The Time is Right to Visit North Carolina

Pinehurst #4, 11th hole, Photo: Pinehurst Resort

The Tar Heel State Is A Golf Haven

By Brad King

Shopping for an ideal vacationland? The state of North Carolina may be the place for you.

Midway along the U.S. east coast, the Tar Heel state presents an overflowing smorgasbord of beauty, history, arts, culture and adventure. From stunning vistas in the misty mountains to sandy beaches on its picturesque coast, North Carolina serves up both big-city excitement and small-town charm — with a healthy dose of good ol’ Southern hospitality at every turn.

In the western half of the state, soak in scenic beauty while picnicking, hiking, golfing, whitewater rafting or rock climbing. In the winter, navigate the slopes on skis, tubes or snowboards.

In central North Carolina, enjoy an exceptionally eclectic array of shopping or tee off on one of the state’s more than 400 golf courses. Sample wine at one of close to 150 wineries or step back in time at a Civil War battlefield.

Along the coast, dive into water sports like boating, swimming and saltwater fishing; climb historic lighthouses; and bask in the warm sun on pristine beaches.

We recently toured North Carolina to connect with just a few of the state’s seemingly infinite offerings. We kicked off our exploration overlooking the rolling hills of north-central North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region — the crossroads of four major interstate highways that connect a trio of unique cities, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.

Grandover Resort & Spa

More than two decades ago, Greensboro developer Joseph Koury master-planned Grandover Resort & Spa. Koury’s dream was to provide Triad residents a world-class resort at their doorstep — a place where everyone felt welcomed — along with appointments and services befitting guests from around the globe.

The ornate resort includes a pair of challenging 18-hole layouts — the East Course and West Course — designed by renowned golf architects David Graham and Gary Panks. Grandover’s public, PGA golf facility offers daily tee times, golf outings and golf tournaments, overnight golf packages as well as golf lessons, and an outstanding practice area and golf pro shop.

Recently, Grandover unveiled more than $10 million in renovations and a renewed vision for the acclaimed destination. The core goals of the renovations include highlighting Greensboro’s rich history and culture and strengthening the resort’s connection to the community.

Local history has been woven into the renovations, in some cases quite literally. Guests at 19 & Timber, one of the resorts two remodeled bars, can listen to live music, sip a cocktail with friends and read about how textile magnates, Moses and Caesar Cone, made Greensboro the largest manufacturer of textiles in the world. While the original split timber walls of the bar are adorned with canvases featuring old photos of Greensboro’s historical past, leather chairs and upscale lighting give the rustic space a modern feel.

Grandover Resort & Spa

In addition to the resort’s 244 newly renovated rooms, Grandover’s five luxury suites pay homage to the industries, arts and people that have made Greensboro and the Triad what it is today. A renewed sense of modern sophistication was brought to the main lobby and front desk, as well as the elegantly remodeled restaurants, pool and spa.

Resort guests can enjoy original art by North Carolina artists throughout the hotel with the addition of The Gallery at Grandover. Golfers will also be excited to learn they’ll now be putting on TifEagle Bermuda grass on Grandover’s award-winning East golf course.

A third phase of renovations, scheduled to be completed by late 2019, will continue to keep Grandover’s 45,000 square feet of meeting space, including its four ballrooms, at the forefront as a conference and event destination. “We have a well-earned reputation as a premier destination in the state and the region,” said Kelly Harrill, Grandover Resort General Manager. “A resort that offers world class amenities without the price tag to go along with it; that was Joe Koury’s vision for Grandover and we intend to keep that vision alive.” http://grandover.com/golf

For dinner while in Greensboro our group selected Hops Burger Bar, an elite craft burger and beer joint on Spring Garden Street that serves only Certified Angus Beef Brand meat, as well as the highest quality produce, fish, and dairy. Think thick, tasty burgers, fish and chips, chicken sandwiches and salads. If you’re a beer drinker, you came to the right place as Hops offers an immensely varied selection of beer. We didn’t have room to try the dessert — maybe next time. http://hopsburgerbar.com/

The next day is was off to the North Carolina Sandhills, which many know better as simply “Pinehurst” or the “Southern Pines region.” North Carolina has a serious golfing pedigree, nowhere more so than the venerable Pinehurst Resort & Country Club. Boasting an impressive nine layouts — including its acclaimed No. 2 course, which has hosted nearly every major golf event from the Ryder Cup to the U.S. Open — the Sandhills are where legendary course architect Donald Ross truly left his mark.

After making history by hosting the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open on No. 2 during consecutive weeks in 2014, the “Cradle of American Golf” doubled down. First was the debut of Pinehurst’s nine-hole short course, The Cradle, designed by Hanse just steps outside the resort, which has averaged between 600 and 1,000 rounds per week and totaled more than 10,000 rounds during its inaugural season.

“The Cradle is amazing,” said Pinehurst Executive Vice President Matt Massei. “I think it breaks down so many barriers that we hear about golf now: that golf takes too long, it’s too expensive, there are too many rules. It’s fun, we’ve got music out there, it takes about 45 minutes to play and you really only need about two or three clubs to get around the golf course.

“You’ve got holes that are 50 yards long up to 130 yards. It’s just fun. You see everybody out there playing. You see retired folks out playing who maybe haven’t played in a while and they can’t play nine or 18, but they can go out and play for 45 minutes and 789 yards. It’s a blast. You see a lot of grandkids out there with their grandparents. That has been remarkable. It’s exceeded our expectations.”

Pinehurst #4, 11th hole, Photo: Pinehurst Resort

Next, Hanse set his sights on Pinehurst No. 4, which originally opened to rave reviews in 1919, but was forced to close during the Great Depression. Following its reopening, No. 4 was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Sr., in 1973, Rees Jones in 1982 and Tom Fazio in 1999.

Residing in the Donald Ross House, and incorporating aerial photographs and maps from Ross’s original design, Hanse — along with his design partner, Jim Wagner — reimagined No. 4. Renowned for his minimalistic design style, Hanse and his crew moved enormous amounts of dirt to recreate the original ridges and valleys in No. 4’s landscape.

No. 4 now features wide fairways, sprawling sandy waste areas and large, undulating green complexes. “We returned the original landscape to the course,” said Hanse. “From there, we created the features, slopes and green locations.”

Hanse, who gained international renown when he was selected to design the 2016 Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro, transformed what Ross first carved out of the sand a century ago into 18 dramatic holes with stunning vistas more natural and authentic to the Sandhills.

“Gil did a remarkable job to create a golf course that’s a true complement to No. 2,” said Massei. “It’s exceeded our expectations. It is spectacular. Some of the vistas and some of the shot making on the golf course are fantastic. We’re getting great feedback. People love playing it — our members are really enjoying the golf course, so that’s been a very exciting thing for us.”

Already, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has named No. 4 as the co-host for this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship (Aug. 12-18) alongside No. 2. It will be the third U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst — the first since 2008. In 2024, the U.S. Open will return to Pinehurst No. 2 and will be the 11th USGA championship to be hosted by the resort — the 10th in the last 35 years.

Some would argue that the Ross-designed Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club and Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club are every bit as good as any of the Pinehurst Resort courses. In May, Pine Needles hosted the second U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship —the sixth USGA championship contested at Pine Needles and the first since the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open, won by Cristie Kerr. The club also hosted the 1996 and 2001 U.S. Women’s Opens, won by Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, respectively.

Combined with Talamore Golf Resort’s New Course and the Arnold Palmer-designed King’s Course at Mid South, you will have no problem putting together the perfect Sandhills golf vacation. https://www.pinehurst.com/

Pinehurst Brewing Company

Following golf and just prior to dinner we toured and sampled the brand-new Pinehurst Brewing Company on the site of the long-ago shuttered Village Power House, just a short stroll from the resort. Much of the original steam plant structure remains and sections of the brewhouse’s walls remain blackened from decades housing massive steam boilers. But now, instead of turbines and generators, the building features a 10-barrel microbrewery. An observation platform overlooking the brewhouse is a focal point of the taproom, while a bar, a beer garden and an all-seasons patio complement the dining room.

Beer at the Pinehurst Brewing Company is brewed by Eric Mitchell, one of the most highly regarded young brewers in the country who has earned recognition from the World Beer Cup and others. His IPA, Citraquench’l, consistently ranks among the Top 10 IPAs in the United States. https://www.pinehurst.com/pinehurst-brewery/

That evening, our group enjoyed an amazing dinner at Elliott’s on Linden, where ChefMark Elliott and his team showcase the region’s bounty in his restaurants daily in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. Their commitment to community shines through their menu in order to nourish and enrich each customer. https://www.elliottsonlinden.com/

The following morning, we enjoyed a more simple if equally sumptuous breakfast at Betsy’s Crepes in downtown Southern Pines.Betsy’s was opened in 2010 by Betsy Markey and has become an icon of Southern Pines. Open for breakfast and lunch, you can enjoy savory crepes and sweet dessert crepes plus tasty soups, Panini sandwiches and salads. Betsy’s is also one of the few restaurants in town specializing in gluten-free crepe batter and health choices. http://www.betsyscrepes.com/

Tobacco Road Golf Course

After breakfast, it was time to make the short, half-hour drive to Tobacco Road Golf Club in Sanford. Tobacco Roadwas constructed on land tended by the weatherworn hands of tobacco farmers, later shaped and moved through mining and sand excavation before finally being crafted and molded by an artist’s imagination and the revolutionary eye of the late, great designer Mike Strantz. When Tobacco Road was little more than a walking path through an expended sand quarry, Strantz said he “knew immediately it could be something not only spectacular, but also unique.” He was spot on. https://tobaccoroadgolf.com/

From Tobacco Road we made the short trek toward North Carolina’s Triangle region, which includes the state’s capital city, Raleigh, along with Durham and Chapel Hill. The next morning, our group had a tee Time at Lonnie Poole Golf Course, designed by Arnold Palmer and the design team at Arnold Palmer Design Companyon the campus ofRaleigh’s NC State University. https://lonniepoolegolfcourse.com/

Lonnie Poole GCis an easy, 4-minute walk from The Stateview Hotel, a modern hotel on NC State’s Centennial Campus overlooking the tree-lined shores of Lake Raleigh. The Stateview features upscale rooms, some with lake views, along with sitting areas feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and tea and coffeemakers. Suites add separate living rooms and room service is available. Other amenities include a contemporary restaurant and bar with a terrace, plus an outdoor pool, a fitness center and 10,000 square feet of conference space. www.stateviewhotel.com/

Our mouth-watering dinner in Raleigh was at Brewery Bhavana. From the creators of Bida Manda, brother and sister Vansana and Vanvisa Nolintha, Brewery Bhavana is a brewery, taproom, dim sum restaurant, library and flower shop, all in one. A gathering space welcoming people from all walks of life, backgrounds and futures to enjoy Belgian-inspired beer and lovingly crafted food while surrounded by books and flowers. https://brewerybhavana.com/

What else is there to do in Raleigh and the North Carolina Triangle? You name it. We attended a Carolina Hurricanes NHL game and the next morning visited Dogwood Country Club. A new golf retail store in downtown Raleigh that also features an 18-foot golf simulator, the owners envisioned this store to be an urban country club for golfers of all levels. https://www.dogwoodcountryclub.com/

From there, we stopped by the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) of Raleigh, a multimedia contemporary art gallery in the downtown Warehouse District. CAM Raleigh is the non-collecting contemporary art museum that provides an environment for transformation through educational programs, cultural experiences, and bold, non-traditional exhibitions by living artists. http://camraleigh.org/

Lunch that day was at The Pit Authentic Barbecue. North Carolina is known for its legendary barbecue joints. The Pit proudly continues this tradition by serving authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District — a contemporary twist on southern tradition. http://www.thepit-raleigh.com/

Among our other stops as we explored Downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District:

  • Videri Chocolate Factory Bean to bar, amazing atmosphere and small batch chocolate factory all in one.
  • Crank Arm Brewing Company Bikes and Beer. Great place to relax, play games or enjoy the beautiful North Carolina weather on the front patio.
  • Raleigh Denim Workshop Artisan denim brand that uses vintage machines to create limited runs of men’s and women’s jeans, headquartered in downtown Raleigh.
  • Morgan Street Food Hall Not to be confused with a food court, this is a new lifestyle-dining concept. The establishment features a partnering confluence of local favorite eateries and restaurants as well as food retailers. The goal is to introduce the concept of cross-meal ordering, where different meals are enjoyed in a shared seating area. With a vast expanse of more than 22,000-square-feet, Morgan Street Food Hall brings something fun and new to downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District.

Finally, the time arrived to dip our toes in the ocean and smell the salt in the air. From the Triangle of North Carolina, North Carolina’s storied coast can easily be reached in fewer than three hours.

It’s been more than 250 years since the original chartering of Brunswick County. Since then, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has been welcoming beachgoers with open arms — and plenty of of sun, sand and seafood. In the postwar years, American families began traveling to one of the area’s 10 distinctly different communities for vacation, setting the pattern that would repeat for generations of traditions and lasting memories.

Once our group arrived to the Brunswick Islands, we checked into Winds Resort Beach Club on Ocean Isle Beach. As one of North Carolina’s most unique beach resorts, this oceanfront destination offers exceptional accommodations, a powder-sand island beach and a variety of amenities to give a vacation experience to remember for a lifetime. The Winds staff provides friendly hospitality and planning advice that allows you to easily relax, rejuvenate and find that peace of mind you’ve been looking for in a North Carolina beach resort. https://thewinds.com/

That night our group enjoyed dinner at Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille,

Where we took in the spectacular views of the Intracoastal Waterway. Executive Chef Joe Paxton has created a crave-worthy dinner menu based around coastal favorites and seasonal vegetables sourced from local and regional purveyors — dinner service only. Afterward we enjoyed a cocktail at the Tiki Bar perched on the top patio, with sweeping views of Jinks Creek. You can also dine outdoors in the gazebo overlooking the water. Inside, the dining room features large windows with amazing views all around. https://jinkscreek.com/

The Winds Resort is also convenient to play close to 100 nearby golf courses in the Brunswick Islands — small wonder, with the game’s rich heritage so entwined with the seaside. This 45-mile stretch of pristine barrier islands with lush maritime forests, expansive marshes and inlets, and the majestic Intracoastal Waterway have created a terrain primed for the most alluring course designs in all of golf. Gentle sea breezes blow through long-needled pines and windswept oaks, beckoning you to come play.

Rivers Edge Golf Club

Our tee time that day was at Rivers Edge Golf Club in Shallotte. An Arnold Palmer Golf Signature design, Rivers Edge offers every golfer a round of challenge and fun, with five sets of tees to fit any game. Nestled along the bluffs and tidal marshes of the Shallotte River, the unmatched scenery and coastal breezes are a welcome distraction. Many of the golfers here are regulars who return time and again to enjoy the breathtaking views and takes on the challenge that has earned River Edge a stellar reputation as one of the area’s top courses.

In general, the Brunswick Islands have managed to harness that special something that brings both golfers and families back year in and year out. Mild weather year-round makes for an all-season golf climate where you’ll find playing conditions to your liking almost any time of the year. Whatever you’re searching for in accommodations, from a charming villa right on the fairway to the perfect vacation home to welcome a group of any size home after a long day on the links, they have it all. Come with a passion for the game and leave with a love of a place.

That afternoon our group enjoyed amemorablenature walkat Bird Island Coastal Nature Reserve. Bird Island is approximately 1,300 acres adjacent to the coastal resort town of Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach is on a barrier island and is the southernmost town in North Carolina. Bird Island can be reached by walking along the seashore toward the South Carolina border. http://www.nccoastalreserve.net/web/crp/bird-island

We finished things off in style with an amazing dinner at The Oyster Rock. Overlooking the scenic Calabash River, this family-owned and operated waterfront Calabash seafood restaurant specializing in excellent seafood and raw bar items, mixed with a flavorful variety of mouth-watering beef, chicken and pork dishes, along with sandwiches and burgers all prepared in house every day using only the freshest and finest ingredients from local and regional suppliers and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean right outside their doors. https://theoysterrock.com/

Inevitably, our glorious journey around North Carolina had to end — and without an opportunity to visit the mountains. Yet, we departed with smiles on our faces and we will return soon. We discovered, as many have before and since, that a visit to North Carolina truly puts you in a Tar Heel state of mind.   

For additional information about all there is to do in North Carolina, please check out the VisitNC website: https://www.visitnc.com. Or…

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