It’s not unusual up and down the Atlantic Seaboard to see vehicles bearing a white sticker into which are set three black letters – OBX – which has become the widely acknowledged acronym for North Carolina’s historic Outer Banks. A lengthy chain of barrier islands dangling just off the state’s mainland, it’s a place of legend and lore that is firmly implanted as an alluring destination for vacationers drawn by history, towering dunes and quiet beaches, and an array of recreational opportunities, including golf.
While not as widely renowned for its links as some of its coastal brethren, there are excellent courses scattered about the Outer Banks. When it comes to the links here, think quality not quantity.
Currituck County encompasses the northernmost area of the Outer Banks and is less than a day’s drive from virtually any major city on the East Coast. It’s also one of the less-developed choices with a small-town feel where multi-tasking means choosing between which course to play, how long to linger on a deserted beach and where to eat fresh seafood. The area offers a range of lodging options, from quaint inns to spacious oceanside homes with room for your whole group. Golf packages also are readily available.
On Currituck’s mainland, just over the bridge from the main island, Kilmarlic Golf Club flows through maritime forest and wetlands in a harmonious blend of nature and golf created by Tom Steele. Twice the host of the North Carolina Open, the club also can house you in its own “golf cottage.”
In the same neighborhood are the Carolina Club (Russell Breeden/Bob Moore) and the Pointe (Russell Breeden). Both are extremely playable for virtually any level of golfer, though the par-3s at Carolina are guaranteed to get your attention with three topping 200 yards and one green perched menacingly on an island. The Pointe is wide open but known for its slick greens, a 619-yard finishing hole and, as one local puts it, being a good “gambling” course – assuming a wager keeps things interesting for your group.
Across the sound, head north through Duck toward picturesque Corolla (pronounce it “core–AH–la” and they’ll think you’re a native), and take on the Currituck Club. Carved out by designer Rees Jones along the Currituck Sound, this rambling marshland layout draws rave reviews from players and high rankings from influential golf pubs.
And be sure to slide south into Dare County where you’ll find two landmark layouts that pioneered the direction of golf on the Outer Banks. SeaScape Golf Links and Duck Woods Country Club were both built in the 1960s and are the granddaddies of Outer Banks golf courses.
Located in Kitty Hawk near Orville and Wilbur Wrights’ pioneering flight grounds, SeaScape was originally designed by Masters champion Art Wall. The course provides excellent vistas of the Atlantic Ocean from its opening holes, which sit just a block inland from the beach.
Duck Woods is another oldie but goodie in nearby Southern Shores, bearing the mark of highly regarded designer Ellis Maples. Holly Ridge Golf Course and Goose Creek Golf and Country Club are additional options. Both are forgiving courses that are preferred choices for budget-minded golfers.
For a true Scottish links-style adventure, don’t miss Nags Head Golf Links where Bob Moore’s handiwork takes you along the rugged shoreline where prickly growth awaits wayward shots tortured by sea breezes.
Ah yes, the wind. Like any seaside golf worth its salt, the wind is the primary defense. But just accept it – even enjoy the challenge. After all, it’s one of the key elements that make golf special along North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Gary Carter, with contributions from Patrick Jones and Martin Armes