No. 5 on the Jones Course of Sea Trail Golf Resort
Some of the best golf around the famed Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach is just north of the border in Brunswick Islands, N.C. The area boasts 30 fantastic courses, and the temperate climate rarely dips below 55 degrees in the daytime, while ocean breezes keep summer outings pleasant.
What’s also appealing is the laid-back vibe, as that famous Southern hospitality is on full display everywhere you turn. There’s a kinder, gentler pace, without all the traffic and crowds of its more congested counterpart.
Called North Carolina’s Golf Coast for a reason, it’s the perfect destination for your next golf adventure. Here are a few courses worthy of a road trip.
Jones Course: Yardage: 6,750, Rating: 73.1, Slope: 135
Byrd Course: Yardage: 6,761, Rating: 72.7, Slope: 130
Sea Trail Golf Resort is a great place to stay and play, with its two wonderful 18s. The Willard Byrd design is memorable for its beauty, lakes and penal bunkers, which I spent some beach time in. The Jones Course—as in Rees Jones, the “Great Renovator”—has been recently updated with bent-grass greens that are as challenging to your game as they are pleasing to the eye.
211 Clubhouse Drive, Sunset Beach, N.C., (800) 546-5748.
Yardage: 6,895, Rating: 72.7, Slope: 131
Brunswick Plantation is another Willard Byrd design that offers three different nines, each with a distinctive landscape and backdrop. The Dogwood Course is fittingly lined with numerous hardwood trees, and the Caw Caw Creek provides much of the penalty strokes. The Magnolia Course is the easiest of the triumvirate, with typical links mounds and bunkers challenging players. The Azalea Course winds through the pines, where a few lakes and the Caw Caw loom. Brunswick is a solid, playable track that might make a good start to your golf adventure.
380 Brunswick Drive, Calabash, N.C., (800) 848-0290.
Yardage: 6,909, Rating: 74.7, Slope: 149
Rivers Edge may be one of the most scenic courses you’ll ever play, with a third of the holes wrapping along the Shallotte River. The ultra-dwarf Bermuda greens are some of the best and truest in Carolina. The stunning Arnold Palmer layout will help you forget the number of balls you’re losing. (If you have a slice, buy a few sleeves.) The par-5 Hole 9 will be one of your biggest challenges on the East Coast. With wind in your face off the tee and marsh guarding the entire left side, this hole demands a perfect tee shot and second shot to set up your wedge into a narrow sliver of a green. Miss it left, long or right, and you’re wet. A par here will ensure you won’t have to buy drinks at the turn. Also, with the amount of water nearby, stock up on some bug spray.
2000 Arnold Palmer Drive, Shallotte, N.C., (877) RIVER-18.
Yardage: 7,217, Rating: 74.5, Slope: 143
If you like to save the best for last, make your final stop this Tim Cate gem, just five minutes south of Wilmington, N.C. Cape Fear is one of the newer courses in the area, offering the complete private-club-for-a-day experience, with an outstanding clubhouse, locker-room amenities, dining options and a full practice facility. The course features Carolina-like landscape: lots of sand, bent-grass greens, Bermuda-grass fairways, forced carries over wetlands, and par 3s bookending the ninth and 18th holes. Cape Fear opened to rave reviews in 2010 and has won just about every golf-course accolade since.
1281 Cape Fear National Drive, Leland, N.C., (888) 342-3622.