18 Best Golf Courses in North Carolina
The North Carolina Golf Panel annually ranks our state’s top courses to help guide your choices or find a hidden gem when you come here to test your skills.
With its wealth of golf opportunities, North Carolina can offer every player a chance to step onto a top-level course, whether it’s on the coast, in the mountains or somewhere in between.
Here are the 18 top-ranked courses open to the public, based on the North Carolina Golf Panel’s 2022 top courses you can play:
The venerable Pinehurst No. 2 refuses to relinquish the top spot, having perched on high since the first Golf Panel list in 1995. The Donald Ross masterpiece accepts the challenge of any and all players, and seldom gives in, even to top professionals. In fact, No. 2 hosted both the men’s and women’s U.S. Open Championships in June 2014, which means you can test your skills on the same layout as the pros. To get the full experience and possibly improve your score, let one of the resort’s capable caddies guide you.
Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club
Ask most members of the Golf Panel, and you’ll likely hear Pine Needles characterized as one of those special courses you wouldn’t mind playing every day. A wonderfully fair Donald Ross classic, this is a meandering trip among the pines that always delivers pleasure but requires full attention to every shot. A favorite of female players, Pine Needles hosted the women’s U.S. Open Championships in 1996, 2001 and 2007, and will do so again in 2022.
And part of the same resort is another Ross gem, Mid Pines Golf Club (see the 5th-place ranking).
Redesigned in 2018 by renowned golf course architect Gil Hanse, Pinehurst No. 4 is a companion to No. 2, but it’s not a tribute to it. Hanse returned the original landscape to the course, making it an expression of classic Carolinas Sandhills golf with its slopes and greens locations, giving the golfer the chance to contemplate different approaches to each hole. No. 4 and No. 2 cohosted the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship.
Pinehurst No. 8
Tom Fazio carved this gem out of the rolling, sandy terrain just outside the village, paying homage to Donald Ross with the characteristic swales, slopes and false fronts that mark the master’s work. Graced with the playability that makes Fazio a favorite of the average player, the course is also very walkable, another blessing in these days of lengthy layouts. Reflecting its beautiful natural setting, No. 8 was the first project in North Carolina to achieve certification through the Audubon International Signature Program.
Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club
A riddle: Why did the golfer at Pine Needles cross the road? Answer: To play Mid Pines, another historic Donald Ross 1920s gem situated just across Midland Road. Though maintained impeccably to modern standards, it’s a pine-drenched stroll through history since this is a Ross design that remains virtually unchanged. Maybe not as daunting as its mate on the other side of the road, Mid Pines remains an always fair and fun test that makes it a favorite on many lists.
Pinehurst No. 9
Pinehurst No. 9, formerly known as National Golf Club, is the Pinehurst area’s only Jack Nicklaus Signature course, which challenges players with the expected Nicklaus architecture – wide fairways, strategic bunkers and undulating putting surfaces.
Linville Golf Club
Here are two good secrets to know: Golf has been played in Linville since 1895, even earlier than in Pinehurst, with Donald Ross crafting the current layout in 1924. And, while Linville Golf Club is private, play is possible when you pamper yourself with a stay at the delightful Eseeola Lodge, which has provided High Country hospitality since 1892. Golf package takes on a new meaning here, with the club and lodge named a “Best Summer Golf Destination of the South” by Sports Illustrated’s Golf.com.
Mid South Club
Arnold Palmer issued a straightforward challenge to players at Mid South Club, with few visual tricks and a mixture of risk/reward from virtually every tee. Like the man, this is a course on which to hitch up your trousers and charge. A favorite of locals and considered one of Palmer’s best designs, the private Mid South is worthy of making the effort to get on via an area golf package.
UNC Finley Golf Course
Tom Fazio proves yet again that he knows how to produce a layout that can provide a measure of pleasure to any golfer, regardless of handicap. UNC Finley Golf Course is commonly lauded as a well-priced, fun outing, but expect Fazio to force your focus to fully appreciate the experience. If you’re nursing a 1-shot lead, the 18th will definitely command careful attention.
Bald Head Island Golf Course
Park the car, grab your clubs and jump on the ferry for the pleasurable journey to Bald Head Island, where Tim Cate transformed a classic George Cobb design into a visually stunning tribute that Links Magazine deemed behind only the restoration of No. 2 in Pinehurst. You’ll wind your way over dunes, around lagoons, along the ocean and through a maritime forest in a setting so undisturbed the local wildlife is close at hand (just don’t toy with the gators).