Tapping into OBX Golf

In the beginning, golf courses were inclined to copycat the principles of the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. This trend ultimately established 18 as the magic number of holes for a regulation layout. And NO, that total wasn’t gleaned from the number of shots it took for a few hearty Scots to empty a bottle of Scotch (as a certain golf commentator – hmm, Sir Nick Faldo – may have led you to believe).

 

So imagine if the Old Course had remained 22 holes as it was at one point early in its manifestation? The 19th hole at any one of the enduring golf venues located throughout the Outer Banks these days could be anything from a wind-swept par 3 coursing alongside a North Carolina Sound to a par five playing near the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, today’s 19th holes located within the coastal resort are somewhat cozier environments – ones where a group of golfers actually could make a case for Faldo’s mythical assertion. These are places to gather, quench your thirst and reflect on the group’s activities out on the links.

 

So if you are looking for such a spot to grab some grub or a round of drinks to celebrate (or drown out) recent memories, take a look here at some local OBX 19th-hole recommendations:

 

Back Bar at The Blue Point … After a round at the Currituck Club, head to the place in the town of Duck that overlooks the Currituck Sound and is a hotspot for amazing sunsets. The food is limited on the Back Bar but the drink offerings will help soothe the thoughts of any missed fairways or greens from a day on the Rees Jones designed classic. https://www.thebluepoint.com/thebackbar

 

Black Tartan Tap Room at Kilmarlic … Just steps away from the 18th green at Kilmarlic Golf Club is the venue’s outstanding clubhouse restaurant offering something for everyone. The tap room and accompanying patio are perfectly secluded spots for enjoyable food, beverage and a chance to replay your most recent round from first tee shot to final hole-out.  https://kilmarlic.com/black-tartan-tap-room/

 

Tuckers at The Carolina Club … If you are looking for some great food choices (check to see if they have their amazing bbq chicken sandwich on the day’s menu) after a round of golf, Tuckers has it. But more than that, this mainland mainstay sports a fully stocked bar and serves lunch and dinner for both early and late finishers. Tucker’s has wine and a half dozen beers from which to choose and for the adventurous, there’s a specialty drink known as the Orange Crush to be tried… https://www.thecarolinaclub.com/dining

 

Lost Colony Brewery’s Waterfront Beer Garden … And now for a place made in Faldo Golf Heaven located closest to but less than eight miles from Nags Head Golf Links. This establishment specializes in British and Irish-style ales using imported hops, grains, and yeast. It even claims to have water that is the exact match to what you’ll find across the pond in the British Isles. Food is not served but feel free to BYOF. https://www.facebook.com/lostcolonybrewery/

 

Off the Wall Taphouse at Currituck Club … With the latest in do-it-yourself beer technology, this 19th hole’s self-serve beer wall featuring more than 20 craft beers is the ultimate 18 hole/19th hole/20 brew after-golf destination. Located in Corolla at the Currituck Club, this establishment also provides a fresh blend of technology, community and great dining pleasures for all post-round golfers to enjoy.  http://offthewalltaphouse.com

 

Outer Banks Brewing Station … A staple of the OBX restaurant landscape, this 19th hole destination is centrally located to all golf courses along the strip as it operates in Kill Devil Hills. In the spirit of the Wright Brothers, the gathering place holds the distinction of being America’s first wind-powered brew pub and restaurant offering year-round events and handcrafted beers. https://www.obbrewing.com/

 

Sway Bar above Art’s Place … Another centrally located hotspot for 19th hole activity is atop Art’s Place in Kitty Hawk. The Sway Bar is considered a favorite among golfers as they can enjoy a beer along with great ocean views over the Atlantic. This “awesome” beach bar is one of kind among the OBX mile markers.  https://obxguides.com/listings/arts-place

 

The Tap Shack in Duck … Located behind Coastal Cravings and just down the road from the Currituck Club, this establishment is actually a backyard bar featuring special events like Beer Yoga and Sunday Bluegrass Jams. The Tap Shack’s fun-and-friendly atmosphere is ideal for golfers who want to keep the energy going if their day on the fairways hasn’t worn them out. https://www.facebook.com/cravingsinduck

 

TRIO Restaurant & Market … At milepost 4.5 you’ll find Trio, a place to quench your post-round golf passion if it includes wine, beer, cheese and other inventive food offerings. A “simple” setting, this establishment features and comfortable lounge perfect for seating group gatherings looking to keep their rounds going. https://obxtrio.com

Shaking off winter, the members of the foursome admittedly haven’t ‘played a lot of golf’ by the time they reach the windswept fairways of North Carolina’s Outer Banks every fourth week in March. But it’s a routine from which they refuse to deviate … and a streak now approaching 20 consecutive years.

“So there are always a good few rounds when all of us hit some stupid shots,” says Bob Croll, the PGA head golf professional at the highly-acclaimed Eagle’s Landing Golf Course located near Ocean City, Maryland.

Yet after four days of exacting 36-holes-in-a day golf across the wide variety of golf courses OBX has to offer, “There are usually a few good rounds mixed in there somewhere.”

Ahh, Ain’t This the Life

Some folks believe that club professionals have the life. Well, maybe that’s true. But carding rounds on the grounds they oversee – contrary to popular belief – is not always the major perk one might think.

Just ask any one of these experts of their craft.

“Things get so busy [at their home courses], there’s rarely enough time in the day to get out and actually play golf even though we have that opportunity right outside our pro shop window,” many golf course pros have been known to echo. They insist there is a constant flow of members, guests and clients to attend to. There’s paperwork to be done. There are carts to stage and put away. There are pro shop items to stock and a grill to sustain. When they finally do get a break from the perpetual action, there’s always something to distract them from their games out on the tee boxes, fairways and greens. And that’s not ideal for skilled players trying to maintain their own games.

So what do many of them do? They take some well-deserved time off. They hit the road. Somewhere, anywhere they can relax and focus. Someplace where they are blissfully welcomed … only now as guests.

Croll and his PGA assistant Mike Tritapoe are two champions of the pro shop treadmill. Despite running the show at Eagle’s Landing, their preferred golf getaway is actually to a destination not that much dissimilar from where they hail from. They merely hop into a few pickups and head down the coast to the state of North Carolina’s Outer Banks situated less than four hours away.

When these two decide to leave behind their saltwater marshes, their smooth-rolling greens, their stunning views over the Sinepuxent Bay [toward famed Assateague Island] and their Dr. Michael Hurdzan designed masterpiece, it is to OBX where they religiously travel.

“We’ve been going there for so long, it has gotten into our blood,” says Croll, who is joined annually by Tritapoe, Baywood Greens [Long Neck, Delaware] PGA head pro Tony Hollerback and PGA Life Member Rob Bailey on each of these March migrations. “We find a different place to stay each year, play a lot of golf over four days, then head home before settling into our own season back north.”

Which begs the question: why not the Sandhills of Pinehurst, the mountains to the west, the swamps of Florida or possibly a trip out west for some desert golf … something, anything completely different?

“We just like going to the Outer Banks,” adds Tritapoe. “It’s close, it’s cool and we love coastal courses – that’s obvious since we live here [along Maryland’s Eastern Shore]. Plus the people down there are just extremely nice and we’ve become friends with them all [OBX’s PGA pros].”

As for Croll, “I love going south. And it’s especially nice to go there before the start of the busy season. Plus it gives us a chance to grind. I’ll tell you what, probably half of the golf I play each year is across those four days in the Outer Banks.”

The itinerary for each of their trips is kept pretty simple: 1. Breakfast at Henry’s Restaurant in Kill Devil Hills at least three of the four days; 2. 18 holes of golf at the course of choice in the morning; 3. A “Bud Light” lunch at the club; 4. 18 more holes in the afternoon; 5. Apres golf in the way of fine dining at one of OBX’s exclusive eating establishments; 6. Pass out; 7. Wake up with a 20-minute shower next morning; 8. Rinse and repeat.

“We go at a time when we don’t deal with a lot of traffic so we get to where we want to go with ease,” Croll adds. “Another part of what makes it fun is that it is just the four of us, we all get along so the chance for arguments is virtually zero. By the time we leave, it’s been pretty much all golf. We don’t ever see the ocean – that’s why we go back with family, to see the beach – except for when we catch a glimpse of it from a tee box on one of the barrier island’s courses [Currituck Club and Nags Head Golf Links].”

Tritapoe summarizes his experiences as being the ‘epitome’ of a group golf trip: “It’s fun. It’s a great time.”

Pros Preferences

From their winter quarters at Eagle’s Landing, the pros are asked about some of their favorite places to play and eat while on excursion to OBX each March.

Favorite Course: Although they truly “Like them all,” Tritapoe tends to rank Kilmarlic Golf Club atop his list, probably because it reminds him most closely of his home course at Eagle’s Landing. Croll, meanwhile, points towards a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean ranking the Currituck Club No. 1 “because it’s so different” from what he has in his backyard. Hmm.

Tritapoe goes on to say, “In truth, each one has its own different characteristics.”

Croll adds: “They are all unique. I like everything about all of them. The Pointe’s and the Carolina Club’s greens are unreal. The courses on the island (the Currituck Club and Nags Head) are all so different than anything you’ll find anywhere because they are hidden among the dunes. Kilmarlic is similar to what you find around here.”

Favorite Food Stops: Breakfasts at Henry’s is a no brainer as are the grab-and-goes (otherwise known as ‘Bud Light lunches’) at the various clubhouses along the way. Dinners, however, can be a rock/paper/scissors contest among Tortuga’s Lie, Barefoot Bernie’s Tropical Grill & Bar, La Fogata Mexican Restaurant and Mama Kwan’s Tiki Bar & Grill.

Favorite Thing to Do if Not for the Great Golf: The fellas actually enjoy fishing, something they do regularly in the way of the surf variety on Assateague Island located just five miles from Eagle’s Landing and have been doing during a winter trip to nearby Ocracoke Island for longer (nearly 25 years) even than golfing along the Outer Banks.

Favorite Ice Cream Joint: “We went to one once years ago, can’t remember the name though,” concludes Croll.
Naturally.

Their annual golf getaway to the Outer Banks certainly wouldn’t be on par with the 1978 classic comedy “Animal House,” but then again, isn’t having a little fun a big part of what it’s all about?

Here you have it, a group of fraternity brothers and friends – nearly two dozen in number – heckling each other as players depart the 18th green at Duck Woods Country Club in Southern Shores, North Carolina. The scene shifts to another game at The Pointe Golf Course located on the mainland across the other side of the Currituck Sound. Here is where trip originator Kirk Salpini can’t contain his giddiness on one of the layout’s Augusta National-quality greens and promptly putts it past the hole down the slope into the water. Throw a bachelor party into the script … a Cinco De Mayo celebration … some group wagering on the Kentucky Derby … maybe a cameo from Salpini’s fraternity brother Carl Klingenberg hitting a ball “on the screws” from his persimmon-wood driver. The shot lands about three feet from the pin on No. 15 at Nags Heads Golf Links with a 30 mph Roanoke Sound wind whipping into his face. Add it all up, and you do get the feeling that somewhere beyond the camera phones John Belushi’s ghost just might be lurking about in a patch of tall sea grass.

There’s a good reason why for the past 35 years members and friends from James Madison University’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity (most of whom have settled in the Virginia/North Carolina region) gather each spring along the Outer Banks to play golf.

“I decided to start the trip in 1987 when a co-worker who owned a home in the Outer Banks agreed to rent it out to me for the weekend,” says Salpini, a resident of Northern Virginia in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. “I thought it would be fun to get some of my fraternity brothers and friends together. Eight of us squeezed into a three-bedroom house at Mile Post 12 in Nags Head. We began the trip in March, adjusted it to April after the first few years and [eventually] settled on early May.”

Over time, even more enthusiasm developed for the trip as attendees built up more vacation and discretionary income. The event was expanded with the potential duration stretching to a full week ending on the first Sunday in May.

For the past decade and a half, Salpini’s fraternity brother Malcolm Perkins has taken the lead on organizing the trip. Perkins, now settled in the Richmond, Virginia suburbs, feels the key to maintaining ongoing success is picking a date “same time every year and sticking to it.”

“Sometimes folks can make it; sometimes they can’t,” he says. “But one can never say they didn’t know when it is. Beyond that, enjoying the company of our friends has always been the highest priority. Some of these friendships were developed in elementary school, others while at JMU. The bond that we have is further enhanced by this annual event. As long as we have at least four people interested in participating, we’ll continue this annual tradition until we can’t!”

For many years, Salpini and company tried their best to create foursomes or groupings based on handicaps so they could have daily, friendly wagering based on skill – or lack thereof.

“As we’ve gotten more experienced,” he adds, “that approach has gone by the wayside as we focus on camaraderie, friendship and enjoyment of each other’s company.”

With a core group of eight to 12 players having made the excursion 90 percent of the time, the get-together has taken place every year since the beginning except for 2020 when the Outer Banks was closed to non-residents during those early May dates. Still, the group has stuck by their destination of choice as it resumed play in 2021.

“The Outer Banks works well for this gathering,” Salpini says. “A generous selection of large, affordable houses, reasonable golf prices and an array of interesting, nearby golf courses add to the attributes that make the Outer Banks popular with our group. A portion of our group only play golf a handful of times per year – some don’t play golf at all – while others play throughout the year and consistently shoot between 80-90. We have learned to play from the correct tees and to modify the rules to insure that play moves along.”

While golf is the main attraction, it is not the primary reason for the trip.

“We get together to reinforce our sense of community, which happens organically over several days,” Salpini continues. “There were plenty of times that I thought of the hassle of driving down in traffic prior to the trip. Yet when the weekend was over, I more often was grateful for the unique bonds forged and how close I felt to each attendee.”

The JMU group initially played at Sea Scape, Duck Woods and Nags Head Golf Links. Over time, it added Currituck Club, The Pointe, Kilmarlic and The Carolina Club to the rotation. It actually began playing Nags Head Golf Links when it first opened.

“There were no hole layout signs at the tees and the sea grass was so tall that it was difficult to determine where to aim,” Salipini says. “Add the typical cross winds and our initial rounds there took about five-plus hours and included double digit ball losses with the predictable words of praise for the course architect. The [Nags Head Golf] Links, although challenging, holds the undisputed title within our group of the most loved and hated course in the Outer Banks.”

With the date moving to where it now stands, the Kentucky Derby wagering has become a big part of the ritual.

“We’ve bowled for beers when the weather required it and each year, with gusto, we’ve embraced the Kentucky Derby on Saturday evening,” Salpini reports. “Few things galvanize a group of 12-20 people’s enthusiasm like a nominal wager on a random horse for a full two minutes.”

According to the organizers, the group’s itinerary has evolved. It began with a Thursday evening through Sunday format and expanded to the full week.

“We try to rent on the oceanfront, seven to 10 bedrooms, and are willing to stay anywhere along the Outer Banks,” adds Salipini. “We rent from Sunday to Sunday with each attendee invited to bring wives, partners, kids, etc., from Sunday through Wednesday, though all guests must depart by Wednesday evening. We used to play golf four straight days but have dialed it back to three over the past few years in acknowledgement of our physical limitations. We now play Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings leaving on Sunday. Our rotation is flexible but almost always includes the [Nags Head] Links.”

As for dining, meals are left up to the individuals.

“Some in our group frequent Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar while others prefer Owens’ Restaurant,” adds Salpini. “Last year two of our group took the day off from golfing, shopped, and cooked dinner for the group. We enjoyed this meal so much that we are planning to incorporate it into the annual routine.”

As for other activities, the group used to have a miniature golf night in the early years but that was abandoned and replaced with a cornhole tournament, various billiard and poker nights. In addition, having the beach readily available for fishing, lacrosse toss, off-roading and an occasional artic swim adds to the recreation value of the trip.

Says Caleb Miles, a resident North Carolinian from the Pinehurst region and fellow member of the fraternity, “The group has remained remarkably close since James Madison University’s graduation years [ranging from 1979 to 1983] due in large part to having an annual gathering at a great golf destination that keeps the strong bonds in place.”

Salpini’s Six Keys to a Successful Annual Golf Get-Together:

  1. Be consistent – pick the same date every year.
  2. Keep the price affordable (we typically try to ensure that we cover the cost of the rental and have some funds left over just in case).
  3. Meet each person where they are in life (i.e. if they want to attend, but don’t have the funds, then help them out. You won’t miss the money, but you will miss the time to build your friendship.).
  4. Bend your rules. Let them come late or leave early.
  5. Delegate and let others carry some of the load.
  6. Remain flexible and don’t take whatever happens personally.

OBX’s Dream 18, Holes Nos. 16-18

The Carolina Club, Grandy

The longest course on the Outer Banks and also the northern most, the Carolina Club is a meticulously manicured, nearly 7,000-yard, par-72 championship golf course that may well be the highlight of your stay (especially if you play it all warmed up and finally in the groove on your way out of OBX as I did). Designed by Russell Breeden in 1998 and tweaked by Bob Moore a few years later, the golf course was built on flat terrain though the fairways do feature some slight mounding and contour. The layout winds through wetlands and wooded areas. It plays tighter than it looks, with strong winds periodically coming into play.

“Although it’s the most inland course, there always seems to be a breeze here,” Director of Golf Doug Kinser said. “It’s so bizarre, because it can even be windier here than at The Pointe [which is right next to the Sound]. I don’t know why.”

Upon development, Breeden was asked to transform a former potato farm into arguably the most popular layout in town. It is often thought of as “a hidden treasure” because of its world-class feel and its location in Currituck County means it is often less crowded than some of the beach golf courses during high tourist season.

16. The Carolina Club’s Hole No. 7, 166-yard par 3

Ah, what is a barrier-island destination without a true island green? Well, I got my wish here. What I hadn’t counted on while stepping up to the tee box on No. 7 were a few words in my head from a player hitting out of a bunker on nearby hole No. 14.

“These are nice bunkers,” he said after a good recovery. “It’s nice to play out of good bunkers.”

Strangely, the words I overheard while staring at the island green had a comforting effect. The image of nice white sand (some 30 bunkers had been recently removed from the golf course while all the remaining ones had been newly replenished) overpowered the thought of the surrounding water danger ahead.

With the true, bulk-headed island green looming in the distance and only one small bunker to be conscious of, I struck a nice shot onto the back of the awaiting carpet to set up a two-putt par. While the green at No. 7 is plentiful, hitting it is obviously at a premium – though there is a little more room to the rear than left, front and short. Taking the extra club here was not a bad decision as it enabled my ball to avoid the watery grave.

17. The Carolina Club’s Hole No. 17, 219-yard par 3

This one-shotter over a pond and a rock embankment requires a precise shot to hit the putting surface. First of all, the green complex is guarded by a pine tree overhanging on the right side. There are also two bunkers to contend with both front left and front right. There’s a lot to think about on this offering, so I choose to ignore the pin and shoot for the middle of the green. Turned out to be a good decision as it propelled me to a par.

The Carolina Club - North Carolina Outer Banks Golf18. The Carolina Club’s Hole No. 9, 504-yard par 5

(Note: Although a bit out of order, I have saved this hole for last on purpose. It truly is one for the memory banks and was actually The Carolina Club’s No. 18 finishing hole in the original Breeden design.)

I was warned by several folks beforehand that No. 9 (during the Moore renovation, the 9th and 18th holes, both par 5s, were reversed to help accommodate eventual development) would be challenging.

“People come off that hole shaking their heads wishing they could do it over,” a Carolina Club starter said.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to because my fear of disaster prevented me from playing it aggressively. After birdieing No. 8 with my longest and best putt of the week, I begin my adventure on No. 9. Raved about by the manager, the starter, the superintendent and the cart boy, I am on my guard with a good round going.

With water front and left off the tee, I play it safe (but too short) down the right side. From there I am faced with one of two options: lay up in front of not one but two ponds or go for a bold shot to a virtual “barrier island” fairway in between. I chose the double layup to the 100-yard marker, leaving me with another shot over water to a tight pin standing just beyond rocks and a wooden bulkhead. Managing that, a two-putt leaves me with a – all in all – satisfying bogey six and a sigh of relief.

In the end, I got to polish off my trip playing The Carolina Club as the first player off, on a non-windy morning, across freshly mown greens featuring subtle breaks at breakneck speeds and around 30 less but freshly replenished bunkers (of course, still managing to find a few). What an experience The OBX Great 18 was.

And so, in the words of Dave Kindred from Around the World in 18 Holes, “How unfair for the trip to be over just when we were loving/hating [the latter only in their case] it the most.”

I hope to do our Outer Banks version again soon.

 

Rest of the Dream 18:

Holes 1-3

Holes 4-7

Hole 8

Holes 9-12

Holes 13-15

Holes 16-18

OBX’s Dream 18, Holes Nos. 13-15

Currituck Club, Corolla

Getting to the Rees Jones designed classic is half the adventure. You have to drive (slowly) up the coast along two-laned Highway 12 through quaint outposts like Southern Shores and Duck, past the expansive Sanderling Resort and through other seaside communities. The scenery is constantly shifting. Occasionally you might feel even more crammed in by walls of thick maritime forest. If you run into the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, you’ve gone too far. Backtracking to the club, you’ll find a clubhouse built high on a hill supporting a golf layout built on land that was historically used as a shooting club. The overall facility over the years, to say the least, has changed the meaning of “chasing birdies” in the region.

Opened in 1996, the Rees Jones-designed layout is nestled quietly between the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound. As a big-name designer course with instant star quality, it fits perfectly on the last undeveloped chunk of prime coastal real estate. Jones was captivated by the site, calling it one of the East Coast’s “best pieces of golf course property.” He also fell in love with the setting because of its resemblance to the rugged Scottish links land for which he had become a fan.

Of course, the Currituck Club may be a bit more wooded than traditional Scottish links courses, but a changing breeze is standard fare. So is water, which comes into play on three holes on the front side, especially the Nos. 4 and 5 holes, where hazards lurk in the fairways. If the terrain is fairly calm on the front nine, it cranks up a few decibels on the backside, where rolling fairways can elevate as high as 80 feet above sea level.

The breathtaking layout, in all, stretches across 6,885 yards of remarkably diverse coastal terrain, including sand dunes, wetlands, maritime forests and Sound-side shoreline. With that in mind, my goal was to find a selection of holes that provided a true representation of what Jones was trying to achieve from his first step onto the property to his creation’s opening day.

13. Currituck’s Hole No. 7, 523-yard par 5

Sticking with the theme conjured up back at Nags Head Golf Links, I decided to look for holes with Sound views (all the while listening for ocean sounds) you’ll rarely find anywhere else across the golf universe. While the first six holes provide a wonderful romp at Currituck, it’s the seventh that brings you side-by-side with its full grandeur.

Hard along the high grasses, reeds, natural foliage and Currituck Sound to the left, this “bird paradise” of a hole also features native oak trees lined up on both sides of the fairway. The natural, scenic beauty is shared by its sister challenge one head at No. 8, but this offering tasks you with one additional swipe at least (though No. 8 does feature a forced carry over wetlands off the tee).

After a nice drive, I played my approach safely ahead to a final shot into a green featuring four bunkers, three of which dig in close to the putting surface. The fourth bunker is a large one about 30 feet in front, used more for visual deception than actual hazard. The smallish green is tricky and funnels towards the middle allowing for a wide variety of pin positions. Holes 7-8 at Currituck truly set the table for what is to come ahead.

The Currituck Club - North Carolina Outer Banks Golf14. Currituck’s Hole No. 11, 182-yard par 3

In truth, you start to hear and feel the pounding of the Atlantic Ocean surf on the elevated green at No. 10, a par-4, but it’s the subsequent hole at truly brings the barrier island’s beauty into focus.

This uphill wonder is famed high on a dune by large beach homes, but it’s what is in front that makes it so magical. The green is protected front right and front left by bunkers and a colorful array of wild flowers and tufts of high grass that help accentuate the setting. The wind off the ocean in the distance to the right sends my ball scampering just left of the green, having taken two extra clubs to reach pin high.

As I replace the flag after my bogey, the view back down over the coastal landscape is sure to provide a memory of total recall for a long time to come.

15. Currituck’s Hole No. 15, 175-yard par 3

Returning once more to classic Sound-side views, No. 15 is another Currituck beauty with a view over the adjacent water. The slightly downhill one-shotter over an intruding arm of marsh is particularly memorable later in the day with the sun setting over the Currituck Sound.

Although sailing one into the marsh off to the right or short presents the greatest danger here, there is also a small bunker on the front right of the green to avoid. But with plenty of bail out to the left, anything on that side is safe. A little bit of weariness and going for one more tucked pin had me just off the green just over the marsh but left of the bunker. An up and down later and it was off to a long trio of fine finishing holes that lead back to the clubhouse.

 

Rest of the Dream 18:

Holes 1-3

Holes 4-7

Hole 8

Holes 9-12

Holes 13-15

Holes 16-18

OBX’s Dream 18, Holes Nos. 9-12

Kilmarlic Golf Club, Powells Point

Despite it being the newest golf course on the OBX menu having debuted in 2002, Kilmarlic’s management doesn’t rest on its laurels. That makes it a hot bed for really good-looking golf holes. A pure Outer Banks layout with water and wetlands almost constantly in play, Kilmarlic has seen some recent renovation work to the playing grounds as well as expansion of its popular on-site lodging.

“We took out 25 acres of Bermuda grass and turned them into natural areas,” Director of Golf Bryan Sullivan reported. “This gave it a really cool contrasting look and it doesn’t affect the playability of the course. In essence, it frames it better and gives it a better aesthetic look. In the end, it saves on the carbon footprint.”

For years, the folks at Kilmarlic have concentrated on the area’s golfer deem the most important: tees, fairways, greens. But progress never stops at the highly acclaimed design, so other parts of the routing have been addressed.

“It is really looking good,” added Sullivan. “People like the contrast and it’s mostly aesthetic. We took out of few bunkers and added a few new ones and we have tried to stretch the course out a bit (with a few new back tees) for college players. We picked up some yardage with new championship tees, with the layout now playing close to 6,700 yards.”

Of course, for stay and play, there’s no better golf course choice in the region than Kilmarlic located on the Albemarle Sound. A vacation in one of its many golf cottages on property is an exceptional experience.

9. Kilmarlic’s Hole No. 5, 163-yard par 3

In a region known for its par 3s, this one is interesting in that it features a forced carry over a pond and bulkhead with no room short, not even a bunker. The extremely wide (but narrow front to back) green is surrounded, however, both on the right and across the entire back by bunkers. This requires precise distancing and a soft bounce to get your shot to finish close to the hole not to mention stay on the green.

With the day’s pin placed well over on the extreme right, my tee shot cleared the water but due to some natural over-clubbing and some greed to go at the pin, my ball bounced into a bunker to the right. It was no bargain hitting back at the pin from there, as anything long could end up rolling back across the green, trundle across a small spit of grass and over the bulkhead back into the drink on front.

10. Kilmarlic’s Hole No. 12, 495-yard par 5

Framed by fairway bunkers right, left and a long ways right down the middle, this dogleg right requires a tee shot over the tall grasses of an environmental area. If you pull your tee shot left like I did, it turns a shortish par-5 into a long one. Avoiding the bunker on the left, I am left with a long second shot with the fairway wrapping its way around more native vegetation, but providing me with a view towards the green that is worth the price of admission. Somewhere way out in the distance over the marsh is the Albemarle Sound.

On the final approach, I had to avoid three large greenside bunkers on the left, right and behind. You can stay a little left here to be safe or go for it in two if you are a big bomber.

11. Kilmarlic’s Hole No. 15, 420-yard par 4

After playing a local’s favorite risk/reward 308-yard par-4 at No. 14, it’s back to real work on the subsequent two holes. Stepping up to the tee on No. 15, I began to look down the right side out across possibly the longest expanse of marsh-lined golf course property in America. Dubbed the “Monster Mile” of marsh by yours truly after playing down both Nos. 15 and 16 (each flanked by the high stuff), it was a walk through the wilds I will not soon forget.

Back to No. 15, a fairway bunker left makes your drive even tighter and the approach shot gets pinched even more the closer you get to the green. More bunkers intrude on the right nearer the putting surface, so I played it down the left side to be safe.

Outer Banks Golf Course - Kilmarlic Golf Club12. Kilmarlic’s Hole No. 17, 209-yard par 3

Perhaps it being a picturesque hole ideal for marketing across all the OBX, this offering is the one from Kilmarlic that seems to stay with me the most after arriving back home.

With colorful native fall flowering adorning a bulk-headed front tee box and a bulk-head-bordered green beckoning you to hit it or cringe, No. 17 is a wonder. It’s everything you want in a natural-setting par 3. Hit it long, left or short and you are done. The bailout right is where I land. Since short and right is not bad, and up and down from there even better, I get another burst of the OBX experience I have been searching for.

 

Rest of the Dream 18:

Holes 1-3

Holes 4-7

Hole 8

Holes 9-12

Holes 13-15

Holes 16-18

OBX’s Dream 18, Hole No. 8

Duck Woods Country Club, Southern Shores

Although not on the mainline of public-access golf courses along the OBX, Duck Woods does provide play to guests of members and some limited package play when tee times become available. This makes it worthy of at least one hole in our Dream 18 (although several could qualify).

As the oldest course on the Outer Banks, it was designed in 1969 by famed architect Ellis Maples. The course weaves its way through more than 250 acres of maritime forest and is characterized by country club conditioning with challenging holes routed around an intricate system of lakes, ponds and canals. Fairways can be narrow and water comes into play on no less than 14 holes, making shot placement a big deal especially on windy days.

8. Duck Woods’ Hole No. 18, 516-yard par 5

The real meat of the Duck Woods course are holes Nos. 14-16 (pars of 5-4-4) known locally as the “Duck Trap.” The design’s No. 6 hole, a sweeping dogleg left par 4 requiring a drawing shot between a pair of ominous fairway bunkers, also stands out. However, these are just lead-ups to the layout’s strong closing hole at No. 18.

There are two large fairway bunkers to avoid down the left side on this picturesque challenge though things start to become even more interesting as you get nearer to the green. There’s hidden water to avoid left as a stylish green slopes right to left towards a bulk-headed water feature that wraps around a good portion of the green’s left quadrant and rear. A nice finishing touch is a wooden exit bridge from which you can depart the putting surface as you head back to Duck Woods’ lavish clubhouse amenities.

 

Rest of the Dream 18:

Holes 1-3

Holes 4-7

Hole 8

Holes 9-12

Holes 13-15

Holes 16-18

OBX’s Dream 18: Holes 4-7

Nags Head Golf Links, Nags Head

The land the Bob Moore designed classic now flows across was once nothing more than dunes and ponds owned by a single family. Since its 1980s transformation into a near Scottish links replica, four holes still play hard along the Roanoke Sound – something that would be impossible to replicate these days. Thanks to some thoughtful developer vision, Nags Head Golf Links has continued to evolve into the truly unique display of golf it is today.

“Sure, they could have just put houses here (along the water), but went with the golf course instead,” said Nags Head General Manager Patrick Kelly. “It’s obviously prime real estate.”

Indeed it is. So as a tribute to this honorable effort – and despite a good many other outstanding holes to choose from – the four holes along the water (Roanoke Sound) earn our distinction as members of the OBX’s Dream Team.

Kelly went on to say that the weather (I played it with a tropical depression hanging about off shore) plays a big part in the layout’s demeanor.

“This kind of weather brings out the style of the golf course,” he said.

Water, wetlands and dense undergrowth off the fairways present challenges throughout the golf course. Once out there, the first glimpse of the Roanoke Sound is actually from the tee box on hole No. 4. But it is a hole later where you truly begin to feel its awe-inspiring presence.

4. Nags Head’s Hole No. 5, 513-yard par 5

The tee shot is critical as you have to hit over scrubby grasses in the foreground and either over or left of a cluster of five live oaks (a native tree to the Outer Banks) that guard the right. Although the fairway ahead looks very narrow, it really isn’t, though the next shot gives way to a layup to a spit of land that surely is. More oaks line the entire fairway up the right side.

With the Sound far left and a pond creeping in from the left, my left-center cut drive is followed by layup that just bleeds into the high grass next to the pond. A punch out later, I strike an approach shot to the safe right side of the green, as the right side sports a picturesque bulkhead as it juts out into the Roanoke Sound. A nice chip from the right side can’t quite save my bogey. Double.

5. Nags Head’s Hole No. 9, 359-yard par 4

Considered slightly easier than No. 5 in terms of handicap on the scorecard, this same South-to-North running hole, however, puts even more of a premium on the tee shot (especially into the East wind) as a blind shot over high scrub has to hit the narrowest fairway of all the four Sound-side holes. This landing area is perched between the water and Clubhouse, but once reached, leaves a reasonably short shot over a mound to the green. I always seem to have trouble threading the needle here. Today is no exception.

Nags Head Golf Links - North Carolina Outer Banks Golf6. Nags Head’s Hole No. 15, 221-yard par 3

As you continue along playing the inland holes at Nags Head, it’s hard not to think ahead to what’s ahead in your round. You get a glimpse of it from the green at No. 14, but when you step back to the tips on the next hole, its scary demeanor takes hold. Of course, I don’t actually tee up from there, but even one tee box forward the one-shotter requires a monster smack over a pond on the left and the Sound flowing down the entire right side.

Both this hole and eventually No. 18 now have you playing North to South, so the wind is opposite of whatever you played on the first two Roanoke holes. Fortunately, I catch a break on this day, and though my tee shot falls short of the green, it’s still past the pond and well away from the watery graveyard on the right. A thinned chip shot and a nice two-putt from off the back of the green saves a bogey.

7. Nags Head’s Hole No. 18, 583-yard par 5

Here’s a hole that will stick with you for a long time. Then again, the entire closing stretch of holes 15-18 leaves a lasting impression – possibly my favorite stretch of gaming grounds in all of OBX if not all of North Carolina’s famed links.

For the slicer, the tee shot at 18 can be daunting with the Sound dangerously close on the right. But the fairway spreads out wide to the left, so a play down the center left is ideal. Having done that, the real test begins. From there, the fairway narrows dramatically with scrub grasses to the right leading to a Sound-side beach and more gulps of Roanoke water. An unfortunate bounce right beats me up here, but once past that, the main obstacle to deal with is a deep bunker framed by grassy rough and flanked by two trees on the left front of the green. The bad carom had me hacking a wedge out of the beach grass, but once extracted, I make my way onto the undulating carpet in one over regulation. Looking back, No. 18 is truly a beast of North Carolina’s extreme Northeast.

After your round, take the time to go up into the clubhouse’s crow’s nest. The 360-degrees views of the Links (including all the holes just detailed), the Sound, the Atlantic Ocean and Nags Head proper are nothing short of amazing.

 

Rest of the Dream 18:

Holes 1-3

Holes 4-7

Hole 8

Holes 9-12

Holes 13-15

Holes 16-18

The Great 18 – A full-course menu of OBX’s most daring and delightful golf holes … Bank on It.

By Bill Kamenjar

The adrenaline rush kicked in somewhere along the road between the coin dispenser and Coinjock.

If it wasn’t for the barbeque sandwich, fries, Southern sweet tea and $1.79 oversized sugar cookie consumed at The Border Station straddling the North Carolina/Virginia state line, I would have sworn it was the anticipation of playing 18 of the most memorable golf holes North Carolina’s Outer Banks has to offer. As it was, the drive southbound from Virginia to the coastal resort was remarkably energizing.

The mission … if I chose to accept it? To find, play and experience each of these 18 offerings individually, from tee to shining green. Then string them together providing a few insights.

So, I did.

The inspiration for this particular travelogue was a 1993 novel co-authored by journalists Tom Callahan and Dave Kindred titled Around the World in 18 Holes. After “months of absurdly complex planning,” the twosome spanned the globe playing the game across 18 diabolical golf holes then pieced them together to make a single 18-hole golf course. It was a par 72 at a length of 37,000 miles. The 69-day adventure was no doubt a dream journey for them – but one that will likely remain a literary fantasy for the rest of us.

Still, this doesn’t mean we can’t score a dream 18 of our own using a beloved destination like the Outer Banks of North Carolina. So, with the pair of golfing globe trotters in mind, I came up with a journey anyone with some coastal golf aspirations can enjoy: Around OBX in 18 Holes. The goal here, however, was not to necessarily find the most diabolical holes across the barrier island landscape. More, it was to find the ones that give a flavor of their respective designs; shining the spotlight on those that are indisputably daring, delightful and most of all, hard to forget.

Applying this concept to an excellent array of half a dozen golf courses OBX has to offer – all fairly close together – was easy. With some simple planning that included a few correspondences to PlayOBXGolf.com and insights from several area golf directors/pros, the concept came together.

I spent several days (well, mostly just nights) staying at the Ballesteros golf cottage at Kilmarlic Golf Club and golfing along the northern coast of the Tar Heel State (not to mention refueling at OBX local dining hot spots like Shipwrecks, Henry’s, the Bonzer Shack and of course breakfast at Kilmarlic’s Black Tartan Tap Room). Here is what my local hosts helped me come up with.

Outer Banks GolfOBX’s Dream 18, Holes Nos. 1-3

The Pointe Golf Club in Powells Point

Director of Golf Doug Kinser loves the expression, “The Wright Brothers chose this area for a reason.” And he’s right, the greatest defense The Pointe possesses on any given day is the wind. On a rare calm day, the layout that prides itself on great turf conditions and playability is extremely getable. To illustrate, the club’s head instructor Cory Schneider – within a month of qualification for the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black – actually shot a course record 59 at The Pointe. A few months after that, he lowered it again to 58.

But days like that are rare, especially in breezy OBX. The real story at The Pointe, however, is the aforementioned turf conditions. It’s true, the facility was the first course in the nation (it opened in July 1995) to fully utilize A-1 bentgrass across its fairways, roughs and greens. You can find the same stuff on the greens at Augusta National, home of The Masters. Routed on a former turf farm and designed by “old-school, seat-of-a-tractor” designer Russell Breeden, the layout is plush, built for speed of play, not overly long at 6,226 yards, sports a par of 71 and is a favorite of the locals.

1. The Pointe’s Hole No. 6, 387-yard par 4

You know there’s something special about to pop when the cart path takes you up to the top of a 30-foot incline. From there you get a bird’s-eye view of the Currituck Sound as it drifts down the coast buffered by natural wetlands in the foreground. It is a wonderful view to begin an equally enthralling hole.

The actual championship tee sits between two ponds and some scrubby pines, but on this day I catch a double break as the tips are moved a box ahead and a ferocious Easterly wind is at my back. A slightly pulled drive down the left side flirts with the environmental hazard (and away from a fairway bunker on the right), but provides me with a nice angle into the green with more water trouble on the right.

This hole requires two big hits to reach the putting surface that tilts left to right towards the water. The prudent play here, if you are not going to hit the green in regulation, is down the left side where the only real challenge is hitting off the down or upslope of any one of handful of harmless mounds. Just don’t skull your ball from there as I did, or it will careen off down the slope (the green slopes to the right) into the pond protecting the right side – a result you intended to avoid in the first place.

2. The Pointe’s Hole No. 12, 348-yard par 4

Stepping onto the back tee box, it’s hard not to feel temporarily claustrophobic. That’s because The Pointe, known for its generally fun and forgiving layout (“It’s hard to find a hole that will tighten you up here,” says Kinser), suddenly puts the squeeze into you a bit here. The tee shot at 12 requires a carry through a narrow chute of trees and across a 150-yard-deep environmental hazard.

After a piped drive down slightly right of center, I could take a deep breath before taking off in the golf cart across a wooden cart bridge and back out into the open. From there, I am left with 150-yard approach to a wide green. Along the way, there is a fairway bunker on the right to avoid along with two green-guarding bunkers in the middle and left front. To add to the appeal of the 12th are five bear-claw shaped mounds that line up behind and around to the right of the green.

3. The Pointe’s Hole No. 18, 562-yard par 5

The original back tee box on this hole played well over 600 yards, making it the longest one in OBX. For speed of play, the big-hitter tees are no longer placed there, but I was allowed to try it from the former and monstrous 619-yard distance. After pounding a drive that barely made it past the forward tee box and short of the fairway, I hit three wood then five wood to 40 yards short of the green but in front of one of the two bunkers that protect the left flank.

Along the way, I avoided water down the right side along with fairways bunkers both left and right. My “layup” saw me pitch past the pin to a long, sloping back to front sloping green. Two putts later and I walked away with a satisfying double bogey. If nothing else, the thrilling experience on 18 at The Pointe reminded me why I should be moving up tee boxes … not back. This is especially true when playing it into a dreaded East wind.

 

Rest of the Dream 18:

Holes 1-3

Holes 4-7

Hole 8

Holes 9-12

Holes 13-15

Holes 16-18

They say that summer passes like a morning breeze. But along the North Carolina Coast, that merely means you will soon be …

“Ooh, that was a really big wave, did you see it?” the mom exclaimed to her young son. But with his eyes pointed downwards while digging into the sand in search of a seashell, little Johnny had missed it.

Or had he?

While the sights of an Outer Banks summer – waves cresting, sand dunes rising, the sun setting each evening over the sound – are always memorable, the sounds of an OBX autumn up and down the beach are also wonders to behold. The youngster may have been focused at his feet, but he couldn’t help but hear the crashing breaker as it neared his position along the shoreline.

OBX, with its more natural, less cluttered surroundings, can provide an unmatched environment for listening pleasures as well as visual ones. The “quiet” resort features the surf, of course, but it also woos you with the soothing resonances of seagulls, children playing in the sand, wild horses whinnying and kites zipping through the air, held aloft by cool, autumn breezes.

And then, of course, there’s the golf.

With its naturally peaceful setting, OBX is also the ideal backdrop to generate sounds of the greatest game. The ping from a ball launched off the face of a high-tech driver. The click of another from a well-struck iron. Flag sticks fluttering in the wind.

With six top-shelf golf courses located in and around the region, there’s no better time than fall to catch an invigorating round on one of its layouts and listen to the most distinctive sound of all: that of a long putt dropping into the bottom of one of the many cups dug out of the OBX turf.

With the traffic along U.S. Highway 158 having eased on the western edge of the Currituck Sound, the summer slog has given way to a refreshed focus during the autumn shoulder season. Like most other parts of the North Carolina, the mild year-round climate makes the Outer Banks region ideal for golf – even as the days grow shorter. The wind-swept gems on both sides of the sounds and near the Atlantic Ocean make up one of the Tar Heel State’s great golf destinations.

The Pointe Golf Club - North Carolina Outer Banks Golf

The Pointe Golf Club

To begin with, a round at the Currituck Club on the island’s northern edge provides some of the most memorable glimpses of both bodies of water. Its location in the town of Corolla also offers plenty to do once the final putt has been holed. Easily reachable from this Rees Jones designed gem are great restaurants and boutique shopping – not to mention four-wheeling safaris to see the wild horses that roam Currituck’s northernmost beaches.

Back on the mainland, meanwhile, you have Kilmarlic Golf Club. This marvel plays through a maritime forest and across sprawling wetlands where golf and the environment exist in perfect harmony. Canopies of giant oak, pine and dogwood trees offer a unique setting for the game, with the fall adding an extra element of color.

The Pointe Golf Club and The Carolina Club are solid windswept layouts offering a variety of challenges and outstanding conditioning. The latter even features an island-green par-3 giving true meaning to OBX being known as a watery wonderland.

Fall is also a great time to enjoy the Southern hospitality of OBX’s other coastal gems. With great courses, food and a large menu of off-course activities, a trip to Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk and points south are in order.

While the Currituck Club is considered the region’s most demanding test, on a windy day, nothing compares with Nags Head Golf Links. A few of the more classic holes play right along the Roanoke Sound, which is fine when the air currents are asleep. But wake them up, and you may find yourself on the hardest 6,100-yard course in the state.

All together, these outstanding designs provide a golfing adventure that will keep your putts falling long after summer crowds have departed the Outer Banks – and the sounds of shots are allowed to prevail.