Best Bang for Your Buck on the Outer Banks This Fall

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North Carolina’s fabled Outer Banks (OBX) are legendary for offering an understated quality of life that stands as tribute to generations of people who have thoughtfully preserved the seaside paradise, not allowing the Outer Banks to get too overbuilt or commercialized like many resort locations located farther north and south along America’s Eastern Seaboard.

Loyal visitors return year after year to spend time with family and friends. They know of the sand and saltwater activities, delicious food, quaint shopping, sightseeing, wild horses and history lessons that can be found there. Classic coastal architecture, maritime forests and funky town names like Currituck, Corolla, Coinjock, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Duck and Kitty Hawk only enhance the region’s lore.

In recent years, the Outer Banks has morphed into a true golf destination — North Carolina’s No. 3 destination according to Golf Advisor — with an array of courses more closely tied to nature’s coastal elements than most along the East Coast, all at a cost that won’t break the bank. The Outer Banks offers everything a golfer looks for when enjoying a golf vacation — well-manicured courses, world-class restaurants, a variety of housing options and unique activities other than golf. Plenty of “shore” things make the Outer Banks of North Carolina a perfect destination for an affordable autumn golf excursion.

Perfect for Larger Golf Groups

For larger groups headed for the barrier islands and their nearby inland activities, an ideal itinerary might include renting a spacious and well-appointed golf cottage like the one situated next to the clubhouse at Kilmarlic Golf Club. The Club Cottage offers four comfortable bedroom suites with master baths, a large adjoining living area and fully equipped kitchen, and is picturesquely perched adjacent to the clubhouse, practice area and first tee box.

Kilmarlic is currently constructing 18 new cottages on the property. The cottages are two bedrooms, each with its own bath, along with a loft that has two more twin beds, meaning a total of six golfers or a family can comfortably stay in one cottage. Thirteen of the cottages are designed around a 5,000-square foot, lighted putting green, with five others set on a small pond. In addition to the putting green, there is also now a four-hole Short Course, offering a quartet of par-3 holes that play between 27 and 40 yards. So grab your lob wedge with your other hand, slide the porch door open and walk out on the course in your bare feet for a few side bets with your buddies as the sun goes down. For golf groups Kilmarlic also offers breakfast and will host an occasional pig-pickin’.

And Kilmarlic’s golf is pretty good too. The popular Tom Steele design is nestled along the marshland of the Albemarle Sound and serves 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.

As the southernmost course, Nags Head Golf Links provides a different playing experience on a daily basis. Uniquely and gorgeously situated along the Roanoke Sound, with its ninth and 18th holes finishing hard along the sound-side waters, the layout is shaped by its constant coastal winds. Bob Moore designed this seaside stunner in 1986 and Golf Digest almost immediately dubbed it “the longest 6,126 yards you’ll ever play.”

Up in Corolla, The Currituck Club, routed by Rees Jones, rolls across diverse coastal terrain with sound-side views distinctly its own. The grandest design along the coast is also the area’s most exacting, particularly when the wind kicks up. Jones is known for moving large amounts of dirt during construction, which is part of the reason his finished product offers a true, championship feel. You won’t find a weak hole here and the par-3s are particularly stunning, including two that play over water. The best is arguably the signature sixth, located at the hub of the front nine where four holes converge, which plays anywhere from 150 to 200 yards over water, with stunning views of the Currituck Sound off in the background.

While there is golf to be found out on the island, those courses are fewer and farther between along this protective strip of ocean paradise. Of course, they are unusually good, but sometimes an escape to the “quiet” side is really what is desired — to the haunts where the “locals play.”

The Pointe Golf Club is the area’s most player-friendly design and features a peaceful setting. In fact, it is the only course in the area that is not in a residential community. What also makes a round at The Pointe enticing is the fact that little or no development surrounds the traditional design, though a few scattered farm buildings and even a couple of family graveyards add to the throwback ambiance.

At a par of 71 with five par-3s, The Pointe can usually be played in four hours, which means more time exploring the area. Overlooking the Currituck Sound, The Pointe is a wonderful Russell Breeden design that broke ground in the mid-1990s and then became a groundbreaking achievement as a pioneer in golf course turf management. Since the course was built on a turf farm, it was only natural that the staff devoted its time to the finest playing conditions — and that process continues to this day. The Pointe Golf Club’s A-1 bentgrass greens are considered second to none.

Meanwhile, the seventh hole at The Carolina Club is one of the most memorable offerings along the entire North Carolina coast. An island green aged to perfection can create that kind of legend. The 166-yard one-shotter features a TPC Sawgrass-type island green with water, water everywhere. It’s truly an experience to be had. Still, The Carolina Club is more than a one-hole wonder. The Pointe’s sister course features a strong mix of holes with several scenic par-3s and two good risk-reward par-5s to complete each nine. As the longest OBX course, it will delight you with liquid challenges that are often compounded by ever-shifting coastal breezes.

Unique Experiences Off the Course

When you are budgeting your fall trip to the Outer Banks, don’t forget scheduling time for experiences away from the links. From the time Orville and Wilbur Wright first took flight in the updrafts of Kitty Hawk, the Outer Banks have gained renown for far more than relaxing, wide sandy beaches, mild year-round temperatures and historical attractions. For those who like hunting lighthouses as much as they do birdies, the region is also well known for a beautiful string of lighthouses that stretch from Corolla in the north all the way to Cape Hatteras in the south.

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