Playing Golf on the Coast Is a Breeze

North Shore Golf CoursePlaying Golf on the Coast Is a Breeze

North Shore Country Club is nestled along the Intracoastal Waterway, which offers the natural beauty of coastal marshes against the golf course

Sailing, fishing and water sports are popular along the North Carolina coast, but golfers have also discovered it as a desirable destination. Water flows through courses abutting the beach or bounded by marshes and maritime forests, and an ocean breeze is a constant and often unforgiving playing companion. Take a swing at any one of these 10 coastal golf courses.

Bald Head Island Club
Bald Head Island
This island retreat, just offshore from Wilmington, possesses 14 miles of pristine beaches, but it’s the maritime forests and marshes that harbor a true links test. Mounds, waving native grasses and massive waste bunkers dynamically frame a Tim Cate creation that is visually stunning and delivers a resounding golf experience. Cate’s extensive reworking of the original George Cobb design was honored as one of America’s top five renovations in 2011 by Links Magazine.

Leopard’s Chase at Ocean Ridge Plantation
Sunset Beach
Both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine named Leopard’s Chase one of their Top 10 Best New Public Courses when it opened in 2007. Since then, the Tim Cate design has made believers out of visiting players with its masterful use of natural and man-made water features, including a dramatic waterfall that fronts the steeply sloped 18th green. Most players contend this is the toughest of the “Big Cat” courses at Ocean Ridge.

Lockwood Folly Country Club
Holden Beach
It’s a solid recommendation when the locals pick you as the best course in a North Carolina county teeming with quality competition. Built on a former hunting preserve by respected architect Willard Byrd, the meandering links-style layout is bordered by Lockwood Folly River and the Intracoastal Waterway, and close enough to the ocean to hear the surf. The club’s off-the-beaten-path location also contributes to a pleasurable and peaceful outing.

Nags Head Golf Links
Nags Head
Like any good Scottish-influenced links course, this Outer Banks favorite lets its prickly edges show, and relies on the steady wind off the ocean and sound for protection. The windswept holes along the Roanoke Sound have been singled out as among the most beautiful on the East Coast – but beauty also can be a beast with tees and greens often separated by dunes, water and sea grass that require well-executed shots.

North Shore Country Club
Sneads Ferry
Harmony with nature is the hallmark of this Bob Moore endeavor that takes full advantage of the beauty of the coastal marshes and maritime forest. The prevailing sea breeze is always in play, but the inward holes among the pines offer some pleasant respite. Saving the best for last, the 18th is a long and devious par 4 where a tee shot must land safely between two bodies of water.

Pearl Golf Links
Position two masterfully designed Dan Maples courses among 900 acres laced with forests and coastal marshes, and you definitely have a real “pearl” waiting. Known for quick-rolling greens, the Pearl East offers a traditional parkland approach with crowned putting surfaces and demanding tee shots, while Pearl West presents a links-style challenge with a dramatic four-hole finish along bluffs overlooking the Calabash River. And yes, the Calabash area is synonymous with copious amounts of seafood.

Sea Trail Golf Resort – Dan Maples Course
Sunset Beach
Twisted ancient oaks and tall pines frame what many players consider one of Dan Maples’ finest efforts. Though only medium in length by today’s standards, the layout demands accuracy for good scoring with well-bunkered, undulating greens the last line of defense. One testy stretch of five holes stretches along scenic Calabash Creek. Sea Trail also features notable courses by Rees Jones and Willard Byrd.

The Sound Golf Links at Albemarle Plantation
Both Dan Maples and Mother Nature are given credit for this coastal gem on the shores of the Albemarle Sound near historic Edenton. Winding fairways run along marshes and through groves of moss-draped cypress, with greens carefully tucked into strategic spots. The three finishing holes are not for the faint-hearted, with the entire stretch bordered by open water and swept by the wind.

The Currituck Club
Carved out by designer Rees Jones along the Currituck Sound, this rambling layout draws rave reviews from players and high rankings from influential golf pubs. This design combines a traditional approach with links-style features as it winds across coastal terrain and through a maritime forest. Golf Digest gives Currituck 4.5 stars and ranks it among the top 25 courses in North Carolina.

The Emerald Golf Club
New Bern
“I like to design courses that are challenging to the typical golfers,” architect Rees Jones has said. And he demonstrates that commitment ably on The Emerald where each hole has its own personality and strategic choices, and good shots are rewarded. The interesting 4th hole features four tees with water carries and one offering a safer dry-land route. The hazards are there, yet positioned fairly with maybe an element of surprise.

Gary Carter is an Asheville-based travel writer who covers a range of topics for magazines, online publications and his blog, Eliot’s Tales 4 Gen B.

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