Location: Bald Head Island, N.C.
Course architect: George Cobb
Restoration: 2010 | Tim Cate
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope:
Black — 6,823 | 73.7 / 143
White — 6,293 | 71.1 / 135
Gray — 5,668 | 68.0 / 126
Teal — 4,810 | 68.7 / 119
Saturday morning green fee: $$$ [$100-$149]
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: Yes
Greens: Miniverde bermudagrass
Starter: A golfer is in for a treat from the get-go as a required 20-minute ferry ride from Southport, N.C., to Bald Head Island features a close-up view of the Cape Fear River as it spills into the Atlantic Ocean. No gas vehicles are on the island – located between Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C. – so golf carts and bicycles are the favored modes of transportation. The course, designed by George Cobb in 1974 and restored by Tim Cate in 2010, is not overly long. But when the wind blows, as it often does on an island, a challenging round is possible as an abundance of water, sandy natural areas and native trees come into play.
Play because ...: A cool experience and a challenging golf course are made more memorable by the island life. Plus, Bald Head has a long history as a naval destination — from pirates, such as Blackbeard, to Revolutionary and Civil War vestiges to Bald Head Island Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in the state and no longer in service.
Takeaway: Cate’s work on the Cobb-designed course brought it back to life a few years back, with natural areas adding to the playability and the improved condition of the course. The finish, particularly the watery and windy par-3 16th and par-4 18th holes, can be daunting. Staying on site is an option as there is an abundance of rental properties, along with plenty of on-island restaurants, beaches and tourist locations such as Old Baldy and a ghost walk. Prepare for an elongated transport – ferries leave the mainland on the hour and it’s suggested to be there at least 30 minutes beforehand for the $22 roundtrip ride with an additional $10 for daily parking. Therefore, tack on about 90 minutes and transportation cash to the day if you’re commuting.
Food | Beverage: 9.0
Pro shop: 8.0
Pace of play: 9.0
Best par 3: No 16 (187 | 169 | 133 | 94 yards)
From an elevated tee, the view of the nearby Atlantic Ocean is beautiful. However, the elevation also brings the wind into play just as much as any hole on the course. The green is very large, but there is water in front and to the right, and the only bailout area is left. Be wary, though, as there is also rough and other unsettling lies in that area.
Best par 4: No. 9 (430 | 404 | 392 | 312 yards)
This hole has it all: one of the course’s longest par 4s with lagoons on both sides of the landing area pinching in as you get closer to a green guarded on all sides by massive bunkers and water to the right. The wind also is a big factor as players exit the forest and into the open area.
Best par 5: No. 11 (513 | 466 | 421 | 376)
Not a long hole but very penal, ranking as the course’s second hardest. A lagoon runs the entire left side of the dogleg left hole and curls in front of the green. A bulkhead is in close proximity to the front of the green, so the safe shot is for the middle of the green.
Rater: Ward Clayton