If you’re like a lot of vacationers on the Outer Banks, your golf time is going to be limited. There are kids to watch on the beach, in-laws to chat with, hot dogs to be grilled. Taking half a day from your one-week stay to play golf can be negotiated. Playing more than once is going to cause strife within the family. With only one round to play, you want to pick the right course.
Then there may be some other issues. The beach house is already costing you plenty, so the green fee may be relevant. It may particularly be so if your golf group is going to include a couple of kids who are just learning and a brother-in-law who never learned; they’re not really worthy of a challenging course with a three-digit ticket, are they? And, during the summer season, traffic is heavy and location is relevant. You don’t want to waste time sitting in the car. You’d like a course close to your house.
Fear not. The Outer Banks has courses for every purse and skill level. Here are some answers to questions that will help make sure you choose the right one.
Q. What are the best courses?
A. If price and location were no object, this would be my list:
1. The Currituck Club: A challenging Rees Jones design with five holes along the Sound near Corolla. Well maintained. With a peak season green fee of $170, it’s also the most expensive course in the region. For my full review, click here.
2. The Carolina Club: So close to the Currituck Club in quality that it deserves to be rated No. 1A. An enjoyably challenging inland course that often looks harder than it really is, reasonably priced, with good greens and fairways. For my full review, click here.
4. Kilmarlic: A newer, inland course carved from piney woods with an interesting, challenging design. Maintenance can be spotty during difficult weather periods, like the aftermath of storms. For my full review, click here.
5. The Pointe: Owned by the operators of the Carolina Club, this course has a lot of water and wetlands. Well maintained.
7. Sea Scape: Houses encroach very tightly around this short, older course, and maintance has been an issue. Well located in Kitty Hawk.
8. Goose Creek: Basic golf, just off the highway leading to the barrier island from the north. Price is its main selling point.
9. Holly Ridge: Flat, short, pasture pool. Not far from the Wright Memorial Bridge.
Q. What’s the best value?
A. The Carolina Club, with a peak green fee of $99 and discounts for many times and dates, is the best value on the Outer Banks. Among the rest, Goose Creek, at $45, can be a good value if it’s dry and weeds haven’t overwhelmed the superintendent.
Q. Which one is closest to me?
A. Here’s a link to a basic map of Outer Banks courses. It shows that the Currituck Club is closest to houses in Corolla and the northern end of Duck. Nag’s Head is closest to all locations on the southern end of the barrier islands. Duck Woods and Sea Scape are very close to the Wright Memorial Bridge, the OBX link to the north and centrally located for most vacationers. Holly Ridge, Goose Creek, the Pointe, Kilmarlic and the Carolina Club are on Highway 158, north of the bridge. Getting to any of them may take a little while, which may or may not be a critical factor for you.
Q. What if I just want to hit some balls and practice?
A. This can be a good compromise if you want a golf fix but can’t take all the time that a full round would require. The Currituck Club, Kilmarlic, Duck Woods, the Pointe and the Carolina Club all have excellent practice facilities with grass tees, chipping greens, etc. Holly Ridge has a grass-tee range. The range at Nags Head is too small for normal practice balls, so the course supplies Cayman balls, which don’t go very far. Sea Scape doesn’t have a range.
Q. What’s the best place to take kids to play?
A. It depends on their skill level. If they’re good players, the best bet might be the Currituck Club on the days of the week (Friday-Monday) when a junior plays free if accompanied by a fee-paying adult. (Because rental houses change hands on Saturdays and Sundays, the weekend days are less crowded on Outer Banks courses. Demand for tee times picks up at mid-week.) Check other courses for junior rates and specials. If the kids are beginning golfers and you want to introduce them to the game inexpensively, Goose Creek and Holly Ridge might be the best choices. They offer basic golf, but your novices won’t know the difference.
Q. What’s the best place for a buddy trip?
A. Kilmarlic, especially if you’re going in spring or autumn and you and your buddies aren’t interested in the beach. Kilmarlic has an on-site lodge that will sleep eight, complete with amenities like big-screen TV and a poker table. It’s just steps from the first tee and the practice range. Its mainland location is close enough to the Pointe and the Carolina Club to make it possible to play two courses in one day. If beach ambience is important to you, you could rent a house in Duck or stay at the Sanderling Inn. Rotate your play between the Currituck Club and Duck Woods. The Sanderling is also a good idea for a couples’ weekend trip.
Q. What’s a good place to eat?
A. This isn’t a restaurant review web site, but try the Ocean Boulevard Bistro & Martini Bar on the beach in Kitty Hawk. Good food and wine, and the bartender wins awards for his inventive cocktails.