Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in North Carolina

If you play golf, you surely already know about Pinehurst No. 2. The famed Donald Ross design has hosted three U.S. Opens and is on the schedule to host four more of the national championships, including in 2024.

Golfweek’s Best ranks Pinehurst No. 2 as the top public-access layout in North Carolina and the 16th-best classic course in the U.S. The layout was restored to its dry and bouncy Sandhills glory by the design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw a little over a decade ago, with waste areas replacing acres of rough grass – in its appearance, conditioning and playability, the restored No. 2 would be much more recognizable to Ross, who lived alongside the third fairway.

And golfers don’t have to drive far – if at all – to tee it up at eight more of the top 15 Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in North Carolina.

Pinehurst No. 4

Pinehurst No. 4 is a 2-minute stroll from the first tee of No. 2, and it ranks as the second-best public-access layout in the Tar Heel State and ties for No. 89 among all modern courses in the U.S. Redesigned by Gil Hanse in 2018, No. 4 features what the architect described as a whole new course playing through familiar corridors. Alongside the No. 2 course, No. 4 has become a can’t-miss requisite for golfers staying at Pinehurst Resort.

With all its full-size courses named by number, Pinehurst Resort also offers No. 8, a Tom Fazio design just a short drive from the main resort property that ranks as the seventh-best public-access course in the state. The resort’s No. 9 course also makes that list of Best Courses You Can Play, checking in as the 12th-best in the state, and the No. 7 course reaches the 13th spot on that rankings list.

Just a 10-minute drive from Pinehurst Resort in Southern Pines sits a trio of recently restored Ross courses: ­Mid Pines, Pine Needles and Southern Pines, each reworked by Kyle Franz and now operated as sister properties under the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club umbrella.

Mid Pines

Mid Pines ranks the highest among them, climbing to No. 3 among the state’s public-access courses and tying for No. 117 among classic layouts in the U.S. This easy-to-love layout is part of distinctly old-school vibe for the whole property, which includes a century-old Georgian-style hotel. A round at Mid Pines is a great introduction to Ross architecture, transporting players to decades long gone in which strategy and clever play outweighed brute strength.

Just across the street from Mid Pines is Pine Needles, site of the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open won by Minjee Lee and No. 4 among Golfweek’s Best public-access layouts in North Carolina. With its own lodging and a golf academy, the course at Pine Needles features a little more polish than does Mid Pines, but also without any hint of stuffiness. On slightly more rolling ground than Mid Pines, Pine Needles is a beautiful stroll featuring incredible Ross greens.

Not far across across town is Southern Pines Golf Club, another Ross creation operated by Pine Needles and recently restored by Franz. Kelly Miller, the president of Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club who oversaw the purchase of Southern Pines in 2020, said this course might feature the best golfing terrain in the Sandhills region, and that’s saying a lot for the man whose family co-owns Mid Pines and Pine Needles. Southern Pines ranks No. 15 on Golfweek’s Best list of public-access layouts in the state, but expect it to climb as course raters continue to visit after the restoration.

Tobacco Road

And not to be missed in the general Pinehurst area is Tobacco Road just a half-hour’s drive north in Sanford. Designed by Mike Strantz, this layout ranks No. 6 among public-access offerings in the state and is unlike anything else. Blind shots, heroic opportunities, sometimes crazy shaping – Tobacco Road has earned a hardcore following among golf architecture fans who desire a difference.

North Carolina has no shortage of private layouts, either, with Wade Hampton Club in Cashiers topping the Golfweek’s Best list for the state. Built by Fazio and opened in 1987, this mountain layout ties for No. 7 among all modern courses in the U.S.

Check out all the other Golfweek’s Best public-access and private layouts in North Carolina below.