Outer Banks Golf Roundup
North Carolina’s Outer Banks comprise a lengthy chain of barrier islands that delicately dangle off the state’s mainland coast like a priceless string of pearls. They are geological marvels – the highest ridges of prehistoric sand dunes that barely managed to keep their collective chins above water as the earth’s glaciers melted around them eons ago.
These fragile slivers of land have long been an alluring destination for vacationers with a multitude of interests: fishing, boating, lighthouse trekking, beachcombing and historic sightseeing atop the list. Golf, for the most part, ranked as a secondary attraction to the other main draws. That perception, however, is gradually changing. As assuredly as sands shift on the OBX (a popular three-letter acronym for the Outer Banks that can be found on bumper stickers anywhere there is traffic), golf is making a move up the beachgoers’ priority list.
That does not imply the Outer Banks will ever be mentioned in the same breath as other golfing meccas. For one, its Natalie Gulbis-slim geographical limitations won’t allow it. There are fewer than a dozen golfing opportunities on and around the Outer Banks.
Secondly, ecological priorities take precedence over commercial development. The pristine estuaries on the Outer Banks attract more migratory birds than anywhere else in the world. The chance for additional new golf courses in the near future is unlikely.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation deserves some kudos for golf experiencing an upsurge in popularity on the OBX. Vastly improved roadways in the last few years have streamlined accessibility to the Outer Banks. The state capital of Raleigh lies 200 miles to the west and, with the widening of US 64, is now a fret-free three-hour drive.
There are not a gaudy number of holes on the Outer Banks – quality trumps quantity. The barrier islands and surrounding areas proffer several upscale courses that complement a stable of seasoned and reliable layouts.
The Currituck Club in Corolla, at the far northern end of the Outer Banks, is arguably the premier course in the area. It has won its fair share of “best of” accolades since opening in 1996. Rees Jones carved out 6,885 yards of testing golf in the midst of 600 acres of wetlands along Currituck Sound. Golfers needing a beacon of hope on the back nine can catch an inspiring glimpse of the Currituck Lighthouse from the elevated tee of No. 13, a 578-yard par 5.
Several of the choicest golfing options on the Outer Banks are…not actually on the Outer Banks. The Pointe Golf Club, Kilmarlic Golf Club and The Carolina Golf Club are just minutes north of the Wright Memorial Bridge on Highway 158 on the Currituck mainland.
The Kilmarlic Golf Club is the infant on the Outer Banks golf scene. This most recent addition, designed by Tom Steele, is a Scottish seaside links layout that opened in 2002. The Kilmarlic Club quickly garnered enough positive notoriety in its brief history to be named host of the 2004 North Carolina Open.
The Pointe Golf Club is located just south of the Kilmarlic Club on the opposite side of Hwy. 158. The word among the locals is that this Russell Breeden-designed course is considered the most playable course in the Outer Banks area. Opened in 1995, it was the first course in the vicinity to offer A-1 bentgrass greens.
Also located along Hwy. 158, approximately 13 miles north of the Wright Memorial Bridge, is The Carolina Club. This 7,006-yard course, opened in 1998, is another Breeden design. No. 7 is a 166-yard par 3 that features an island green. Think No. 17 at TPC at Sawgrass relocated north and you get the general idea. Try not to dwell on the fact that the Outer Banks is considered the “Windsurfing Capital of the East Coast” as you calculate the wind gusts into your club selection.
Holly Ridge Golf Course and Goose Creek Golf and Country Club are additional options along this stretch of highway. Both are forgiving courses that are preferable choices for budget-minded golfers.
Heading back across the Wright Memorial Bridge to the Dare County islands, golfers will find three landmark layouts that pioneered the direction of golfing on the Outer Banks.
SeaScape Golf Links and Duck Woods Country Club were both built in the late 1960s and are the granddaddies of Outer Banks golf courses.
Located in Kitty Hawk near Orville and Wilbur Wright’s pioneering flight grounds, SeaScape was originally designed by Masters champion Art Wall. The course was renovated in the late 1990s prior to hosting the North Carolina Open in 2000. SeaScape is a par-72, 6,469-yard layout that provides excellent vistas of the Atlantic Ocean from its opening holes, which sit just a block inland from the beach.
Duck Woods is another oldie but goodie in nearby Southern Shores. Ellis Maples was the course architect. The club completed a new clubhouse in the last few years.
Nags Head Golf Links opened in 1988 and was designed by Bob Moore in the true Scottish links tradition. It offers beautiful views of the Roanoke Sound from several spots around the course. Though it plays to only 6,126 yards from the back tees, prevailing headwinds and crosswinds make that length plenty sufficient even for the most accomplished golfers.
The southern islands of the Outer Banks, bisected by Highway 12, are narrow slices of land that comprise much of the 70-mile long Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The aptly dubbed Ocean Edge Golf Course in the town of Frisco is a 9-hole executive course and offers the only fairways you will find on the entirety of Hatteras Island.
By Patrick Jones
added: December 19, 2008
updated: December 22, 2008
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