Story by Shane Sharp
It’s a tight window, but the four weeks between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday can tee-up perfectly for quick golf getaway in the Carolinas. Daytime temps still climb well into the 60s and low 70s along coastal South Carolina while North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina highs hover around 55 to 60.
What’s more, many golf resorts shift from “shoulder season” to “off-season” rates the first week of December. By this time, most course maintenance is complete (such as punching greens) and if courses do overseed with winter grass, it will have grown in by then.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your sticks and hit the road: the Carolinas are within a four- to six-hour drive of nearly half the East Coast’s population.
Pinehurst Resort (Pinehurst) – No resort has been busier – or – buzzier than Pinehurst over the past few years. The new No. 4 course designed by Gil Hanse re-opened to rave reviews in the fall of 2018, and the like-new Cradle short-course, opened in 2017 is perfect for families, couples and settling bets. What’s more, the Pinehurst Brewing Company just completed its first full year of serving award-winning craft brews and BBQ.
Home to 10 courses and three AAA Four Diamond hotels, Pinehurst’s Manor Inn reopened in August following a multi-million-dollar facelift. Now, golf groups have a true place to call home. It features two private hospitality suites with room for 20 that can be reserved for the entire length of stay. The new North and South Bar serves a curated selection of whiskies, cocktails and craft beers from the “PBC.”
The resort’s Donald Ross golf package is its most popular, and rates drop considerably after Dec. 1.
Rumbling Bald Resort (Lake Lure) – A short drive from most major Southeastern cities, Rumbling Bald’s two mountain-style courses set up perfectly for late fall golf (golf sweater not included). Apple Valley is a Dan Maples design that’s spacious off the tee but demanding on approach shots. Bald Mountain is shorter, sporty and conveniently located near onsite lodging.
Rumbling Bald is also perfect for side trips deeper into the Blue Ridge Mountains for hiking or sightseeing. Situated on the north end of Lake Lure, the mountains-meet-lake crescendo was the setting for many a Dirty Dancing scene. The resort’s Hole-in-One package starts at $290 per person and includes two nights’ lodging, two rounds of golf, range balls and breakfast.
For larger golf groups, Rumbling Bald offers up personal event coordinators to assist with every detail of planning and execution. Post round, Legends on the Lake is the ideal spot for hearty fall fare like hand-crafted pizzas and house-ground burgers.
Grandover Resort (Greensboro) – This 36-hole resort with its recently re-imagined hotel conveniently located off I-85 between Charlotte and Raleigh is one of the state’s best kept golf secrets. Golfers can experience both the East and West courses – wrought by Gary Panks – over the course of two days while bedding-down in elegant AAA Four Diamond digs.
Grandover’s most popular golf package features one-night’s lodging, full breakfast for two, two rounds of golf, range balls, golf cart and bag storage starting at $349 plus tax. There several outstanding options for dining, but golfers flock to the 19 & Timber bar for its sports bar atmosphere and pub fare.
Cherokee Valley (Travelers Rest) – One of the mottos at Cherokee Valley Course and Club north of Greenville is “expect the unexpected.” From music wafting across the practice range, Sun Mountain Finn Cycles for rent at the golf shop and an array of local craft beers on tap, this is golf’s future new norm.
Cherokee Valley is also one of Upstate South Carolina’s only true stay-and-play destinations. Cottages conveniently situated across from the event center are ideal (and affordable) for golf packages starting at $130 per golfer (not including tax) during the shoulder season. The mountain-style layout is widely regarded at one of P.B. Dye’s best designs. And golfers expecting dormant Bermuda grass will be pleasantly surprised to find a lush winter grass overseed.
A new, full-service restaurant, CORE 450, is opening in the spring of 2020 featuring a Blue Ridge Mountain theme and diverse menu ranging from small plates and pizza to five course meals. Just 30 minutes from Greenville and 45 minutes from Asheville, N.C., Cherokee Valley is an ideal basecamp for exploring the Western Carolinas.
Sea Pines Country Club (Hilton Head) – The Carolinas are inarguably the greatest two-state golf region in the U.S. But why settle for annual golf trips to the land of sweet tea, BBQ and Lowcountry boils when you could live here year-round? Sea Pines Country Club is a private, invitation only enclave situated just behind the gates of famed Sea Pines Plantation. Members are not required to live “inside the gates,” so the club is perfect for those relocating to Hilton Head or Bluffton who want freedom of residential choice.
A two-month “Preview Trial Membership” invitation is being offered through Dec. 31, highlighted by the Full Use Heritage Membership including access to the 18-hole Arnold Palmer designed signature course. Updated by local architect Clyde Johnston in 2001, the “Club Course” is often compared favorably to neighboring Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort, home of the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage.
The Preview Trial Membership also features a complimentary 30-minute golf lesson, five free fitness classes, a personal training session, $30 off a massage and a lunch certificate for two at the Club Course Café. For more info on pricing, email Nic Booth, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barefoot Resort and Golf (Myrtle Beach) – Barefoot Resort in the heart of the Grand Strand is home to four signature courses from Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Greg Norman and Davis Love III. True to its maker’s maverick personality, the Dye Course does its own thing: it is the only semi-private venue of the four and hosts the wildly popular Hootie and the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Tournament, annually.
There is plenty of variety among the quartet. The Norman Course features seven holes along the Intracoastal Waterway. The Love Course incorporates the recreated ruins of an old plantation home along holes 3 through 7.
Lined with live oaks and Carolina pines, the Fazio Course is the most traditional “Lowcountry” layout. Barefoot Resort was built with the proverbial large golf group in mind, and villas are offered in two-, three- or four-bedroom varieties on the golf courses or at the Yacht Club. Myrtle Beach is the birthplace of the golf package, and there is no shortage of stay-and-play options at Barefoot Resort.
What To Wear
When in the Carolinas, do as the Carolinians do. Many golfers don’t realize that two of the game’s biggest apparel brands, Peter Millar and Southern Tide, are headquartered in Raleigh and Greenville, S.C., respectively.
Peter Millar’s All-Day Reversible Vest is one of my go-to outerwear pieces in the late fall. The two-way zip front closure pulls the two sides together seamlessly. The windproof, water resistant shell side features a timeless diamond quilt pattern. The reverse side is cuddle-soft microfleece for optimal warmth.
Don’t get me wrong, I love – and have – several pairs of Peter Millar pants. But for playing on and off the course, Southern Tide’s Intercoastal Performance Pant is hard to beat. The nylon-stretch fabric is breathable, flexible and moisture-wicking. And if you want to roll into the Carolinas flaunting your school pride, Southern Tide has an diverse and robust line of collegiate tailgate apparel.