The 20 best golf courses in North Carolina (2022/2023)

Pinehurst No. 2

Pinehurst No. 2 is a masterpiece of brilliant — and accessible — golf.

Joann Dost

As part of GOLF’s course rating process for 2022-23, our fleet of 100-plus expert panelists identified the best golf courses in North Carolina. Browse the links below to check out all of our course rankings, or scroll down to see the best courses in North Carolina.

GOLF’s other course rankings: Top 100 Courses in the World | Top 100 Courses in the U.S. | Top 100 Courses You Can Play | Top 100 Value Courses in the U.S. | America’s Best Municipal Courses | The 100 Best Short Courses in the World

1 = Top 100 Course in the U.S.
P = Public/Resort Course
V = Top 100 Value Course in the U.S.
M = Top 30 Municipal Course in the U.S.

Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.

The best golf courses in North Carolina (2022/2023)

1. Pinehurst No. 2 (Pinehurst) [1, P]

Donald Ross’s chef d’oeuvre rolls spaciously through tall longleaf pines in the Carolina Sandhills with holes culminating with legendary inverted-saucer greens. For the 2014 U.S. Open, a Coore-Crenshaw restoration brought back the tawny-edged fairways and native areas last seen in the 1940s. Even with no rough, the runner-up could muster only one under par over four rounds. After the Women’s U.S. Open was played the following week, a powerful message had been broadcast around the world from the home of American golf about the virtues of width, short grass and great greens. This is one of a handful of courses that presents resort guests with a fun test on which they won’t lose a single ball, and a week later can be ready to host a U.S. Open. That’s the flexibility of short grass — and Ross’s design genius. 

2. Old Town (Winston-Salem) [1]

With sweeping, cross-course vistas punctuated by tawny native grasses and an exemplary routing that twists around miles of creek beds, side-slopes and artistic bunkering, Old Town’s restoration portrays the enduring spirit of classic golf architecture. Perry Maxwell built this inspired North Carolina layout on a former R.J. Reynolds horsefarm. The manner by which Maxwell draped the fairways across the rolling landscape resulted in few level lies. No wonder former Demon Deacon Lanny Wadkins called it the best course for training serious young players. Wake Forest’s golf teams practice at Old Town, which gives them a huge home-field advantage as few collegiate golfers are accustomed to putting on undulating Maxwell greens or consistently hitting approach shots from uneven stances. The club’s longtime green chair analyzes every minute detail of the design during his annual walks around the property with former Wake grad, Bill Coore.

3. Wade Hampton (Cashiers) [1]

Tom Fazio has a well-established knack for building waterfalls. But at this exclusive redoubt, threaded through the folds of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he didn’t have to. Take the par-3 third hole, which plays through a valley, up a gentle rise, to a large green backed by a steep rock face where a natural cascade spills down it. It’s a setting worthy of a national park, and one of countless photo-ready moments on a course that unspools gracefully at modest elevation, ornamented by creeks and ponds. Fazio did not forgo earth-moving altogether. But the beauty of his work here is the deference he showed to the grandeur of the land.

4. Pinehurst No. 4 (Pinehurst) [1, P]

Renovating a course that rubs up against Pinehurst No. 2 is a brutal assignment because comparisons are inevitable. So, what did Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner do in 2017 when the task fell to them? First, they made sure that the course looked like it belonged on the same large swath of property as Pinehurst No. 2. Extensive work went into reconnecting the course to the ground and wiping away extraneous movement that had been added over the decades since Ross’s passing. Second, they studiously built a set of greens that in no way mimic No. 2’s but rather stand on their own, diverse merit. Pinehurst No. 4 features much more land movement than Pinehurst No. 2 and Hanse Design captured it to perfection in the stretch from 4 to 12. The home hole, with its call for a draw off the tee and a fade into the green, is a fitting conclusion and the iconic Pinehurst clubhouse in the background doesn’t hurt either.

5. Tobacco Road (Samford) [P]

6. Quail Hollow (Charlotte)

7. Mid Pines (Southern Pines) [P]

8. Southern Pines (Southern Pines) [P]

9. Pine Needles (Southern Pines) [P]

10. Roaring Gap (Roaring Gap)

11. Dormie Club (West End)

12. Charlotte (Charlotte)

13. Grandfather (Linville)

14. Biltmore Forest (Asheville)

15. Diamond Creek (Banner Elk)

16. Eagle Point (Wilmington)

17. Carolina GC (Charlotte)

18. CC of North Carolina — Dogwood Course (Pinehurst)

19. Linville (Linville)

20. Sedgefield (Guilford County)

How we rank our courses

For GOLF’s course rankings lists, each panelist is provided a list of hundreds of courses and “buckets,” or groupings. If they believe the course to be among the best in its category (World, U.S. Value, etc.), they check the corresponding box to place it in a specific bucket. Panelists are also free to write in courses they felt should have been included on the ballot. Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, we divide its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly.

The key to the process is the experience and expertise of our panel. Hailing from 15 nations and all the worldwide golf meccas, each of our 115 handpicked panelists has a keen eye for architecture, both regionally and globally. Many of our panelists have played more than 1,000 courses in 20-plus countries.

Because we don’t prescribe a set method to assess courses as other ranks do, no one opinion carries the day — our rank is a democracy. Some panelists believe that enjoyment is the ultimate goal, and thus prioritize design attributes such as width and playing angles, while frowning on upon having to constantly hunt for balls in thick rough. Other panelists value challenge and the demands of hitting every club in the bag. Still others consider a course’s surroundings and overall environment of paramount importance, thereby emphasizing the setting and naturalness of the course. In the end, allowing raters to freely express their tastes is what produces the desired eclecticism in our Top 100 lists.

Panelist integrity is vital. Voters with any ties or associations to eligible courses must flag such conflicts. Panelists also know not to let the quality of their play influence their ballot — same for a luxe experience or clubhouse. While opulence may make for a more a memorable outing, it’s not what GOLF’s course lists are about. Our focus is on design and architecture. We study the course, not the trappings around it.

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