Just the Best: Many Local Courses Among Top 100
Want to test your golf game on the best courses in North Carolina? Good, you don't have far to drive.
Almost a quarter of the Top 100 Courses in the state are located in the Sandhills, according to the latest listing by the North Carolina Golf Panel, comprised of 150 members representing a cross section of the game ranging from media to professionals to industry leaders.
To be exact, there are 21 golf courses on the list that are located in Moore, Lee and Harnett counties. Nineteen of those courses are in Moore County, with Tobacco Road in Lee and Anderson Creek in Harnett the only exceptions.
The rankings, which appear in this month's edition of Business North Carolina Magazine, are predictable in that Pinehurst Resort's renowned Donald Ross-designed No. 2 Course is once again ranked No. 1, and Tom Fazio's Old North State masterpiece is second. Some things never change.
The rest of the Top 10 are (in order) Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville, Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, The Country Club of North Carolina Dogwood, Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, Forest Creek South, Elk River Club in Banner Elk, Charlotte Country Club and Pinehurst No. 4.
Other area courses listed include Pinehurst No. 8 (13), Forest Creek North (15), Country Club of North Carolina Cardinal (19), National Golf Club (22), Pinehurst No. 7 (37), Mid South Club (46), Pinewild Country Club Magnolia (50), Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club (53), Tobacco Road Golf Club (63), Anderson Creek Golf Club (74), Legacy Golf Links (88), Seven Lakes Country Club (89), Pinehurst No. 6 (95), Pinewild Country Club Holly (96), Little River Golf and Resort (99), and The Country Club of Whispering Pines East (100).
That's an impressive showing that points out why golf in the Sandhills is so popular.
"You can't go anyplace in the country and find a more impressive array of golf courses than in the Sandhills," said Bill Hensley, a Hall of Fame golf publicist and freelance writer from Charlotte. "It's really amazing when you start listing the names of the course architects -- Donald Ross, Ellis Maples, Tom Fazio, Dan Maples, Tom Jackson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gene Hamm, Davis Love, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones and Mike Strantz -- that's an all-star ensemble."
It was nice, but not surprising, to find that Seven Lakes Country Club, the only course designed by the late Peter Tufts, had cracked the Top 100 at No. 89. Seven Lakes held its first panel outing last summer and, although the turnout by panelists was not one of the largest, those who did attend were wowed.
The Seven Lakes course is probably one of the most under-rated layouts in the state.
"Wow!" said panel member Leo Derrick, a retired television executive from Asheboro. "It's hard to believe that a course like this hasn't been rated before. Obviously, we just didn't know about it."
That's also true for some other courses, such as Carolina Trace in Sanford, Bayonet at Puppy Creek near Raeford and Gates Four Golf and Country Club and Highland Country Club in Fayetteville. Of those courses, only Gates Four has held a panel outing and that was attended by only a few members during a time of the year when the course was not at its best.
Little River is expected to move up the list after hosting the panel members last month. Despite the early time of year, the Dan Maples Course was in excellent condition, and it was the first time many members of the panel had visited it since the renovations of the past four years. General Manager Craig Luckey and Director of Golf Marvin Waters and their staff went beyond the pale in putting on a show that left everyone talking.
"This is the first time I've been here since they built the new clubhouse,' said panel member Roger Taylor, of Conover. "I can't believe the difference. I would never have recognized the place. And the changes they've made on some of the holes have just made a good golf course a great one."
Balsam Mountain Preserve, an Arnold Palmer design located 3,000 feet above sea level near Sylvia, was named Best New Course of the Year in a close battle with Tom Fazio's Hasentree Club in Raleigh. Balsam Mountain probably won out because of its stunning views.
Pine Needles won in another ultra-important category, the Best 19th hole. The cozy lounge area of the old lodge is a favorite for golfers, as witnessed by its selection as the best in the Sandhills. Pinehurst Resort was second, followed by Forest Creek, CCNC and Mid Pines.
In the Most Difficult in the Sandhills category, Pinehurst No. 2 led, followed by National, Pinehurst No. 7, Tobacco Road and CCNC's Dogwood.
The Sandhills' Most Bang for the Buck category was headed by Southern Pines Golf Club, followed by Seven Lakes, Anderson Creek, Tobacco Road and Legacy.
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