“One guy wanted to name his cottage on his own, to have it named after (two-time U.S. Open Champion) Curtis Strange. I said Curtis never won The Masters (he finished second in 1985) and besides, you probably don’t want to name it the ‘Strange Cottage.’” Kilmarlic Director of Golf Bryan Sullivan

The life of a golf pro working hard along the coast of North Carolina can be a rich and fulfilling one. One, in particular, has got an 18-hole golf playground designed by Tom Steele at his disposal; a family waterpark within walking distance; a growing number of on-site golf cottages (named after former Masters Champions) for golf and/or beach goers; a health-and-racquet club with an Olympic-sized pool; a sound-side beach in the backyard and much more.

A man responsible for so many amenities needs time to ponder a bit when asked what his life was like before settling in amongst 605 acres of sprawling maritime forest and wetlands in the Northern Outer Banks.

You see, the welcoming face that greets you from out behind the check-in desk at Kilmarlic Golf Club’s golf shop just might be director of golf Bryan Sullivan, a long-time Outer Banks resident who has been the visionary of the facility since its very beginning in 2002. Before that, however, he was a competitive player … a very good competitive player. In fact, he spent a healthy amount of time on the Canadian Tour and competed in nearly a dozen tournaments on the PGA Tour. Prior to that he played college golf at the University of North Carolina and was an All-American teammate of World Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III, who he says “was always so much longer, I just got used to it” when playing alongside him.

Although much of his run on the PGA Tour has blurred with time, he distinctly remembers a few moments from teeing it up there starting with his very first hole in his very first event. It was at the former Anheuser-Busch Championship held at Kingsmill Resort just up the road in Williamsburg, Virginia.

“I remember I birdied the first hole right out of the gate,” he relates. “I started on the back nine on No. 10 and I thought, ‘hey, this is pretty easy.’ I quickly found out the truth of the matter. I had a 20-footer for birdie on my second hole and left the putt short. People in the gallery were yelling ‘you’ve got to get it to the hole.’ I thought, ‘hey give me a break here, this is only my second hole ever and I’m one under!’”

Sullivan’s proudest accomplishment is winning the prestigious North-South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1983 following major champions Hal Sutton and Corey Pavin. But perhaps his most thrilling moment in the sun came during another PGA Tour event since it took place in front a huge crowd, which maybe clouded his judgment, as it turned out, for the good.

“I remember one time at Harbour Town on the 18th hole I hit it left of the green and into the thick stuff and marsh of Calibogue Sound,” he adds. “I remember my caddie telling me to go get the ball and take a drop. I said ‘no way,’ grabbed a wedge and went in there to hit it. I swung as hard as I could, popped it out and holed the darned thing. Everyone went crazy. That was probably my most exciting moment I can remember playing on (the PGA) Tour.”

These days, Sullivan’s biggest pressure consists of ensuring a growing complex of golf cottages inland of OBX continues to be a success. Named after former winners of The Masters tournament including those of the Palmer, Nicklaus, Snead and Hogan Cottages, the first-class accommodations surround their own putting green and feature a chipping/putting course alongside. Their additions have helped increase visitor options looking for accommodations on the mainland.

“It was a big investment,” he says. “But I always felt fairly confident we could get the golf rentals, the big question was the summertime family rentals. As it turns out, those rentals have been a big hit and a big surprise. As I like to tell guests, you can have your toes in the ocean in 10 minutes from here. After the first six cottages were completed and we saw the reaction to them, we knew we had it.”

After his latest home run, Sullivan must feel like he is constantly holing out of Hilton Head’s Calibogue Sound in front of a cheering gallery on a warm spring day.

Three OBX Golf Courses Ranked Top 35 in Prestigious Rankings

The most authoritative statewide source of golf course rankings in a state that arguably has some of the nation’s best courses has spoken for the 25th year … and the Outer Banks again sports a collection of top-shelf golf experiences in 2020.

According to the esteemed North Carolina Golf Panel, three courses moved up among the Top 50 You Can Play in North Carolina, featuring No. 16 Currituck Club, No. 23 Kilmarlic Golf Club and No. 33 Nags Head Golf Links. In addition, Nags Head provided the No. 2 Best Bang for the Buck offering across the Coastal Region.

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

From true barrier island links courses to modern parkland marvels located inland, the region is chock full of variety. The challenges at The Pointe Golf Club, The Carolina Club, Nags Head, Kilmarlic and Currituck Club are as spectacular as the coastal views they possess. There may be no better location for a true golf vacation than the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

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, up 10 spots to No. 56 in North Carolina’s Top 100. The Corolla keeper is 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.

Every time golfers tackle historic Nags Head, also included in North Carolina’s Top 100, 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.

Home to various golf cottages located near its entrance, Kilmarlic is a popular Tom Steele design nestled along the marshland of the Albemarle Sound. North Carolina’s No. 78 course in the Top 100 is a wonderful mainland design amidst 605 beautiful acres of maritime forest providing a pure OBX layout with water and wetlands virtually in play at all times.

Located just across the Wright Memorial Bridge, The Pointe 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. Meanwhile, The Carolina Club’s positioning as the first design heading into town from the north and last one on the way out makes it the ideal play on either side of your OBX golf getaway.

For the complete list of the Top 100 Courses for 2020, Top 50 Courses You Can Play and other rankings, visit NCGolfPanel.com.

Legends live on down “Historic Albemarle Highway,” especially the sections of the northeastern North Carolina tour route that invite you into and through its famed Outer Banks. But while the wild-and-ancient horses of Corolla and the Kitty Hawk dunes off which the Wright Brothers recorded man’s first flight garner much of the fascination near the ocean, it is the lush fairways of golf on the mainland that are creating legacies of new proportions.

For it is offshore – shortly before you reach the light-colored sands of the coast and on both sides of the thoroughfare road (Highway 158) leading into OBX – that golf courses with the names like The Pointe, Kilmarlic and Carolina Club spread out across the landscape like oceans of their own. Seas of green that is. Sprinkled in and around these well-manicured havens are a few other attractions like the new H2OBX Water Park, the Gravedigger’s monster truck pit stop and of course a couple of barbecue joints (like Currituck BBQ) providing just enough fire and pit smoke to let you know you have indeed taken a bite out of tidal North Carolina.

Mainland life is truly not like it is on the Outer Banks proper. It is more rural and less touristy, with one-of-a-kind farm markets, a vineyard, antique and thrift shops and sprawling fields dominating the scenery rather than surfside hotels, light houses, homes on stilts, restaurants and bars that fill up many of the spaces between the many mileposts that creep southward along OBX’s exquisite coastline.

Golfers from far and wide for years have been lured to these award-winning layouts due to their water views, reasonable rates and tranquil settings. Though a few original old-time layouts have come and gone across the region, the modern ones that remain seem to get better year after year – a true testament to the dedicated ownership of each establishment.

Indeed. If there is one thing that this area has going for above all others it is its golf course escapes:

The first mainland golf course you will reach while traveling south into the OBX region is the Carolina Club. It is best known for its signature island green par 3 that highlights an outstanding 7,000-yard championship design featuring wetlands, water and bunkers galore.

Next on the approach into OBX is the Kilmarlic Golf Club. Originally destined to be a private operation, this outstanding venue shifted gears over time and has evolved into the ultimate resort destination with a challenging Tom Steele-designed layout, golf cottages, an athletic club with eight tennis courts, an Olympic sized pool, clubhouse dining, a full practice facility and even a Albemarle Sound-side park with a beach.

Rounding out the trio is The Pointe Golf Club, the course located closest to the Wright Memorial Bridge spanning the Currituck Sound as it laps up against the true Outer Banks. If you pass up a chance for breakfast in the grillroom at The Pointe you are missing a true classic. But no matter what time of day you eat or play, the golf at the course features perfect lies on immaculate fairways and greens that are considered among the finest along the East Coast.

Of course with the development of new complex of golf course cottages at Kilmarlic now in full swing, it’s never been easier for groups of golfers to stay and play each of these offerings all the while having miles of surf and sand along with a plethora of dining options just minutes away on the “other side of the bridge” in places with interesting names like Corolla, Duck, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head.

As Bryan Sullivan, the director of golf at Kilmarlic, likes to say, “You can stay at Kilmarlic with golf out your front door yet still have your toes in the ocean in 10 minutes.”

Indeed, you can have it all with a stay on the mainland. With the arrival of this new golf course accommodation component, life will never be the same across the Currituck Outer Banks

Sometimes you have just got to get away to see what you have – or don’t have – at home.

This is what seems to have happened for director of golf Bryan Sullivan who has come up with several of the innovative brainstorms for Kilmarlic Golf Club located in Powells Point – the first and foremost being a cottage-on-the-green concept that is now rolling faster than a downhill putt at The Masters.

You see, it was on a visit to the in-laws in Wrightsville Beach a few years ago that Sullivan noticed the formation of a number of small, two-bedroom bungalows fashioned around a pool inside the resort’s famed “Circle.”

He immediately, thought to himself, “We can do a similar thing around a [lighted] putting green at Kilmarlic.”

Fortunately for Sullivan, the Kilmarlic community had some property available near the Highway 158 entrance along with enough space along the side of the block to accommodate four short golf holes for chipping practice and/or après golf play. Known as “The Killie,” this short course ranges in length from 27 to 45 yards with unique undulating greens and a few pot bunkers. It certainly allows players an alternative outlet to test their short-game skills … or settle bets.

The result? Kilmarlic now features the best of all worlds for the visiting golfer located inside its prestigious golf community.

“We had the land out there and the county was all for seeing more rental properties on this side of the bridge,” Sullivan says. “So we now have 12 cottages operational with room for six more. We have space for 60 or more people to stay, seeing that we added a two-bed loft to each cottage to go along with the two bedrooms downstairs. This also makes the cottages ideal for families who want to enjoy the beach, the golf and the nearby waterpark in the summertime.”

Golf tends to be an early-risers game so watching the sun come up through one of the loft windows of the Hogan Cottage means a great day is in store in OBX. Since the Kilmarlic cottages are located on Master’s Drive, each one is named after a Master’s champion or something associated with Augusta National. So far the list of names includes Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Sergio Garcia and Tom Watson. Rounding out the group is a cottage called “The Butler Cabin.”

Sullivan, who named the cottages, says the next group of designations will include Tiger Woods, Byron Nelson, Jordan Spieth, Gary Player, Bobby Jones and “The Caddie Shack.”

“Putting in the cottages was a big investment,” Sullivan adds. “I felt fairly confident that we could always get golf rentals, the big question was the summertime business. Those rentals, however, have been a big surprise. After we built the first six and saw how popular they were, we knew we had something. We were ready for it. We definitely needed it.”

Since its initial overall groundbreaking in the early 2000s, Kilmarlic has skyrocketed into its current stature.

“It’s more than I ever imagined,” says Sullivan, who has been at Kilmarlic since day one. “We are the only resort amenity in OBX with golf, a racquet club and a water park nearby. There’s so much to offer right here. Being off the island, it’s also a shorter trip home or quicker to get to on the way in.”

And if you happen to be staying in the cottages on a Thursday during the busy golf shoulder seasons, Sullivan came up with another idea he borrowed one day after visiting Talamore Golf Resort in Pinehurst: a Thursday Night Barbeque.

“During the spring and fall our chef puts on a complimentary barbeque cooked in our own smoker,” he says. “It’s our way of thanking the cottage folks for making Kilmarlic their golf choice while in OBX.”

Also during those busy times, the lights on the putting green constructed inside the rectangle of cottages stay on until 11 p.m. Sometimes even later.

“This past spring, golfers were wanting for us to the leave them on longer, so we had to,” Sullivan concludes with a laugh.

So once again it must be true: Sometimes you have to get away to see what you have – or don’t have – at home. That has certainly been the case at Kilmarlic.

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.

1. THE PERFECT SEASON…

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.

2. THE TOTAL PACKAGE…

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.

3. FRESH COASTAL CUISINE…

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.

4. MUSTANGS & GOLF…

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.

5. LINKS GOLF…

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.

6. PARKLAND GOLF…

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.

7. HOST OF CHAMPIONSHIPS…

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.

8. ISLAND GREEN…

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.

9. NEW GOLF COTTAGES…

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.

10. COASTAL TREASURES…

“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. www.CorollaOutback.com

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.