After two fast-growth years spurred in a perverse way by the pandemic, interest in golf calmed down a bit last year. Nationally, the number of rounds played in the United
States declined about 3% last year, according to preliminary estimates
by the National Golf Foundation.
That follows a 14% spike in 2020 and 5% growth in 2021, when the
pandemic encouraged more outdoor activity, industry officials say.
Still, courses remain packed and waiting lists for many clubs continue to lengthen as North Carolina’s population growth ranks among the nation’s leaders. And the North Carolina Golf Panel is pleased to share its 28th annual ranking of the state’s best courses. The panel consists of about 175 business executives, golf industry members and media members who share a love of golf and the promotion of the sport.
Golf touches nearly every county in the state, generating $2.3 billion in direct spending and adding $4.2 billion to the state’s economy, according to state figures. The 520 courses from Murphy to Manteo, along with associated industries, contribute 53,000 jobs and total wages of $1.3 billion.
There were limited changes in this year’s rankings. Notably, Winston-Salem’s Old Town Club moved up four spots, landing in eighth. The Country Club of North Carolina’s Cardinal course (Pinehurst) also gained four notches, ranking 13th. Porters Neck Country Club
(Wilmington) ranked 64th, up from 75th. Carolina Country Club (Raleigh), which is new to the list this year, was rated 69th.
Pinehurst Resort made some big news by breaking ground on its 10th course, a Tom Doak-designed layout expected to open in 2024. Doak designed six of the world’s 100 top courses as rated by Golf Magazine in 2021, including Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Oregon.
The new course in Moore County will open in time for the U.S. Open scheduled for Pinehurst No. 2 in June 2024. That course topped the panel’s rankings again, as it has for 28 years.
While April focuses golfers’ attention on the Masters, Pinehurst Resort and the USGA are looking ahead to hosting the U.S. Open from June 13-16, 2024.
Golf’s “national championship” will mark Pinehurst’s first as an USGA-designated “Anchor Site,” with the famed No. 2 course scheduled to also host the tournament in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047. Over this 25-year period, the collective events are projected to generate more than $2 billion in economic activity for the Sandhills region and North Carolina.
The 2024 event has experienced record-level hospitality sales, with limited remaining inventory, Pinehurst officials say.
“We can’t wait to welcome and host our corporate partners from throughout the state for what’s sure to be an epic championship week,” Pinehurst Resort President Tom Pashley says.
Lots of change is occurring at Pinehurst, including next spring’s scheduled opening of Pinehurst Resort’s 10th course and the opening of USGA’s second headquarters, called Golf House Pinehurst.
Located four miles south of the main resort clubhouse in Aberdeen, Pinehurst’s new course traverses dunes and natural ridgelines while meandering through longleaf pines, streams and ponds.
“The opening of the 10th course, Golf House Pinehurst and the renovations to the Carolina Hotel will further enhance the overall experience at the 2024 U.S. Open,” says Eric Kuester, the resort’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Never before have we been able to offer our corporate friends the opportunity to enjoy elevated on-course views of championship play on No. 2.”
The 2024 U.S. Open will be Pinehurst Resort’s fourth, and first since 2014, and the 11th USGA championship hosted there. ■
REGIONAL RANKINGS FOR 2023
1. Grandfather Golf and Country Club, Linville
2. Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club, Cashiers
3. Elk River Club, Banner Elk
4. Wade Hampton Country Club, Cashiers
5. Rock Barn Country Club (Jones), Conover
6. Biltmore Forest Country Club, Asheville
7. Champion Hills Club, Hendersonville
8. Linville Golf Club, Linville
9. Balsam Mountain Preserve, Sylva
10. Country Club of Asheville, Asheville
1. Old Town Club, Winston-Salem
2. Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro
3. Old North State Club, New London
4. Forsyth Country Club, Winston-Salem
5. Starmount Forest Country Club, Greensboro
6. High Point Country Club (Willow Creek), High Point
7. Bryan Park (Champions), Browns Summit
8. Greensboro Country Club (Farm), Greensboro
9. Grandover Resort (East), Greensboro
10. The Cardinal by Pete Dye, Greensboro
1. Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst
2. The Country Club of North Carolina (Dogwood), Pinehurst
3. Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Southern Pines
4. Pinehurst No. 4, Pinehurst
5. Pinehurst No. 8, Pinehurst
6. The Country Club of North Carolina (Cardinal), Pinehurst
7. Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club, Southern Pines
8. Dormie Club, West End
9. Forest Creek Golf Club (South), Pinehurst
10. Pinehurst No. 9, Pinehurst
1. Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte
2. Charlotte Country Club, Charlotte
3. The Club at Longview, Waxhaw
4. Myers Park Country Club, Charlotte
5. Trump National Golf Club, Mooresvillez
6. Gaston Country Club, Gastonia
7. Ballantyne Country Club, Charlotte
8. Cedarwood Country Club, Charlotte
9. The Club at Irish Creek, Kannapolis
10. River Run Country Club, Davidson
1. Old Chatham Golf Club, Durham
2. Raleigh Country Club, Raleigh
3. MacGregor Downs Country Club, Cary
4. Governors Club, Chapel Hill
5. Prestonwood Country Club (Highlands), Cary
6. Treyburn Country Club, Durham
7. The Hasentree Club, Wake Forest
8. Finley Golf Club, Chapel Hill
9. Lonnie Poole Golf Club, Raleigh
10. Duke University Golf Club, Durham
1. River Landing (River), Wallace
2. River Landing (Landing), Wallace
3. Occano, Merry Hill
4. Benvenue Country Club, Rocky Mount
5. Brook Valley Country Club, Greenville
6. Wilson Country Club, Wilson
7. Cutter Creek Golf Club, Snow Hill
8. Greenville Country Club, Greenville
9. Carolina Colours Golf Club, New Bern
10. Walnut Creek Country Club, Goldsboro
1. Cape Fear Country Club, Wilmington
2. Eagle Point Golf Club, Wilmington
3. Country Club of Landfall (Dye), Wilmington
4. Country Club of Landfall (Nicklaus), Wilmington
5. Bald Head Golf Club, Bald Head Island
6. The Currituck Club, Corolla
7. Porters Neck Country Club, Wilmington
8. Leopard’s Chase, Sunset Beach
9. Crow Creek Golf Club, Calabash
10. Tiger’s Eye, Sunset Beach