When golfers from outside North Carolina think about golf in the Tarheel State, it’s only natural that the Sandhills—and the Pinehurst area, in particular—first spring to mind. After all, Pinehurst Resort is an iconic destination known as the “Cradle of American Golf.”
But there are more than 500 courses in total across North Carolina, from the Outer Banks along the Atlantic Ocean to its mountainous western end that butts up against Tennessee.
Given the grandeur of Appalachian ranges like the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Black Mountains, it’s a region that’s home to some truly special golf. This includes a wealth of private clubs, with exclusive names like Balsam Mountain Preserve, Champion Hills, Diamond Creek, Grandfather Golf & Country Club, Linville Ridge, Mountain Air, Trillium, and Wade Hampton.
But there’s also some quality public-access golf in the North Carolina mountains that offer a very different feel from the rest of the state. Here’s a half dozen you can play that are worth visiting.
Boone Golf Club (Boone)
In northwest North Carolina, just south of its namesake town, Boone Golf Club sits in a valley at an elevation of over 3,300 feet and offers views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. The course was designed by Ellis Maples, a protégé of Donald Ross—one of N.C.’s most beloved architects. It opened in 1959 and today can be played for $70 or less, with cart.
Jefferson Landing (Jefferson)
About 30 miles further north of Boone, the resort community of Jefferson Landing boasts similar spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. World Golf Hall of Famer Larry Nelson designed the well-reviewed course, which opened in 1991 and underwent upgrades in 2019 that included adding a four-hole short course, improved landscaping, and Scottish-style revetted sod wall bunkers.
Maggie Valley Club & Resort (Maggie Valley)
This property is a bit of a hidden treasure nestled between the Blue Ridge and Smokies but boasts some stunningly scenic views across Maggie Valley and beyond. Golf is among a host of amenities for those taking a mountain vacation, with the gentler Valley Nine and the more challenging Mountain Nine with its 800-foot climb in elevation.
Omni Grove Park Inn (Asheville)
It’s been almost 100 years since Donald Ross originally laid out this historic resort course (1926) that was overhauled in 2001. While stretching to little over 6,000 yards (as a par 70), the course is a convenient and quality option in the Asheville area, with bentgrass greens and elevated tee boxes providing terrific sight lines and views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Rumbling Bald on Lake Lure (Lake Lure)
This idyllic mountain retreat has two 18-hole layouts and 115 vacation rental properties great for golf getaways. The Bald Mountain Course, a W.B. Lewis design, features five par fives and five par threes including the 16th, where the green was the backdrop for a scene in the movie Dirty Dancing. The marquee Apple Valley Course is a true mountain course and yet about 75 percent of its shots play level or downhill, according to architect Dan Maples (son of Ellis).
Sequoyah National Golf Club (Whittier)
In the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, about 45 minutes west of Asheville, this 2009 design from Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Notah Begay III shows off mountain views on every hole while winding through valleys and between giant oaks and firs. The course undertook a major bunker renovation and regrassing project in the summer of 2020 and today impresses with bentgrass greens and Zeon Zoysia tees and fairways.
Have you played mountain golf in North Carolina?