When renowned course architect Ellis Maples first laid eyes on the rolling expanse of land in the Sandhills, he knew he had found the venue for his next course. Whispering Woods Golf Club encompasses both gentle slopes and steeper hills, offering a dynamic canvas atop which Maples designed holes with stark elevation changes. Today, golfers encounter a diverse layout that showcases anything from treacherously undulating bentgrass greens to a small roller coaster for bored caddies to enjoy. Carolina pines line the edges of the fairways and greens throughout the round, stretching out their thin trunks to snag any errant shots. The end product of Ellis’s vision is an 18-hole, 6,324-yard layout described by course architect Dan Maples, Ellis’s son, as “a golf course designed with the average player in mind, but good players won’t find a pushover.”
Bowlers can pursue pin-felling prominence for two hours at Family Sports Center, strapped securely inside a pair of aerodynamic rental footwear. Send weighty orbs careening down the center or swirling in the shape of your signature on any of the alley's 32 lanes, in as many games as you can muster in two hours. Automatic scoring appears on TVs that float overhead, preventing the need for recounts and game-settling thumb wars. Children younger than 12 years old can bank lighter balls off of bumpers summoned from underground slumber. Purchase up to two additional Groupons as gifts and come as a crowd, or extend the focus from your solitaire tournament to side-by-side solo bowls.
Crooked Creek Golf Club blankets the rolling Carolina countryside with a 6,271-yard layout that challenges golfers with dramatic elevation changes and high-risk high-reward opportunities. The longer of the two halves, the front nine showcases numerous shot-making opportunities, including the drive on the par-four third hole, where golfers must choose to play it safe or try to cut the corner on a water hazard that hugs the left side.
Dramatic elevation changes await on the course’s second act, where the rolling terrain is intersected by multiple water hazards and sweeping views of the surrounding topography. After a day at the links, golfers can refuel with a cheeseburger or a platter of torn up scorecards at Club’s restaurant, The Turning Point Grill.
Course at a Glance:
From their home base at Deep River Golf Range, PGA-certified instructors Scott Duerscherl and Riley Kurtz help students along the path to lower golf scores. The teachers adhere to an overarching philosophy that there is no single perfect swing that works for every player. Instead, they tweak an individual's natural mechanics to create a comfortable swing that can be repeated even when hitting from difficult lies such as hillside dirt or camouflaged snares. During lessons with either Scott or Riley, students focus on the fundamentals of making proper contact with the ground in relation to the ball and controlling the ball's flight path. Casio high-speed cameras capture each cut for analysis with SwingView Pro software, which can spot swing-inhibiting problems such as backswing hitches and straitjacket polo shirts. On days when inclement weather prevents practice on the range, players can head to the indoor teaching area, complete with a sheltered putting green.
From the very first tee shot over a lake to the pond protecting the left side of the 18th green, the course at River Ridge Golf Club pits players against the physical and psychological challenges brought by omnipresent water hazards, including the Neuse River that intersects the course on several holes.
Architect Chuck Smith’s 1997 design weaves course play through a 6,740-yard gauntlet furnished with a plush carpet of bermuda-grass fairways and rough that gives way to fast-moving G-6 bent-grass greens. The course's signature 5th hole rewards golfers who keep their tee shots on the fairway with a short-iron approach that must clear a large pond and any caddies sunbathing in the large greenside bunker.
As a semiprivate club, membership at River Ridge unlocks a slew of benefits not available to the general public. Though the practice area—composed of a driving range and putting and chipping greens—is open to everyone, only members may make use of the locker rooms, club storage, and handicap program provided at the clubhouse. Additionally, members are granted access to special events, tournaments, and PGA pro Tim Cockrell’s lessons, which help players calibrate putting strokes and find their swing after a long time away from the game to search for their favorite golf ball that got lost in the Neuse River.
Course at a Glance:
Named among Golfweek magazine's Best New Courses and Best Campus Courses in 2010, Lonnie Poole Golf Course tests players of all skill levels with 18 challenging holes spread over 250 acres of Raleigh woodlands. Designed by the Arnold Palmer Design Group—including two North Carolina State grads as architects—the landscape features several shifts in elevation as the greens meander around large buffer areas. In its abundant turf grass and stormwater runoffs, the course also facilitates research from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences while taking extra care to preserve the streams and wild golf balls native to the Neuse River watershed.
As both the NC State men's and women's golf teams can attest, Lonnie Poole challengers golfers from the very first tee, which taunts drivers with bunkers on both sides and a sharp fall-off past the green. From there, the fifth hole ups the ante with a dogleg to the right and tall trees, whereas the 12th hole sends shots hurtling down a downhill fairway that narrows as the green nears and primes its anti-air missiles.
Course at a Glance: