As country clubs proliferated across the vacation towns of North Carolina through-out the 20th century, so too did the popularity of golf for the state’s summer visitors. Many of the courses around the Highlands and Cashiers areas are on or be-side mountains, providing a drastic change of scenery for Florida golfers.
Bart Patterson, president of Golf Locker and a PGA Professional, says Floridians planning a golf trip to the Carolinas should keep the regions’ climate differences in mind.
“Pack for different weather conditions,” he says. “You don’t know if you’ll end up wanting to wear shorts or pants. Make sure to take your rain gear as well.”
If you plan to fly up to North Carolina, Patterson advises using a service like Ship Sticks. The company will pick up your golf bag from just about anywhere (or you can drop it off at a UPS or FedEx location) and monitor the shipment from beginning to final destination, providing you with updates along the way.
In North Carolina, Patterson recommends golfers make the pilgrimage to the village of Pinehurst, home to three dozen courses within a roughly 15-mile radius. The area’s most famous courses are the nine found at the historic Pinehurst Resort (80 Carolina Vista Drive, Pinehurst, NC), first established in 1898 and the host of more golf championships than anywhere else in the United States. The legendary Pinehurst No. 2, designed by Donald Ross in 1907, was recently ranked the 18th best golf course in the world and 10th best in the U.S. by Golf Magazine. Between games, relax at one of the resort’s three hotels, eight eateries and spa.
In Cashiers, the Wade-Hampton Golf Club (68 Golf Drive, Cashiers, NC) is Golf Digest’s 25th best course in the U.S. for 2017-18. The club sits beside the popular High Hampton Resort and features 18 holes designed by Tom Fazio around the streams and brooks found in the valley below Chimney Top Mountain. If you get the chance to go behind the gates (good luck: Golf Magazine has called this the toughest tee time to get in North Carolina), keep your eyes peeled for Fazio himself, who is a member and reportedly keeps a summer home on hole six.
Founded by two Florida real estate developers, the Highlands Falls Country Club (1 Club Drive, Highlands, NC) features a par-70 course designed by “Gentleman” Joe Lee. The club claims its 15th hole is among the most-photographed golf holes in the world thanks to its backdrop. The green runs right up against the 100-foot Highlands Falls, fed by the Cullasaja River (which runs through hole 14). Lakeland resident and current club member Parkhill Mays advises brushing up on your game before attempting this 4,000-foot-high course.
“You’re going to lose a lot of balls,” he says with a laugh.
Finally, Sapphire Valley National Golf Club (50 Slicers Ave., Sapphire, NC) is the only course in the western North Carolina area open to the public, making it ideal for visitors experiencing the region for the first time. The par-72, Ron Garl-designed course takes advantage of its natural surroundings, with hole 15 played on an island green.
And homebodies need not miss out: Golf Locker’s Patterson recommends walking in the shoes of Tiger Woods at Innisbrook’s (36750 U.S. Hwy. 19 N., Palm Harbor) four courses. The resort installed new Tif Eagle Bermuda greens on the North Course in late 2017 and was named one of Golf Digest’s best golf resorts in Florida earlier this year.