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North Carolina Has Great Courses!

by Scott A. Sumner
   When you love playing golf, one of the best things about the game is being able to play different courses that both challenge your abilities and provide a great setting to enjoy.  North Carolina was always a place I wanted to go to, based on their reputation as a great golf destination.  We have all heard about Myrtle Beach, South Carolina but the number of great golf courses in North Carolina is amazing.  In fact there are over 600 golf courses in North Carolina including some of the best in the world.  The diversity of great golf challenges is fantastic ranging from old traditional layouts to brand new courses set in  large housing developments.
     Our trip to North Carolina was called the North Carolina Media Challenge Cup and included 16 media members and others who joined us along the way.  The media included 6 Canadians, 6 Americans, 2 Germans and 2 Great Britians.  We formed two teams with the Canadians and Germans challenging the US and Great Britain media.  Immediately our Canadian team was termed the Axis of Evil given our lack of participation in the Iraq war; all in a very friendly competitive spirit.  The media members were all interesting people and we had a great time together during our well organized week of golfing 6 different courses, travelling from Raleigh to Winston Salem and finally, Greensboro.
   My trip began with an early Air Canada flight to Toronto and then easy connecting flights on US AIR to Pittsburgh and then Raleigh.  The air service was great and we arrived in Raleigh to our large 50 passenger bus which would be our office away from home for the week.  Our first stop was our hotel and a great meal at the Angus Barn restaurant in Raleigh which is rated one of the best restaurants in the US.  Their speciality is beef and they also have a fabulous wine collection of over 25,000 bottles with a multi-million dollar value.  The food was my favourute on the trip included two fabulous deserts and a great prime rib dinner with samplings of many of the other specialities of Angus Barn.
     The people of North Carolina are very friendly and during the entire week I always felt welcome, greeted with kindness and respect.  This must be the old fashioned southern hospitality you often hear about.  We had a  good chance to meet our fellow media types many of whom spoke multiple launguages including Arabic, Spanish, German ,French, etc.  It is interesting in itself to hear about their home cities which ranged from Munich, London, Kent, New York, Detroit, New Haven, Minneapolis, Ottawa, Hamilton and so on.
   Our first course was a fabulous old design called Mid Pines, a Donald Ross Classic design.  This course is traditional golf at its best and included such attractive features as pine needles as rough.  I really enjoyed this course which put a premium on driving accuracy.  My new Taylor Made 580 series driver helped me keep the ball in play and shoot an opening 82, a good start to North Carolina golfing, and made some points for our team. 

   Out next golf destination was Heritage Golf Course in Wake Forest, N.C.  This new design by young up and coming architect Bob Moore, who played golf with us that day, has been rated the best new golf course in North Carolina.  From the black tees it measured 6929 yards and had very fast greens, much faster than Mid Pines.  The course is surrounded by many new homes as part of a major new development.  It was very fun to play and placed a premium on getting your ball in the right places to score well.  It was great to be able to talk to the course architect after the round.  We the Canadian Team, were gaining a great lead in our challenge cup over our American/Great Britain opponents.
   The third golf stop was the classic Duke University Golf Course originally designed by Robert Trent Jones and redesigned by Rees Jones.  Originally opened in 1957 this course is right on the campus of the ivy league school, Duke University.  Duke has a famed golf team that plays at the highest level of American collegiate golf.  This course made me think of Augusta National as it was a beautiful design with tall trees lining each fairway.  It was in beautiful shape and was like being in a seperate world  in a large urban setting.  The course plays 7045 yards from the devil tees.  Adjacent to the course is a large hotel overlooking the layout right on the campus of Duke.  Its there for visiting family members of the students and is the club house as well.  If you want to attend Duke yearly tuition is $40,000 US, which means a golf scholarship would be helpful.
   A real treat was our visit and tour of Pinehurst, a golf mecca in the US with a world reputation.  Pinehurst No 2. is part of a 8 course resort with multiple hotel accomadations and a luxurious spa.  Pinehurst No 2 is best known for Payne Stewats US Open win in 1999, his last before his untimely death in a plane crash. Pinehurst is consistently ranked as a top 10 course in the world and our tour with their marketing director showed us what a championship set up can be like.  You can play Pinehurst for $325.00 US, which is close to the highest green fees you can pay on a public course.  (Pebble Beach is $350.00.)  Our media group had a unique putting challenge put on by the Pinehurst pros.
   My favorite course was our last in Greensboro, Bryan Park.  This 36 hole facility includes the Championship layout which we played.  The 7155 yard track from the blue tees was designed by Rees Jones and is a spectacular golf course.  Many of the holes are on water and with sail boats in the back drop, provided a spectacular setting.  This course is one you really must play when you get to North Carolina.  It is beautifully conditioned and provides a great test of golf.
   Our last night in Greensboro was special as we stayed at the five star O Henry Hotel.  This 6 storey structure has beautifully appointed rooms including a unique large bathroom area.  The staff went all out in providing a fabulous meal for our final night in North Carolina.  The results of our media Challenge Cup gave the American/Great Britain team a 1 point edge over our Canadian/German team due to great play by some of the American team.  Anthony from Hartford played to his 5 handicap, and we will have to be ready to take up the challenge again next year.
   North Carolina is a great place to visit and play golf.  This modern, high tech part of America is an example of what a well planned modern group of cities can be . The glistening, large head office buildings seen from the freeways connecting the cities show the prosperity of the area, The weather is a big draw for people as it was in the mid 80s F during our trip and yet the summer months are not unbearable as they might be farther South.  It snowed only two days last winter and golf is truly an all year round activity.  You can leave your home in Thunder Bay at 7:30 am and be golfing that day at a great course.  All of our courses were quite reasonable to play ranging from $30 to $ 50 dollars US.  Be sure to plan your next golf vacation to North Carolina.

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