Henry A. Lister
Carolinas Golf Association Rater, NC Golf Panelist
Celebrating its 25th year, the NC Golf Panel released the Top 100 ranking of the state’s courses with little shuffling of the deck chairs. The top 10 courses really have not changed in years, except for the opening of Mountain Top in 2014 and Pinehurst No. 4.
The Top 10 are: 1—Pinehurst No. 2; 2— Grandfather G&CC; 3—Mountaintop G&LC; 4—Pine Needles L&GC; 5—CC of NC (Dogwood); 6—Quail Hollow Club; 7—Elk River Club; 8—Old North State Club; 9—Pinehurst No. 4; 10—Charlotte CC. I would be thrilled to have a membership at any of the private clubs in the Panel’s Top 100, they all are fine courses and clubs.
The biggest mover was Pinehurst No. 4, after a completely new design was built by Gil Hanse on the Fazio layout. It really deserved the move to the Top 10 from 19 to 9. The No. 4 course is now similar to No. 2, using the natural topography and native sandscapes with single line sprinklers in fairways and no rough. An additional defense to the course are the ample undulations built into the greens that reward good putting. It is so well regarded by the USGA that they held the US Amateur on No. 2 and No. 4 simultaneously.
With Prestonwood CC Fairways course returning to the Top 100 list (97), the largest private club in the Triangle now can boast that all three of their courses are in the Top 100 list (Highlands 28; Meadows 60). The site of the SAS Championship Oct. 9-11, Prestonwood well deserves the high rankings after over five years of continuous improvements.
NC is blessed with fantastic golf courses and weather to match. In fact, 18 Triangle golf courses rank in the Top 100, with 9 in the Top 50. Given that 10 percent of NC’s courses are in the 20-mile radius of RTP, having 20 percent of the Top 100 courses nearby supports my praise for the quality of golf here. Unfortunately for Triangle golfers, only two public courses rank in the Top 50 of the NC Golf Panel’s recent ranking of the Top 100 courses in NC. Those two courses are UNC Finley (39) and Duke GC (45).
My fellow NC Golf Panel members and I agree that UNC Finley is the best public course in the Triangle. I have seven public courses in the Top 100 while the whole NCGP includes only four. As usual, I include The Neuse (89), Devil’s Ridge (90) and The Heritage Club (51) in the Top 100.
Few of the 130+ members of the Panel are familiar with these courses, which means they cannot vote for them. They really do not know what excellent courses they are missing. In 2008 I had yet to play Old Chatham (17), MacGregor Downs (13) or Wakefield Plantation (68) and they were not in my Top 100. Since then, I have been honored to play each and they rate highly on my personal list.
Nonetheless, more than half the courses in the Triangle are open to the public (26 of 48). And for the overall quality of area golf, prices are very reasonable. During the week you can play 25 of these courses for under $50 any weekday and 30 for under $70 on weekends. For the extremely cost conscious, greens fees with carts at 14 courses are under $40 on a weekday and 12 under $50 on the weekend. There are over 75 golf courses worth playing at a reasonable price within 40 miles of RDU. We are indeed in golf heaven here.