Get Schooled in Golf, Art and Food in the Triangle

WADU and Durham Convention & Visitors BureauGet Schooled in Golf, Art and Food in the Triangle

The Washington Duke Inn is a beautiful backdrop to the Duke University Golf Club, originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and later redesigned by his son Rees

The Triangle area of North Carolina – the corners anchored by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill – is a blend of long-standing tradition and New South transformation. The quiet, rural settings run counterpoint to bustling suburbs and sleek cityscapes. And there are plenty of fun things to do, including some outstanding golf that will make you feel smarter just by the connection to area universities.

4-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Begin your education in North Carolina’s capital city on N.C. State’s golf course.

Day 2: Think golf, Duke basketball, good food and drink when you head to Durham.

Day 3: Get schooled by Tom Fazio at UNC and make the scene on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

Day 4: Finish your graduate degree in Carolina golf with a range of outstanding links choices.

Day 1: Course of Action

Raleigh is the Tar Heel State’s capital and also reigns as one of the country’s fastest growing cities. In addition to economic opportunities, Raleigh maintains a laid-back approach to fun with a wealth of live music, dining and local breweries, shopping and cultural activities. To start your golf education, head toward N.C. State University and its Lonnie Poole Golf Course, a respected Arnold Palmer creation with views of the city skyline from its rolling fairways. In addition to providing plenty of challenge, the course also serves as home to N.C. State’s golf teams and a research facility for several university programs.

If being too close to school makes you remember pop quizzes, drive a few minutes north to Heritage Golf Club in a serene setting near the town of Wake Forest. Granted 4 1/2 stars by Golf Digest, the links-style layout winds through the pines with elevation changes, creeks, lakes and carefully placed pot bunkers.

Or if you desire some culture with your next play, check out the venerable North Carolina Museum of Art where beautiful works of art are complemented by music, films and special events. Or learn more about the state at the North Carolina Museum of History, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

But if your short game needs work, consider an outing to Knights Play Golf Center in Apex where you can take on a 27-hole par 3 course under the lights. Follow that up with a visit to a local brewery or café, and it’s been a good first day of school.

If it’s the right time of year, there’s time for a taste of NHL hockey, Southern style, since the Carolina Hurricanes call Raleigh home. And there’s quality minor-league baseball offered by the Carolina Mudcats.

Day 2: Where Legends are Made

Much better than an 8 a.m. philosophy class is a round at Duke University Golf Club in Durham, the handiwork of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Rees Jones. It was the senior Jones who once said, “...the golf holes were on the ground, just lying there, waiting to be grassed over,” a statement certainly proven by the subtle grace and natural flow that has the club recognized as one of the finest courses in the Southeast.

After golf, basketball fans will enjoy the Duke Basketball Museum & Sports Hall of Fame, adjacent to rowdy Cameron Indoor Stadium on the Duke campus with its iconic Gothic architecture.

Durham’s downtown district has been rejuvenated into an eclectic gathering point for food, drink and entertainment. Southern Living named Durham one of its “Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South,” and foodies flock there for just about every style of local cuisine. If smoked pork strikes your fancy, the town has its own barbecue trail, which can be chased down with craft ales, stouts, lagers, sour mashes and other hoppy options concocted by local breweries.

Of course, baseball fans will want to check out the Durham Athletic Park that served as the location for the cult classic, Bull Durham. Then take in a Durham Bulls game in the team’s ideally situated in-town stadium.

Day 3: On Your Tar Heels

It’s probably not a good idea to wear the Duke hat you bought on day two when you venture the few miles to Chapel Hill to take on Tom Fazio at the UNC Finley Golf Club. With Fazio’s consistent emphasis on playability, the course features five sets of tees that take the length from a gentle 5,017 yards to a hefty 7,328 yards. And it’s a friendly place with friendly rates.

Grab another taste of higher education with a walking tour of the lovely University of North Carolina campus, maybe grabbing a sip of water from the famous Old Well. There are, of course, plenty of other places to sip in a college town like Chapel Hill as a stroll along Franklin Street will prove. Also expect no shortage of good eats. In fact, the section of Franklin Street just before Chapel Hill becomes Carrboro has grown as a popular dining destination.

Also in Carrboro, if you’re around on a Wednesday or Saturday, check out the town’s farmers market where everything sold must be produced or grown within a 50-mile radius. The New York Times declared this one of the top in the country.

Depending on your loyalties, you might enjoy the free, interactive Carolina Basketball Museum, which chronicles the history of UNC basketball and includes nearly 500 artifacts, hundreds of photographs, and videos of various players, coaches, championships and historic moments.

Day 4: Final Scores

In the spirit of higher learning, this is the time for an educated guess on which golf course will add the proper finishing touch – or maybe there’s time for 36 holes to close out the trip.

River Ridge Golf Club is a local favorite, priding itself on offering private club conditions at a daily-fee price. A Raleigh-based golf group via its McConnell Golf Trail offers limited access to three top-notch private venues, including Raleigh Country Club with its historic Donald Ross course.

If you’re feeling adventurous, consider a short road trip toward Sanford to a burly golf course known as Tobacco Road. Set within an old sand quarry by architect Mike Strantz, this is a place that’s been called "Pine Valley on steroids" and "golf's rock-and-roll thrill ride."

Then, after four days of golf and entertainment, consider yourself an honors graduate of the Triangle style of living, post those scorecards like diplomas for proof and plan on a class reunion.

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching activities and events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.

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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