These golf destinations are worth the drive

Travel

April 25, 2024

Pinehurst No. 10 golf course

From luxe resorts to casual, family-friendly venues, these driving-distance golf destinations offer ample amenities both on and off the course. 

by Michael J. Solender

As temperatures rise, so do the aspirations of area golfers. This month’s Wells Fargo Championship at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club is inspiration enough for golf buddy trips, family escapes and couples’ sojourns. With a variety of golf-focused resorts nearby, it’s easy to set out in the morning and still make your afternoon tee time. We’ve curated a list of six nearby golf venues where even nongolfers will find plenty of recreational fun. 

ALL IN ONE PLACE

Luxe accommodations with on-site dining and activities 

The Spa at Keswick Hall; Osprey Point Golf Course at Kiawah; Marigold by Jean-Georges at Keswick Hall; Pinehurst No. 10. Photographs courtesy Pinehurst Resort; Keswick by Baigrie; Kiawah By Patrick J. O’Brien.

1. PINEHURST RESORT, Pinehurst, N.C.

Known as the Cradle of American Golf, Pinehurst Resort builds upon its storied legacy hosting its fourth men’s U.S. Open Championship this June on the fabled Donald Ross-designed No. 2 course, one of the sport’s purest tests. New this spring: The debut of the much-anticipated No. 10 — the resort’s first original new course in nearly 30 years. The Tom Doak-designed track marks a new era of expansion at Pinehurst, now home to 10 18-hole courses, plus Thistle Dhu, a challenging putting course, and the Cradle, an inventive short course. Distinct accommodations here include the famed Carolina Hotel (the breakfast buffet is a stunner), the century-old Manor and the newly renovated Magnolia Inn.

Golf vibe: While Pinehurst draws plenty of traditionalists and golf historians, families and newcomers to the game are equally welcome. Golf polos and smart resort wear are always in fashion.

Inside scoop: Splurge and get a caddy when available. The caddy program here is second to none, worth several strokes per round, and yields the full enjoyment of walking these hallowed grounds.

Beyond the greens: There’s a rejuvenating spa on-site, and the charming shops and restaurants of Pinehurst Village are steps away. Nearby, the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens offer self-guided tours year-round, tempting gardeners with indigenous flora and unique design.

While you’re there: Pinehurst Brewing Company, a chip shot away from The Manor, delivers craft beer, wood-smoked barbecue, pizzas and sandwiches in a laid-back venue to unwind and settle bets.

Drive time from Charlotte: 2 hours

2. KIAWAH ISLAND GOLF RESORT, Kiawah Island, S.C. 

Kiawah Island Golf Resort, a luxe golf paradise just outside Charleston, boasts five 18-hole courses, a comprehensive instruction center, ocean views at every turn, tennis, beachcombing and more than a dozen dining venues. Accommodations here include the five-star Sanctuary Hotel, on-course golf villas, private homes and cottages.

Golf vibe: Family-friendly — from multigenerational groups to young parents with little ones — and also ideal for couples, Kiawah is built for recreational golfers. Serious amateurs seeking a true test, however, will discover what made Kiawah Island a Ryder Cup destination: The Ocean Course, a Pete Dye design, is consistently ranked among the most challenging courses in the world. 

Inside scoop: Despite its challenging nature, the Ocean Course — site of the 2021 PGA Championship — is also one of the most scenic U.S. courses, with dramatic vistas at nearly every turn.

Beyond the greens: There’s bicycle rentals, kayaking, archery and on-site kids activities (art programs, reptile roundups, dolphin encounters and day camp) to keep everyone engaged.

While you’re there: Don’t sleep on the daily fishing excursions, including creek and coastal fishing, where guests can bottom fish over offshore wrecks and artificial reefs. 

Drive time from Charlotte: 3 hours, 45 minutes

3. KESWICK HALL, Charlottesville, Va.

Tucked away in Virginia’s horse and hunt country, the 600-acre Keswick Hall resort’s Full Cry, a Pete Dye-designed course, is ranked No. 3 in Golfweek’s “Best You Can Play in Virginia” and No. 53 among its “Top 200 Resort Courses in the U.S.” Built in 1912, Keswick Hall recently underwent considerable renovations and now houses 80 guest rooms and a new spa emphasizing organic, small-batch products. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees the culinary program anchored by Marigold by Jean-Georges, with a hyper-local menu and an emphasis on sustainability. 

Golf vibe: Quiet. Situated 7 miles east of Charlottesville, Keswick is an understated-yet-elegant resort that is decidedly low-key. Full Cry was one of Dye’s personal favorites, however, and there’s more than enough on-course excitement to give players as much golf as they can handle. 

Inside scoop: Multiple tee boxes, alternative routings and consistently smooth greens make the course accessible and enjoyable for those with higher handicaps. The visually stunning course beckons all players with a traditional layout that accommodates both aerial and ground-based strategies for achieving par.

Beyond the greens: Joggers and hikers can explore the numerous trails conveniently located near Keswick’s main entrance. There’s a new fitness center with Technogym equipment and Peloton bikes; a new seven-court tennis facility; pickleball; and a year-round heated infinity pool with a cascading waterfall. A concierge helps cyclists map out routes along backcountry roads.

While you’re there: Nearby, find Thomas Jefferson’s longtime home of Monticello, a UNESCO World Heritage site that offers tours and living history lessons.

Drive time from Charlotte: 4.5 hours

GO FOR THE GOLF

Family-friendly venues that are all about the game — with off-property dining and extracurricular activities nearby 

Clockwise from top left: Golf at Palmetto Dunes at Hilton Head Island; a barbecue sandwich at Talamore Golf Resort; Brunswick Plantation Resort & Golf; Drum & Quill tavern in Pinehurst; Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. Photographs courtesy Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort; Talamore Golf Resort;
Brunswick Plantation Resort; Courtesy Home of Golf; Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

4. PALMETTO DUNES OCEANFRONT RESORT, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Three championship courses perched alongside the Atlantic at Palmetto Dunes have called to regional golfers for decades. Design legends Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio and Arthur Hills give players all the challenges they can handle at this mature links trio. Villas and vacation-home rentals deliver tailor-made accommodations for seasonal guests. 

Golf vibe: Low-key and relaxed. Want to hang out at the pool in the morning and play nine after lunch? No problem — there’s no pressure to do anything other than enjoy the time away from home.

Inside scoop: Those looking for longer getaways can find bargains with long-term rental homes and condos featuring full kitchens, beach and pool access, and outdoor grills.  

Beyond the greens: Pickleball, tennis, boat rentals, fishing and hitting the beach are popular with golfers and nongolfers alike. Savannah, Ga., is only an hour south and a fun afternoon excursion.

While you’re there: Guests at Palmetto Dunes are in the heart of seafood country. Oysters, Atlantic blue crab, shrimp and gumbo are ubiquitous here. The Sea Shack (“Not fancy, just good!”) is a no-frills local favorite offering seafood platters, po boys and peel-and-eat shrimp. 

Drive time from Charlotte: 4 hours, 15 minutes

5. TALAMORE GOLF RESORT, Southern Pines, N.C.

This stalwart golf getaway has long topped Charlotte lists for golf groups, buddy trips and serious golf-themed family escapes. Talamore features two of the Sandhills area’s finest tracks in the Arnold Palmer-designed Mid South Club and the namesake Rees Jones classic Talamore Golf Club. Villas, condos and cottages — all fully furnished and surrounded by greens — make “stay and play” an easy lay-up. 

Golf vibe: Hardcore golf heaven. Players here are known to be on the course at the crack of dawn, enjoy lunch after 18 holes, and then tee-up for another 18 in the afternoon. Very casual, very “bro-some.”

Inside scoop: During peak golf season, there’s a BBQ buffet at the on-site pavilion for overnight guests Mondays through Thursdays. Room-service breakfast is included in most golf packages, and the hospitality suite features card tables and multiple big screen TVs to catch up on the sports of the day after a round.

Beyond the greens: The 165-acre site is home to a 95-acre lake, nature trails, hiking trails, fishing and boating. The Village of Pinehurst, with shopping, restaurants and pubs, is nearby.

While you’re there: Peruse the shops in idyllic downtown Southern Pines or grab a bite at Drum & Quill, a beloved tavern in the Village of Pinehurst. The “Drum” is named for legendary golf writer Bob Drum, and the “Quill” refers to the pen he used to celebrate Arnold Palmer as they founded Golf’s Professional Grand Slam in 1960. The huge beer selection makes choosing almost as tough as deciding which club to pull for a short shot across the pond fronting the green.

Drive time from Charlotte: 2 hours

6. BRUNSWICK PLANTATION & GOLF RESORT, Calabash, N.C.

Brunswick Golf Club’s 27 holes of golf are situated on nearly 2,000 acres with studios and one- and two-bedroom villas.  Family friendly, this Brunswick Islands favorite boasts a high percentage of repeat visitors year after year.

Golf vibe: Casual —this is a great venue for family foursomes and those more focused on fun in the sun than going low.

Inside scoop: More serious golfers might want to extend their stay to include rounds at other top Brunswick County courses, including Ocean Ridge Plantation, Crow Creek, Thistle and Rivers Edge

Beyond the greens: Visit nearby Sunset Beach for a low-key day at the beach and discover the storied Kindred Spirit Mailbox filled with hopes, dreams and inspirational messages.

While you’re there: Explore the Brunswick Islands’ burgeoning craft-beer scene with visits to Makai Brewing at Ocean Isle Beach, Brunswick Beer & Cider in Leland and Solar Brewing at Oak Island – each has a unique take with inspiration from the N.C. coast.

Drive time from Charlotte: 3.5 hours  SP

Featured image: Photograph courtesy Pinehurst Resort; Keswick by Baigrie; Kiawah By Patrick J. O’Brien

STAY AND PLAY IN SOUTHPARK!

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