10 Toughest Holes in New Hanover County

BY Megan Shepherd

The greater Wilmington area is home to some of the finest golf courses in the nation — including classic Don Ross designs as well as the latest designs by Thomas Fazio — and is home to a number of renowned tournaments both past and present. The Azalea Open was held here from 1948-71 at the Cape Fear Country Club and the Landfall Tradition a collegiate golf tournament showcasing the best teams in the country continues to be a top-drawer event.

How many of our local courses have you challenged? How many have you beaten? How many beat you? We’re throwing down the golfing gauntlet. Area pros and avid amateurs share their views on the toughest holes in town and graciously give us advice on how to play them.

Tee it up friends. See you on the green.

Cape Fear Country Club

18 holes over 6 856 yards with a par of 72

Toughest Hole: #4

The Cape Fear course is like a classic piece of music. You never get tired of it ” says Wilmington golfer Walker Taylor IV. The historic local course is 111 years old and is one of only two Donald Ross-designed courses in Wilmington.

“In my opinion our fourth hole is the longest and hardest hole ” says Joey Hines director of golf at the Cape Fear Country Club. The fourth hole is a par 4 with a dogleg right and a bunker on the right side. The championship tee is 462 yards from the green and the golfer is usually playing into prevailing winds. But don’t despair; Hines has some tips on how to play this uncooperative hole. “Mentally play the hole as a par 5 so you don’t feel so bad if it takes five shots ” he says “and then if you make it in four you’ll feel good. Also the second shot is a long shot over water to the green. I suggest taking a shorter club laying up the ball to the edge of the water and then taking a third shot over the water.”

The Cape Fear Country Club is a private club. For more information call (910) 762-4652.

Country Club of Landfall

Pete Dye Course:
18 holes over 6 997 yards with a par of 72
Toughest Hole: #3

Jack Nicklaus Course:
27 holes over 10 583 yards
Toughest Hole: #8 Ocean #7 Marsh

The Country Club of Landfall contains two courses the 18-hole Pete Dye-designed course that opened in 1987 and the 27-hole Jack Nicklaus course that opened with 18 holes in 1990 with nine holes added in 2001. Both are challenging well-maintained courses with scenic locations along the Intracoastal Waterway. The Pete Dye course has been the site of an NCAA Women’s Collegiate Championship and the Jack Nicklaus course is home to the annual Landfall Tradition a collegiate golf tournament featuring the best golf teams from across the country.

“The Pete Dye course is a great course. I would say the most difficult hole would have to be number three ” says Assistant Golf Pro Tyler Graham. “It’s a long par 4 with bunkers on both sides and a dogleg left ” he says. “You want to draw your tee ball and gauge your approach shots. Curve it one way and then curve it the other way. Drive through the center fairway and mid-iron into the green.”

The Jack Nicklaus course is the more difficult of the two mainly because of the many carries over marsh and water. The Nicklaus course is comprised of three separate nines named respectively Ocean Marsh and Pines. Cynthia Ho UNCW women’s golf coach notes that the two most intimidating holes for women — especially in the wind — are 8 Ocean and 7 Marsh. “They’re both shorter par 4s but it isn’t the length that makes them difficult. They both have island greens which require an accurate second shot ” says Ho. Her team doesn’t play from the women’s tees they play from the men’s tees and even from the back tees on some holes. “These two holes on any given day can be a challenge ” Ho says “but under tournament conditions when the pressure is really on those island greens seem even smaller.”

The Country Club of Landfall is a private club. For more information call (910) 256-8411.

Eagle Point Golf Club

18 holes over 7 170 yards with a par of 72

Toughest Hole: #18

Billy Anderson director of golf at Eagle Point Golf Club since its inception in 2000 maintains that the entire Thomas Fazio-designed course is difficult. In fact this year Golf Digest named Eagle Point the fifth best golf course in North Carolina. The course has 18 holes and a 9-hole short course. Because of its location right on the Intracoastal Waterway there are always 10- to 15-mile per hour winds on the course. “When the wind turns on it’s scary ” Anderson says.

“The toughest and best hole in town by far is the 18th hole at Eagle Point ” says John Blackwell an avid Wilmington golfer. “It’s also the prettiest hole in town.” Blackwell notes that this long par 5 demands three excellent shots and that there is no room for error. “You can’t lay up to the left or right because the green is protected by water. And the green curves from left to right making for a difficult third shot ” says Blackwell. Good luck golfers.

Eagle Point Golf Club is open to members only. For more information call  910-686-4653.

Wilmington Municipal Golf Course

18 holes over 6 564 yards with a par of 71

Toughest Hole: #3

The Wilmington Municipal Golf Course or “Muni ” the only public golf course in Wilmington is also one of the best courses in town. “This is one of the finest municipal courses you will find anywhere ” says Hunter Galloway interim general manager. This classic Donald Ross-designed course has undergone extensive renovations in recent years to return it to its original state.

It has very small greens and some tough bunkers. “People are always getting stuck because we have a bunch of bunkers with high faces ” says Galloway.

Many golfers agree that the 3rd hole is the most difficult hole at the Muni. It’s a 430-yard par 4 with a dogleg right — and the green is on an uphill slope. “If you hit it too long the ball lands in the gully behind the green. Your best bet is to hit a long iron or a fairway wood ” Galloway cautions.

Ron Kennedy an avid Wilmington golfer agrees that the 3rd hole is the toughest because of the uphill slope and the difficulty in gauging the distance to the green. “I play it pretty poorly ” says Kennedy ruefully. He recommends hitting the ball just short of the green. Wilmingtonian Mike Sellers who grew up playing at the Muni also concedes that the 3rd hole has his number. He says it’s one of the most difficult holes in town and agrees with the general consensus — hit it short of the green.

The Wilmington Municipal Golf Course is a public course. For more information call
(910) 791-0558.

Porters Neck Country Club

18 holes over 7 112 yards with a par of 72

Toughest Hole: #13

Porters Neck Plantation and Country Club’s golf course has been named the “No. 1 Coastal Course” in North Carolina by Golf Digest. This Thomas Fazio-designed course is located right off the Intracoastal Waterway so the wind definitely kicks up its heels challenging the amateur and pro golfer alike.

“The hardest hole for the average golfer would have to be the 7th. It’s a par 4 hole 467-yards long long long. It’s a straightaway playing into the prevailing winds ” says Robert Loper head golf professional at Porters Neck Country Club. “People have difficulty getting the ball onto the green. Golfers definitely remember this hole when they come out to play again.” Loper emphasizes that the 13th is a simple hole with no tricks it’s just long. He recommends hitting a deep drive as your only chance of hitting onto the green in two shots. He also suggests playing the 13th as a three-shot hole. The green has a lot of undulations so it’s pretty tough to put the ball in the hole.

There’s no surefire way of getting past this one. “People think they’ve mastered it but then they play it again and find out it’s mastered them ” says Loper.

The club is member-owned but open to the public as well. For more information contact Porters Neck Country Club at (910) 686-1177.

Pine Valley Country Club

18 holes over 6 472 yards with a par of 72

Toughest Hole: #13

Though Pine Valley Country Club golf course sits right in the middle of Wilmington head golf professional John Carney jokes that many people don’t know where it is. The course opened in 1955 and has great greens all year.

In terms of difficulty Carney says that the 13th hole is definitely one of the toughest. It’s a par 4 385-yard nightmare from the back tee. “The hole isn’t uphill but it plays uphill and it plays long. You really have to drive the ball off of the tee ” says Carney. To make things interesting a creek runs right across the fairway and as a finishing touch the 13th has a really small green that slants from the front to the back with a bunker on the left side.

“The key to playing this hole is hitting the fairway off the tee. Bring an extra club for your second shot because you are playing into the wind — if you think you’re supposed to hit a 7-iron hit a 6-iron instead — and again it’s a seemingly uphill shot. When you hit the ball keep it short of the hole and if you miss the hole try to miss it to the right so you don’t land in the bunker ” says Carney. No problem.

Pine Valley is a private golf course that does accept new members. For more information call (910) 791-3971.

Echo Farms Golf and Country Club

18 holes over 6 724 yards with a par of 72

Toughest Hole: #7

cho Farms Golf and Country Club is a traditional “North Carolina-style” course home to pine trees and well-placed fairway bunkers. It’s considered one of the widest courses in the area but also one of the hardest courses because of the forced lay-ups and numerous bunkers.

“The 7th hole is by far the most difficult ” says David Unsicker director of golf. “It’s a par 4 and from the back tee it’s 414 yards. Players need to lay up off the tee between two bunkers one to the right and one to the left which leaves a long shot to the green. The green is diagonal in shape and difficult to get the ball on and then hard to keep it there.” Unsicker suggests that golfers change their mentality when approaching this difficult course. “A par 5 is a good score even if it is a par 4 ” he says laughing.

Echo Farms Golf and Country Club is a semiprivate club with memberships available and public availability. For more information call (910) 791-9318.

Beau Rivage Resort & Golf Club

18 holes over 6 709 yards with a par of 72

Toughest Hole: #4

As you might expect J. Banks Guyton the head golf professional at Beau Rivage Resort & Golf Club and an active PGA player has nothing but good things to say about Beau Rivage. “We receive a lot of compliments on the conditions of our fairways greens and traps. Our par 3s are very demanding. Our par 5s are very good — it takes three good shots to get the ball on the green.”

Of that certain special “uh-oh hole ” Guyton says “Our most challenging hole is number four. It’s a par 3 with all the carry over water. From the championship blue tee it’s a 198-yard carry; from the regular tee it’s a 184-yard carry. We have a lot of people that come out and play the hole and hit two or three balls in the water but they just keep trying emptying their bags trying to make it over the water. All caliber players love the fourth hole. Beau Rivage is challenging to any player regardless of handicaps.”

Beau Rivage is a semiprivate club accepting new members and public play. For more information contact Beau Rivage Resort & Golf Club at 1-800-628-7080.

The Cape Golf & Racquet Club

18 holes over 6 790 yards with a par of 72

Toughest Hole: #13

Wind water and even alligators play a big role in The Cape Golf & Racquet Club’s degree of difficulty. Water features come into play on nearly every hole and the wind is always blowing. “Our course is challenging ” says Dan Fleming the golf club manager. “The most difficult hole is the 13th hole played from the tips. It’s a 224-yard par 3 and just about all of that is over water.” Fleming also notes that accomplished golfers who play the back tee on the 13th should hit a shot that can carry the ball 215 yards.

Sometimes professional golfers choose not to play the 13th from the tips. “When the NGA Hooters Tour was held here they opted to play the forward tees not the back ” says Fleming. The wind he says makes it incredibly difficult even for professionals. On the 13th hole the golfer plays into prevailing winds which Fleming says keep the course from getting monotonous. Head golf professional Travis Hodges says “If the wind is blowing out of the east at all because of the way the hole is set facing back toward the ocean the wind blows down the chute through 14 into your tee shot on 13.”

And as if the wind weren’t enough of a challenge Hodges adds that “You can just about find an alligator in every pond we have.” Indeed.

The Cape is a semiprivate club offering memberships as well as public play. For more information call The Cape at (910) 799-0132.