North Carolina Golf Panel promotes top places to play

The North Carolina Golf Panel, celebrating its 26th year, is comprised of 150 professionals, coaches, notable amateur players and business leaders who annual list the state’s top 100 courses.

Sports is all about marquee match ups. In the golf world this summer, two of those marquee match ups will be in the state of North Carolina, which seems only fitting given the new course rankings from the North Carolina Golf Panel.

For example, Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines (No. 3) and Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club (No. 5), respectively will host the U.S. Women’s Open on June 2-5 and the Presidents Cup on Sept. 23-25.

“Longtime North Carolina residents who love golf know how blessed we are to have so many great courses at our fingertips,” said Kevin Brafford, the panel’s executive director. “The exposure we’ll receive from the top men and women in the world playing these iconic courses further elevates the game in our state.”

Grandfather Golf  and Country Club

As has been the case since the panel’s inception in 1995, Pinehurst No. 2 occupies the top spot in the rankings. Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville is ranked second for the sixth consecutive year. Sandwiched between Pine Needles and Quail Hollow is the Dogwood course at the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst.

Within the top 15 courses are five courses designed by the legendary Donald Ross: Pinehurst No. 2, Pine Needles, ninth-ranked Sedgefield Country Club (Greensboro), 11th-ranked Cape Fear Country Club (Wilmington) and 14th-ranked Charlotte Country Club.

This year marks the 150th birthday of Donald Ross, the Scotsman who in 1900 was hired as the golf professional at Pinehurst Resort. It was shortly after he settled in the Sandhills that his course design work began in earnest.

Pine Needles

Founded by the late Bill Hensley, a Hall of Fame writer and publicist, the N.C. Golf Panel has approximately 175 members from the mountains to the coast. The annual rankings, which debut each April in Business North Carolina magazine, are determined by a scoring system in which panelists consider these factors, among others: routing, design, strategy, memorability, fairness, variety and aesthetics. Panelists can vote only for courses they’ve played.

In addition to the Top 100, panelists also vote on the Top 50 “You Can Play,’’ plus the best dozen courses in each of seven regions in the state. This year’s specialty categories highlighted the Best Resorts in the state, plus the Best Short(er) Courses (at less than 6,500 yards from the championship tees).

Steve “Spike” Pike is a lifelong journalist whose career includes covering Major League Baseball, the NFL and college basketball. For the past 26 years, Spike has been one of the more respected voices in the golf and travel industries, working for such publications as Golfweek, Golf World and Golf Digest for The New York Times Magazine Group. In 1998, Spike helped launch the web site for the PGA of America. As a freelance travel and golf writer, Spike’s travels have taken him around the world. He has played golf from Pebble Beach to St. Andrews, walked the Great Wall of China, climbed an active volcano in the Canary Islands, been on safari in South Africa and dived with sharks off Guadalupe, Baja California. He lives in Delray Beach, Fla, and can be reached at

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