An introduction to Wilmington
Wilmington in North Carolina is a beautiful city on the Atlantic coastline, approximately an hour’s drive up from the state border with South Carolina. There are some really elegant golf courses in Wilmington, North Carolina, which we’ll look at.
It is a port city which many centuries ago was previously known as New London. This was before the name of Wilmington was officially adopted in 1740.
One of a litany of cities dotted along this stretch of the sea. All are as popular with visitors wanting to spend time on the water as those on the land.
But first and foremost, it is primarily a heaving tourist destination. Beach goers especially, with popular beaches in Fort Fisher, Kure Beach and Carolina Beach. Many of these beaches and the surrounding areas have remained untouched. You’ll find wild trails and fascinating ecosystems sitting just off the shoreline.
Continuing the outdoors theme, Poplar Grove is the oldest peanut plantation in the US and has some poignant tours shedding light on the area’s history.
On a similar vein, Bellamy Mansion is a superb museum. It was previously the home of one of the largest slaveholding families. Both of these establishments do a vital job in helping to educate visitors on the enslaved peoples and the lives they lived.
There are a couple of great museums to visit including Cape Fear Museum of History and Science in downtown. It includes an array of interesting artifacts ranging from the Civil War to the Cape Fear ecosystem.
And lastly, you simply must spend time in Wilmington’s historic district which has some fascinating architecture and stunning buildings. This quaint old town is great to wander around.
The best golf courses in Wilmington, North Carolina
Porters Neck Country Club
Just across Goodman’s Channel from Figure Eight Island, Porters Neck Country Club occupies a scenic spot on this coastline.
This is a popular course amongst the residents of north Wilmington who come to enjoy the tranquility as much as the quality of golf.
Tom Fazio was the man behind the design of Porters Neck, and he has created an elegant routing which weaves through the upscale housing. Yet despite this being a largely residential area, there is enough distance between the housing and the fairways, as well as enough greenery to not impede on the playing experience.
This feeling of tranquility is enhanced due to the fact there are very few occasions where two fairways run parallel to one-another. Water comes into play on a good handful of holes which keeps things interesting.
From the back tees the course stretches to just over 7,100 yards with a slope of 135. That said, this is a course where you can grab the big-dog as the fairways are relatively generous.
Country Club of Landfall (Dye & Nicklaus)
Landfall is a neighborhood positioned between Wilmington and the coastline and is largely made up of high-end housing. Right in the heart of this gated housing community is the fantastic Country Club of Landfall.
The private member-owned club has many amenities with tennis, alongside golf, one of the two major activities. Yet there is much more to enjoy including a fitness center offering a range of classes like yoga, spinning, pilates etc, and a junior olympic sized pool.
There is an impressive 45-holes of golf for the members to play, including holes designed by the world-famous Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye. Very much like Porters Neck, both courses meander through this serene housing community.
The first 18-holes were designed by Pete Dye and were aptly named the ‘Dye Course’. It’s fair to say, this is not Dye at his most sadistic or penal, like some of his other creations. Yet this is a challenging course nonetheless and is not for the faint hearted.
Nicklaus was engaged soon after adding a further 18-holes (the Marsh and Ocean nines) as well as an additional 9-holes not long after called the Pines. It is the Marsh/Ocean combination which most people consider the ‘Nicklaus’ course.
The courses really are fantastic and inevitably always in great condition. Both are regularly featured in North Carolina’s Top 50 golf courses.
Cape Fear National
Jutting inland from the Atlantic Ocean heading northwards is Cape Fear River. Before after a good 20 miles or so it forks into two rivers. One is the continuation of Cape Fear River and the other the Brunswick River.
These separate Wilmington from the mainland to the west, which is where Cape Fear National is located. We have here one of the newest courses in Brunswick County and Wilmington. It was designed by the golf architect Tim Cate, also responsible for Bald Head Island and Leopard’s Chase.
This whole area is primarily wetlands. Unsurprisingly, these come into play on every single hole as do larger water features lining many a fairway. Don’t be surprised to hear the familiar ‘plumpf’ of water at some point over the 18-holes.
Yet if it isn’t the ‘plumpf’ of water, you might instead be hearing the sound of a ball plugging in sand. On the 5th, 13th and 16th holes, there are fairways that run the entire length of the hole!
The course is open to the public and priced very reasonably. Especially for one which soon after opening was recognised as one of the ‘Best New Courses’ in the country. It has also received numerous other awards. This includes being recognised by Golf Week as one of the best courses you can play in North Carolina.
Eagle Point Golf Club
Snuggled up next to Porters Neck Country Club is one of the most exclusive golf courses in North Carolina, let alone Wilmington. This is the superb Eagle Point Golf Club.
The location is off-set enough from the Atlantic by the likes of the Intracoastal Waterway and Figure Eight Island. Between them the Area of Outstanding Resource Water Topsail Sound and Middle Sound. But this proximity still means the coastal breezes sweep up through the site and come into play on many holes.
This is another superb Tom Fazio layout and one which has rightfully been considered as one of his best. That is certainly the opinion of many of the major golf publications.
From the tee this isn’t overly challenging, with many fairways offering large landing areas. It is the approach play where things get interesting. Firstly, if you’re the wrong side of the fairway, you’ll leave yourself a far more difficult shot in.
Yet even when (if) you do find the right spot in the green, your putting game needs to be absolutely spot on. The greens are rapid and many are multi-leveled.
So highly rated is Eagle Point, it was the golf course chosen to host the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship when Quail Hollow in nearby Charlotte was chosen to host the PGA Championship that same year.
Cape Fear Country Club
As central as you can get to Wilmington downtown, Cape Fear Country Club has been here a long time. Having been founded in 1896 it is actually the oldest country club in North Carolina. This is no doubt why such a large plot of land was available so close to the city.
The course was designed by none other than Donald Ross, one of the greatest golf course architects of all time. This is a man who inspired the likes of Seminole in Florida, East Lake in Atlanta, Pinehurst n#2 and of course not forgetting Augusta Country Club.
Cape Fear Country Club is definitely not one of his Top 10, but it is both fun and challenging. For a large stretch of its history from 1945 until 1970, it was the host course to the PGA Tour’s Azalea Open, so definitely no pushover.
The charming layout features wide fairways and large greens with the course conditioning exemplary. The routing is also intriguing, with holes moving in all directions adding to the entertainment.
Over the years there has been plenty of investment into the course, with a number of different architects taking turns to renovate the course. But it was in 2019 that the biggest impact was felt in improving the layout, with Andrew Green overseeing a multi-million dollar renovation program.
Wilmington Municipal Golf Course
The fascinating story of Wilmington Municipal Golf Course goes right back to 1926.
At the time there were a couple of high-quality private clubs that had been built in town. One of these was Cape Fear Country Club with its Donald Ross designed 18-hole layout.
So the decision was taken by the city council at the time, to provide a quality yet affordable golf course. But the course would be targeted towards the general public of Wilmington. And who else to call upon but Donald Ross himself.
The site’s topography is actually hillier than that of Cape Fear Country Club. You’ll even find those who would argue there is a more variety on offer here.
Some of the stronger holes come early on with a stunning stretch of holes 2 through to 5. There is real variety in the routing and for a course which gets a decent footfall, it is always in relatively good condition.
Recent renovations have re-established some of the original Ross design features. These include rebuilding bunkers and enlarging greens, which had over the years shrunk in size.
Beau Rivage Golf & Resort
To finish off our best golf courses in Wilmington list, Beau Rivage Golf & Resort is the perfect group vacation option.
The resort is just a short drive south of Wilmington’s historic district. Count just a few minutes drive up from the incredibly popular Carolina Beach district.
There are 18-holes on site designed by Joe Gessner and opened for play in 1988. One thing you can’t accuse Beau Rivage of is not being fun. There are rolling dunes, wooded hills, valleys, doglegs and plenty of water in play. In fact, water comes into play on exactly 11 holes.
This is also one of the few courses in the region to feature such a large elevation change, of up to 75 feet. The 12th tee box is actually the highest point in Wilmington with great views of the long-needle pine forests.
The fun doesn’t stop on the course though. The clubhouse’s 19th hole, Veranda Bar & Grill, is a popular place for locals. With an extensive menu and great views onto the course, this is a great place to relax post round.
What is the Best Golf Course in Wilmington, North Carolina?
The best golf course in Wilmington, North Carolina, is the Tom Fazio designed Eagle Point Golf Club. It is located to the northeast of Wilmington in the Porters Neck neighborhood.
How many golf courses are there in Wilmington, NC?
Within 20 miles of Wilmington, North Carolina, there are 26 golf courses. Whilst there are 13 golf courses within close reach of the city.