Salty breezes, unsurpassed coastal views, and exceptional golf make North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands a mecca for golf enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. Home to more than 30 championship courses and over 120 miles of fairways, visitors to “North Carolina’s Golf Coast” can play a new course every day for a month without repeating a hole. It’s impossible to go wrong with the abundance of incredible golf courses throughout the Brunswick Islands, but before you leave, make sure to check out the list below of some of the top golf holes in the area. Selected for their challenge level and extraordinary scenery, these holes will challenge and delight your inner golf aficionado. (All yardages are from the white tees.)
Leopard’s Chase, Hole 18
Designed by Tim Cate, and named by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Best Public Courses in America for 2007,” Leopard’s Chase is a breathtaking course. Located in Ocean Isle Beach, the course showcases natural and man-made water features throughout its 18 holes. The par 4 18th hole is an impressive finishing hole that tees off over native wetlands to a narrowing fairway guarded by a massive bunker running down the length of the hole on the right and a large lake on the left. The hole features an elevated lagoon in front of the green and a spectacular cascading waterfall that beckons golfers to tackle its 369 yards.
Rivers Edge Golf Club, Hole 9
Named by Golf Magazine as one of the “Top 20 North Carolina Courses in North Carolina in 2016,” and designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer, Rivers Edge Golf Club is a one-of-a-kind course. Located in Shallotte, the course rests along the tidal marshes of the Shallotte River and features over 500 acres of unsurpassed natural beauty. The 9th hole is an exceptionally challenging par 5 at 509 yards. Players are advised to aim down the left center of the fairway off the tee. A suggested second shot would be played towards the middle fairway bunker, then a wedge to a very narrow, deep green surrounded by the Shallotte River and marsh.
With three nines winding through rich, low country terrain, Carolina National Golf Club in Bolivia offers players of all skill levels opportunities to enjoy the sport. Heron’s scenic coastal views set the course apart from the other nines at Carolina. The picturesque 5th hole is a par 3 at 182 yards, and requires both skill and precision to land a good shot over the Lockwood Folly River marshland that surrounds much of the green. Some call this one of the most difficult par 3s in the area and say that four strokes isn’t a bad score here.
The Pearl Golf Links West, Hole 7
Located in Calabash, this links-style course displays vast, open stretches of pampas grass alongside bluffs that overlook the picturesque Calabash River and coastal marshland. Golfers will be pleased by the challenging elements of the course that are complimented by untouched natural beauty. The 7th Hole is a mammoth par 5 at 552 yards, lined by the River on the right side of the hole. The entire hole slopes left to right toward the water requiring strategy to avoid a drastic roll down the hill. The approach shot is also difficult with a side-hill lie.
Oyster Bay Golf Links, Hole 15
Located in Sunset Beach, this course encompasses variety and innovative architecture to create an unforgettable experience for visitors. With a range of intricate, marsh-oriented holes, scenic freshwater lakes and undulating greens, each hole is unique in its own regard. The 15th hole is a noteworthy par 3 at 135 yards where golfers must test their skills to reach the challenging island green.
Tiger Eye Golf Links, Hole 11
Like Leopard's Chase, Tiger's Eye is one of the Big Cats courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation in Ocean Isle Beach. Tiger's Eye features a memorable collection of Par 3s and the 11th hole is the most memorable and challenging of them all. Surrounded on three sides by water and coquina boulders (a signature feature of golf course designer Tim Cate's work), the green is small and calls for accuracy. This scenic 128 yard Par 3 is much more demanding than the yardage would suggest.
Crow Creek Golf Club, Hole 8
Designed by Rick Robbins, this Calabash-based course has earned the reputation of being one of the most well-maintained courses along the east coast. The 8th hole on the course is exceptionally challenging, as it is an all carry par 3 at 143 yards. Skill is needed to clear the surrounding lake and bulkhead wall in front of the green, which slopes from back to front and will require creative strokes. A short hitter can bail out to the right, but will still have to chip to a multi-level green. Course experts suggest that putting could be the key to scoring well on this hole.
Compass Pointe Golf Club, Hole 18
Located in Leland, this course is truly one of the jewels of the Southeastern North Carolina golf scene. It sits in the untouched wetlands, separated by billowing pine trees and native grasses that create a peaceful ambiance. The 18th hole is quickly gaining recognition as one of the most challenging holes in the county. A par 5, the 500-yard hole is “reachable” in two strokes by the longest hitters, as long as they are able to hit past the hazard that crosses the fairway just short of the green. The majority of players lay up short of the hazard and face a mid to short iron third shot to an elevated green that features the most undulation of any of the greens on the course.
The Rees Jones Course, part of Sea Trail Golf Resort in Sunset Beach, provides an exceptional background for a round of golf. Scattered with several pot and large expanse bunkers, this coastal course provides an ideal setting for a delightfully challenging game. The 5th hole, a 155-yard par 3, features wide fairways surrounded by water and towering trees. Players tee off from an elevated box to a green with the front half surrounded by water. Many refer to this hole as the kick-off to the most difficult three holes on the course.
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