, Minnesott compensates by featuring Donald Ross-style greens. Meaning if you aren't hitting your iron shots accurately, your ball will likely roll into the numerous grass catch basins. The signature hole is the par-3 ninth, requiring a 130-yard carry over water.
One thing is crystal clear: for golf that offers fun challenges for players of all levels, there's nowhere better to play than the courses on North Carolina's Crystal Coast.
added: December 22, 2010
updated: January 3, 2011
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