Golf around North Carolina’s storied Outer Banks represents an outstanding selection of fun and affordable yet quality golf courses — along with eclectic accommodations and a plethora of off-course activities that have transformed the Outer Banks into a mini-Mecca sportsman’s paradise.

Here are 10 “shore” things that make the OBX a perfect destination for a fall golf trip when the weather and course conditions are ideal.


Autumn offers the best weather and course conditions of the year, as well as the best pricing of the year. Fall golfers face many enviable choices during their trips … wearing shorts or pants, hitting 5- or 6-irons into ocean breezes, flopping or pitching off lush turf, links or parkland designs, among others.


A famous expression was coined long ago at Cahoon’s Grocery and Variety Store in Nags Head goes, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” This OBX motto could easily be applied to its golf. From true barrier island links courses to modern parkland marvels located inland, the region is so chock full of variety, golfers truly don’t have to go anywhere else. The challenges at The Pointe, The Carolina Club, Nags Head Golf Links, Kilmarlic and The Currituck Club are as spectacular as the coastal views they possess. There may be no better location for an affordable and memorable fall golf getaway than the Outer Banks.


An autumn golf trip to OBX is all about tee times, shots along the sound, and an array of before and after-golf dining options that include selections pulled directly from nearby waters and then freshly prepared by local chefs. Ask any regular visitor to OBX and he or she will most likely clue you in about breakfast at Sam and Omie’s, lunch at Tortugas’ Lie, Kill Devil Rum tastings at Outer Banks Distilling, dinner at The Blue Point and OBX TRiO, not to mention takeout from Currituck BBQ Company or in-home catering from Red Sky Cafe.


Afternoon drives take on a whole new meaning along the coast just minutes north of Rees Jones’s 18-hole gem known as The Currituck Club, the grandest design along the coast “sculpted on the type of land where golf began” among 600 acres of dunes, wetlands, maritime forests and sound seascapes. There, a unique après-golf excursion unfolds in the form of 12 miles of beachfront that is only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Known as “beach riding,” this one-of-a-kind activity leads you to nothing but sun, sand, ocean, some vacation rental homes and those wild Spanish mustangs that can be found grazing in an untamed area called the “Corolla Outback.” Spotting the feisty horses is a popular OBX pastime.


Every time golfers tackle historic Nags Head Golf Links, they find themselves facing a different challenge. Crafted by Bob Moore, Nags Head plays hard along the inner waterway on the southern end of the Outer Banks, where capricious breezes off sound-side waters create a unique golfing experience each and every day. With its coastal winds, rugged shoreline, island holes, seaside vistas, and tees and greens are separated by rolling dunes and wild sea grass, Nags Head bears far more than a passing resemblance to the famed Scottish golf links.


You don’t have to travel far from your place on the beach to find great interior golf at the Outer Banks. Golfers who haven’t already played one of the designs located at the gateway to the beach on the way into town don’t have to backtrack very far. Located just across the Wright Memorial Bridge (one of only three vehicle access points connecting the island with the mainland), The Pointe Golf Club is the first in a sequence of championship golf courses — layouts close to the sounds and ocean but more parkland in settings. The course is also said to be the first in the country to have the A-1 bent grass — a dense, disease-resistant strain — installed across its corridors.


Golfers can dip their toes in the Atlantic Ocean 10 minutes after a round of golf at Kilmarlic Golf Club — a popular Tom Steele design nestled along the marshland of the Albemarle Sound and host course for both the 2004 and 2009 North Carolina Opens, as well as annual host of the Old Dominion/Outer Banks collegiate championship each autumn. A wonderful mainland course amidst 605 beautiful acres of maritime forest provides a pure OBX layout with water and wetlands virtually in play at all times.


The Pointe Golf Club’s sister course is The Carolina Club. Highlighted by a memorable par-3 island green No. 7, The Carolina Club’s positioning as the first course heading into town from the north and last one on the way out makes it the ideal play on either side of your OBX fall golf vacation.


A wide range of top-shelf and equally eclectic accommodations can be found all along OBX, from the iconic Sanderling Resort in Duck to the fully-equipped Kilmarlic Golf Cottages featuring golf course views of the championship course, along with access to a 5,000-square foot, lighted putting green and a four-hole Short Course. If your group prefers to be closer to the shore, you can choose from a vast array of beach or sound-side homes that range from one-bedroom condos to multiple bedroom estates. Then, rest up between rounds at any number of privately owned vacation residences with luxuries such as private pools, pool tables, high-definition televisions and much more.


“Away from it all” is how golfers feel teeing it up on any one of the outstanding golf courses located in the OBX. But don’t think for a moment that this coastal destination is bereft of things to do once your group’s round of golf is complete. When not standing on a green or tee box looking out across the ocean or a sound, golfers can stay busy living the good life in quaint villages and towns with funky names like Currituck, Corolla, Coinjock, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Duck and Kitty Hawk. For those who like hunting lighthouses as much as they do birdies, the region is well known for a beautiful string of lighthouses that stretch from Corolla in the north all the way to Cape Hatteras in the south.

The Rolling Stones had a lot of fun in the day and probably still do today. Chasing women, leaving so many behind and sometimes so enamored with them that “wild horses couldn’t drag me away,” the lyrics from a song written by John T. Williams. That is not so much the case here.

It was on my last of 4 great days of golf, sun and sand that I was introduced to a very special place where herds of wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs roam freely through the dunes and along the beaches of the northernmost Currituck Outer Banks.

Documentation from as far back as the 1700’s that indicate some Spanish explorers looking to come to settle in America would often encounter severe weather that would cause extensive damage or even destroy the wooden vessels. Supplies would sink to the sea floor, livestock was either lost or swam ashore. Horses being the strong swimmers that they are often enough survived. Visiting this 12-mile stretch of Wild Horse Sanctuary is a must for anyone visiting the area. There is no cost to enter this area but I would highly recommend taking one of the many guided tours available.

Alas, why did we come to the top of North Carolina’s barrier islands? For the golf of course! In planning your vacation to the Outer Banks you will no doubt be challenged with timing issues. Need to golf and so many things to do and not enough time! I know it was a dilemma for us but as we sat and relaxed with our morning coffee at our oceanside beach house we were able to figure it out!

I was fortunate enough to play 3 of the top 4 courses in the area that carry a 4 star or better Golf Digest Rating in their Best Places You Can Play rankings. There are 5 courses that make up the Outer Banks Golf Association and if I were you I would try to play them all.

The Currituck Club

The Currituck Club was our first stop, this Rees Jones design will give you feel for the area right from the outset. Being so close to the Ocean and Currituck Sound it is not a question of …… will there be wind? But how much and in which direction! Being so close to sea level you would not be accustomed to much in the way of elevation change but do beware of the towering sand dunes as you traverse diverse coastal terrain and wetlands. At just under 7,000 yards its course rating of 74 and slope of 136 from the tips should tell you one thing………move up big boy!

Kilmarlic Golf Club

Our double header day on the links had us being overwhelmed right from the get go! The Kilmarlic Golf Club is as picturesque as it gets. Generous fairways wind you through maritime forest, giant oaks, pines and dogwoods with coastal ponds and lakes creating scenic natural hazards all to keep you playing on the short stuff or pay the price. Greens are also relatively large, contoured to keep you honest but it’s the deep greenside bunkers you want to avoid, along with water on 15 of the 18 holes. Kilmarlic hosted the 2004 and 2009 North Carolina Opens and an annual fall college tournament.

The Pointe Golf Club

After a morning across the main highway at the challenging Kilmarlic, we were more than happy to tee it up on the course that is noted for being the area’s “most player-friendly course.” To that I might add one of the best-conditioned courses we set foot on. The Pointe Golf Club is a Russell Breeden design – as is its companion The Carolina Club about 10 miles north on the mainland — that only stretches back to 6,300 yards from the tips with a slope of 126 and rating of 70.1. Perfect for any level of golfer! So if you have been away from the sticks for a while or looking for a facility with a top-notch practice facility this might just be the best place for that next round!

Nags Head Golf Links

Nags Head Golf Links is one of those courses that I will never forget. An eagle 2 on the first hole (although it was my tenth) is just one of those things you just don’t forget. After all how many of those do we make! Seaside target golf with a little Scottish style might be the best way to describe this true links course. You will notice first off that the course is extremely short by today’s standards with the tips at 6,100 yards. Don’t be fooled this par 71 course has a slope rating of 138 and Golf Digest has appropriately called it the longest 6,100 yard course in the states. If the coastal winds are not enough almost every hole has something to keep you thinking be it the rugged shoreline, ponds, wetlands, gorse bushes or sea grasses. This course could be one of the most beautiful on the Eastern Seaboard as it looks across three converging coastal sounds.

Many of the locals say “the Nags Head Golf Links is where the Scottish setting is so authentic; you can almost hear the bagpipes.” Come and listen for yourself!

Note to tummy………….The Outer Banks is a seafood lover’s delight with over 160 restaurants serving not only seafood but anything from Italian and French to Southern Style BBQ! No need to bring your fancy duds to the Outer Banks as it is pretty laid back but if couture is your style, no problem you will find that too!

There is still more for the animal or nature lover in the Outer Banks. Nags Head offers a Dolphin watch where you cruise on a 40-foot pontoon boat with a dolphin research team. On Roanoke Island the 68,000 square foot NC Aquarium awaits you while the slow-paced town of Duck is a designated bird sanctuary. A word of advice………DO NOT drive above the speed limit through Duck!

For those who like hunting lighthouses as much as they do birdies, the region is well known for a beautiful string of lighthouses that stretch from Corolla in the north all the way to Cape Hatteras in the south. Who could forget Orville and Wilbur Wright as they conducted their first test flights on the windswept dunes in Kitty Hawk? The rest is history and it is yours to see as the U.S. Government built the Wright Brothers Memorial site in 1932 and today National Park Service interpreters lead you through the historic events leading up to air travel.

So as you can see it is not going to take wild horses to get me to back to the Outer Banks, I can’t wait to get back there!

It was supposed to be merely the tune-up trip – final preparations for play on the game’s grandest stage in the British Isles. But a golf journey to North Carolina’s Outer Banks made its own lasting impression.


Last Autumn, a five-round, four-night golf adventure along North Carolina’s northeastern barrier islands was strategically chosen for its seaside positioning and potential windswept nature. The Wright Brothers came to the Outer Banks hoping for consistently faster winds and higher air density to help lift their “flying machine” off the sandy soil in the early 1900s. And they got them. So, it was only natural that our golf group should seek out those precise conditions in order to prepare for an impending challenge against three famed Open Championship venues that exist along England’s northwest coast. Not surprisingly, we got the winds too.


As it turned out, the only real surprise surfaced a week later while playing amongst the dunes that defend against the cold, battering winds that typically sweep off the Irish Sea. As rounds persisted across historic Royal Liverpool (Hoylake), Royal Lytham and St. Annes, and Royal Birkdale, one couldn’t help but think back to the days immediately prior.


Through the chilly British dreariness arose memories of warm Atlantic Ocean breezes, sound-side vistas, brilliant sunshine, sweet southern hospitality and quality food. Oh, that Tar Heel food. It’s no secret that the English fare can be dreadful in the pubs and taverns so far away from home. Never before had the words of James Taylor rung so true: “Gone to Carolina in my mind…” It was decided then. Our next golf trip stays on home shores.


Granted, the extraordinary linksland, the game’s rich tournament history, and those unpredictable elements of nature found in the British Isles (not to mention driving on the “wrong” side of the road) make up and experience that should be on every serious golfer’s bucket list. But for all the quality, ease, accessibility (from the “right” side of the road) and value available much closer to home, it’s not a stretch to say that a memorable golf trip in its own right can also be had along the Carolina coast – specifically, the Outer Banks.


But why this particular stretch of beach?

Well, because OBX, as it is known as in local parlance, is simply different. Not unlike golf in the Old Country, it’s pure. It’s not the trumped-up, touristy golf destination that has developed over time in other coastal towns. Instead, it is a throwback coastal retreat with a charm that is preserved not only in its distinct culture but across many of its big-name golf designs as well.


Arguably the state’s most enchanting tourist destination, the Outer Banks is a true American treasure.
The region has always been known as a family-oriented destination, with plenty of sand, sun, sea and saltwater to excite even the calmest of children. In recent years, OBX has begun to assert itself as a true golf destination, with an array of courses that are more closely tied to all of nature’s coastal elements than what you’ll find in other East Coast golf destinations.


During our visit, we found two courses positioned on the actual barrier island possessing qualities most closely representing what we would eventually face in the British Isles. Nags Head Golf Links, located on the south end, challenged us with several holes routed right along the Roanoke Sound with winds that seemingly changed by the minute. The front nine’s fifth and ninth and the back nine’s 15th and 18th holes actually play right along the water in opposite directions, making club selection more art than science. On this day, the back-nine holes played at least one club less downwind while the front-nine holes had us swinging out of our shoes with a few extra clubs. Though not located directly on the water, the well- bunkered, 160-yard, par-3 17th hole (with sound waters lapping just beyond the dunes that surround the green) provided the best imitation of what I would routinely experience the following week in the UK.


We also played at the Currituck Club, located 45 minutes north of Nags Head on the top end of the barrier island. There we enjoyed the Rees Jones-designed layout that winds through a premier, gated community in Corolla and features diverse coastal terrain (including sand dunes, wetlands, maritime forests and sound-side shoreline) and glimpses of the Currituck Sound, particularly on signature holes at the par-5 seventh and par-3 15th. Like all the great links courses abroad, the Currituck Club can change complexion according to the wind speed and direction. Play it on three consecutive days and you’ll likely enjoy three different experiences.


The three mainland courses included on our itinerary were Kilmarlic, The Carolina Club and The Pointe. Since our group actually stayed in a golf cottage at Kilmarlic and since it is so conveniently situated, we developed a particular affinity for this upscale Tom Steele design. Though more heavily wooded than the island courses and thus less impacted by coastal breezes, Kilmarlic challenges you with substantially more water hazards. In fact, there are only three holes on the entire course devoid of a wetland or water feature. This forces you to think your way around the layout that stretches a modest 6,560 yards in length. Probably the most memorable hole at Kilmarlic is the 201-yard, par-3 17th. A precise shot over marsh (that runs along the entire left side and then wraps around back of a bulkheaded green) is required to hit dry land.
The Pointe, meanwhile, is a traditional design that spreads out across the rural Carolina mainland. Like Kilmarlic, The Pointe’s greatest defense is in the form of water with 15 holes sporting some sort of wet lateral challenge. Since we had heard that it was more player-friendly than the others in the area, we positioned it at the front of our Outer Banks golf agenda.


Last but not least, The Carolina Club was played on the way out of town before heading back home north. There we discovered a big, brawny layout (especially in relation to the others in the region) that stretches to within lob wedge distance of 7,000 yards. Designed by popular architects Russell Breeden and Bob Moore, the layout is more open than its mainland brethren making the winds more significant. The signature hole at The Carolina is the 166-yard, par-3 seventh. It showcases an island green that can be difficult to hit when the ocean breezes kick up and penetrate the mainland.


As serious golfers, we elected to challenge our games on all the major players in the Outer Banks region – namely Nags Head, The Currituck Club, Kilmarlic, The Pointe and The Carolina Club. But whatever combination of golf courses you choose on your visit, just don’t go there thinking that the trip is going to be a steppingstone to something greater. The OBX golf experience can certainly hold its own against all others – near or afar.