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Best Outer Banks Golf Courses – Top 9 Golf Courses and Their Golf History at OBX

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At roughly the country’s midpoint on the eastern seaboard, coastal terrain begins to transition from rocky shorelines, uneven dune lands and earth-hued beaches to the swampy grasses, thick vegetation, and white sand beaches of southern low country and beyond to Florida. The most striking land mass signaling this metamorphosis is the North Carolina Outer Banks (OBX) starting from the tip of neighboring Virginia and extending down a narrow swath of sand and maritime forest for nearly 70 miles, but whose depth is measured in yards. This land comes with some of the best outer banks golf courses the island has to offer. 

Once a wild and untamed outpost; only noteworthy as the Wright brothers proving ground for their first flying machines in 1901, the OBX began evolving as an alternative vacation destination for families north of the Mason-Dixon line and in the middle Atlantic states as the popularity of northern beaches waned in the 1970s.

Within a couple of decades, full-on explosive commercial and residential development engulfed the island from Corolla in the north to Hatteras in the south.  Each township along the main thoroughfare, Hwy 158 created attractions and amenities to entertain vacationing visitors in-between time spent lolling on the beach.

Deep sea fishing, boating excursions on the sound and ocean sides, a massive water park, parasailing, the Dunes on Kill Devil Hills, the Wright Brothers Memorial, the summer-stock theater classic Lost Colony, observing wild horses, exquisite dining options, lighthouse tours, biking, over 30 museum and historical sites, and much more marks the OBX vacation experience.  And now that experience is enhanced by a golf trail that has caught up with the rest of the growth and attractions offered in the area.

History of the Best Outer Banks Golf Courses

In the earlier days of development, the OBX golf options would not be confused with Myrtle Beach’s innumerable string of courses, with the island’s first two courses coming online in 1965 and 1969.

Seascape Golf Links – “The Scrape” at OBX

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Outer Banks Golf Course - Seascape Golf Links Hole #17
Seascape Golf Links Hole #17
Outer Banks Golf Course Seascape - Drone Picture on Hole 17
Seascape Drone Picture from the 17th Hole.

The pioneer was an Art Wall design in Kitty Hawk that stretched parallel to Hwy 158 and the ocean shore called Sea Scape Links, which is still considered one of the best outer banks golf courses around. As the lone accommodation for golf on the island, it took on an everyman persona that reminded of Muni course golf back home.  Budget conscious families willing to sacrifice premium conditions for convenience, opportunity and price favored Sea Scape through the early years.

As the millennium dawned decades later, ‘The Scrape’, as it had come to be known, could no longer count on favorable greens fees and location to keep its tee sheets full with  growing competition emerging.  Jack Nicklaus Jr. was brought in to execute a conditioning and playability renovation, and improve its reputation.  Unique to its new Par 70 layout was the creation of six Par-3 holes, each with a distinctive design character.

The addition of ponds, new golf course grass, drainage upgrades, and several re-routed holes accomplished the goal of establishing its standing as a premier area course while still managing to retain moderate pricing with fees ranging seasonally from $59 to $125.

Duck Woods Country Club

Best Outer Banks Golf Course - Duck Woods Country Club Driving Range Picture
Duck Woods Country Club Driving Range
Best Outer Banks Golf Course - Duck Woods Country Club
Duck Woods Country Club - Hole 18

Following Sea Scape on the island just up the road with a Southern Shores address was the Ellis Maples 1969 design, Duck Woods Country Club.  Initially, access to vacationing golfers was limited as the club catered primarily to its private membership.  Over the years, however, multiple policies have been in effect accommodating visitor play, and now just past its 50th anniversary, specific tee times are reserved for outside play at the full amenity club.  Swim, tennis, pickleball, bocce ball, fitness facility, kids recreation, and a now mature version of Maple’s elegant signature design serve to comprise the area’s one true country club.

For the committed golfer in the early days of the Outer Banks development, if unable to access Duck Woods and eschewing Sea Scape, the other alternative was a 45-minute trek to Elizabeth City to test one’s skills at the venerable Pines Golf Club, which opened in 1947.

Pines Golf Club – Est. 1947

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OBX Golf Course - Pines at Elizabeth City

Perched on the western most point of the Albemarle sound, Elizabeth City is dubbed ‘the inner banks.’   Its lone ‘IBX’ course, The Pines, was once a stately classic, punctuated by a manor style brick clubhouse of bearing and presence.  Through the decades, however, multiple changes of ownership, format and business models often resulted in the perception of an unsatisfying golf experience.  Nonetheless, the bones of a quality golf course design were always present.

Now, another new ownership and management spearheaded by Head Golf Professional David Masciti, is seeking to recapture past glory with major upgrades in course conditioning and amenity packages worthy of its founding. Masciti likens the look and environs of The Pines to a famous neighbor to the South, Pinehurst. “It’s an old-style parkland design in the Carolina Pines with sandy soil that gives you a lot of the feel of Pinehurst,” he states.

For the committed modern-day golfer visiting on the Outer Banks, the Pines of the IBX is a road trip worth the trouble with the most agreeable greens fees in the region at under $50.

Nags Head Golf Links – Best Outer Banks Golf Course Views – Est 1988

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Nags head golf course
Nags Head Golf Course
Best Outer Bank GOlf COurse - Nags Head
Nags Head Golf Course

Back on the island, as OBX growth continued to surge, golf course development began to respond  with the 1988 opening of Nags Head Links designed by architect Bob Moore, who would  collaborate on another area course a decade later.  Located more to the southern end of the island in Nags Head, the course’s namesake township acquired its unique moniker from the lore relating about land pirates who lured vessels ashore in the night by affixing lanterns around the necks of donkeys and old horses, or ‘nags’ to create the illusion of other ships in safe harbor.  Invariably, the unwitting ships at sea would become grounded on a sandbar, and the pirates would seize their chance to board and then plunder the vessels’ riches. Whether myth or truth, the name Nags Head emerged from the stories for naming the beach areas now occupied by the course of the same name.

What is truth, is that the course is as authentic a seaside links as exists in the southeastern states. Nags Head Links features eight holes hugging the sound side of the links, with spectacular long range water views. With seasonal rates ranging from $59 to $140, Nags Head is a top-tier choice serving south of the island golfers and is considered one of the best outer banks golf courses.

Currituck Golf Club – Favorite Outer Banks Golf Course – Est 1996

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Another island course was unveiled at the extreme north end of the island in the town of Corolla with the Rees Jones designed Currituck Club in 1996.  Now is considered one of the best outer banks golf courses. A planned community providing renowned architect Jones a canvas for a links design, the course was immediately hailed receiving recognition in 1999 by Golf Magazine as top 10 U.S. Public Access course.

Probably the most diverse compilation of land features among all the island courses, Jones has masterfully maneuvered through thick maritime wetlands, myriad sand dunes and elevation changes, while stretching four holes alongside the sound.  It regularly resides among North Carolina’s top 25 course rankings and is meticulously maintained and conditioned.

As the turn of the century approached, demand continued to grow from an ever-increasing vacationing populus seeking out the pleasures of the OBX-including the call for ever more golf venues. With golf real estate exhausted on the narrow swath of island beach land, course development moved inland back across the sound.

Three well-appointed resort-styled developments sprang from the farmland just north of the Wright Memorial bridge that spans the Albemarle sound.

Best Inland “Off-Island” Outer Banks Golf Courses

Furthest inland about 10 miles from the bridge along HWY 158 is The Carolina Club, created in 1998 by designers Russell Breeden and Bob Moore.  The Pointe Golf Club, located just three miles off island opened in 1995, and is the sister club of Carolina Club sharing ownership, resources, staff and architect Russell Breeden.  Virtually across Hwy 158 from The Pointe is Kilmarlic Golf Club, debuting in 2002 and designed by Tom Steele. These are some of the best outer banks golf courses off the main island.

The Carolina Club – Est 1998

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Carolina Golf Club course at outer banks NC
Carolina Golf Club course at outer banks NC number 2

The Carolina club is a six-time recipient of the ‘OBX Best of the Beach’ Golf Course award, featuring park land characteristics as it weaves through pine forests and around creeks and ponds, along with distinctive coastal features of natural grasses, dunes and sandy soil.  Seasonal fees range from $79 to $149.

The Pointe Golf Club

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The point golf club at outer banks, NC

Its’ sister club, The Pointe Golf Club, was built on a sod farm and pioneered the use of A-1 Bent Grass greens nationally.  Augusta National Golf Club followed suit and currently uses the A-1 bent on its greens surfaces.  The Pointe also features the highest rated practice facility of OBX area courses, and offers overall premium conditions to complement its innovative greens with fees ranging from $49 to $109.

Kilmaric Golf Club

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Kilmarlic Golf Club in Outer Banks, NC
18th Hole and Clubhouse
Kilmarlic Golf Club Hole 1 in Outer Banks, NC
Hole 1 Green

Across the street at Kilmarlic, Head professional Brian Sullivan is a homegrown OBX product who enjoyed All-ACC and All-American honors playing at the University of North Carolina and later played professionally on the Canadian tour with several starts on the PGA Tour. He returned home to assume the head golf professional duties first at Sea Scape before migrating to Kilmarlic upon its opening. He describes Kilmarlic as “a fun course with lots of strategic shots. Par-fives are great risk reward holes with opportunities for eagles and birdies if you take a chance.”  Kilmarlic has hosted a pair of North Carolina State opens and hosts an NCAA Division I tournament each year, the inaugural one captured by PGA star and former East Carolina golfer Harold Varner.   Rates range from $85 to $125 by season.

Holly Ridge Golf Course

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Holly Ridge at OBX Score Card Front 9
Front 9 Scorecard
Holly Ridge at OBX Score Card Back 9

Rounding out off-island golf is Holly Ridge Golf Course up the road near Carolina Club, which has assumed the modern-day mantle first occupied by Sea Scape as a pleasing option for the budget conscious family seeking a relaxed atmosphere with rates under $50.

While still not a rival for Myrtle Beach in quantity, the OBX truly offers a range of good, quality offerings for the golf enthusiast looking to complement their beach vacation with an enjoyable round.

Check out our best golf courses around augusta, GA here!


About the Author


How we got onto 16 with a 5 minute wait at the WM Phoenix Open!

How I got on hole 16 (The Stadium hole) at the Waste Management Phoenix Open with little to no wait!! I also have tips and tricks on what to do once you are inside the gate and inside the stadium hole. Check this out if you ever plan to make a trip out! If you ever have the chance, it is definitely worth the trip.

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