Carolinas golf guide: 5 top golf resorts you need on your radar

the ocean course at kiawah island

Pete Dye's Ocean Course is the centerpiece of Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

Gary Kellner/PGA of America

If, like James Taylor, you’ve gone to Carolina in your mind, that’s understandable. A lot of our thoughts are tilting in that direction with the U.S. Open on tap next week. As most fans know, the championship will be held at Pinehurst No. 2, the centerpiece of an eponymous resort in a region rich with golf destinations.

But while most people know of Pinehurst Resort, where the world’s best prepare to tee it up, here are five other great options in the Carolinas — North and South — you should have on your radar.

Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., has a rich tradition.
Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., has a rich tradition. Courtesy Photo

Omni Grove Park Inn

Location: Asheville, N.C. / Learn more or book here

Tucked into the folds of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the historic destination, which has welcomed travelers for more than 100 years, is an enchanting mix of old and new. The original hotel is still standing, and no wonder: its five-foot thick exterior walls were fashioned, throwback-style, out of granite boulders. But two modern wings have since been added, and a stunning subterranean spa underpins it all. Its golf, too, balances past and present, in the form of a Donald Ross design, which is impeccably conditioned, brims with strategic options and is unapologetic in its emphasis on fun.

kiawah island
Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course hosted the PGA Championship in 2021. Getty Images

Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Location: Kiawah Island, S.C. / Learn more or book here

The Lowcountry property that staged “the War by the Shore” (aka the 1991 Ryder Cup) is the prettiest battleground you’ll ever see, its acreage fringed by Palmetto trees, its air kissed by coastal mist and oozing with atmospheric charm. The oceanfront Sanctuary Hotel anchors five 18-holers, most notably Pete Dye’s esteemed Ocean Course. The others are an enticing mix of designs by Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player — all of which have grown more popular in recent years thanks to a slate of renovations and improvements.

The 18th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links.
The lighthouse behind the 18th hole at Harbour Town is one of the game’s most recognizable sights. Sea Pines Resort

Sea Pines Resort

Location: Hilton Head, S.C. / Learn more or book here

Even if you’ve never been there, you recognize the red-and-white striped lighthouse, a charming, iconic landmark behind the 18th green of Harbour Town Golf Links, longtime stop on the PGA Tour. A Pete Dye-Jack Nicklaus collaboration, Harbour Town is the crown jewel of a relaxed but refined resort that is also home to two other entertaining tracks — Heron Point (Dye) and Atlantic Dunes (Davis Love III).

The 14th hole at Mid Pines
A view of the 14th hole at Mid-Pines at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. Courtesy Photo

Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club

Location: Southern Pines, N.C. / Learn more or book here

What the Vatican is to Michelangelo, the sandhills region is to Donald Ross: a backdrop for many of his classic works. Just down the road from Pinehurst, Pine Needles beckons with a pair of first-rate Rosses, Pine Needles and Mid-Pines, the latter being a multiple-time U.S. Women’s Open host. In recent years, Kyle Franz has restored both courses, bringing forth their Golden Age features on rollicking land where turf blends naturally into sandy wastes. Accommodations, like the courses, are rustic, stripped of fancy extras in a way that further spotlights the world-class golf.

The Dye course at Barefoot Resort
The Dye course at Barefoot Resort & Golf in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Golf Tourism Solutions

Barefoot Resort & Golf

Location: Myrtle Beach, S.C. / Learn more or book here

The Grand Strand is a smorgasbord of golf, but grazing the options involves a lot of driving, unless you opt to bunk down and binge in one place. If that’s your preference, it’s hard to beat Barefoot, an expansive property with four courses, each of which named for its big-name designer: Dye, Fazio, Love and Norman. There is, in other words, something here for every taste, with great package deals to sweeten the appeal for a buddies’ trip.

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.