GREENSBORO, N.C. – There’s no place like the “Home of American Golf,” as the Pinehurst area of North Carolina calls itself, and the North Carolina Golf Panel’s 26th annual rankings of the state’s best courses serve once again as confirmation.
In the panel’s 2021 rankings of the Top 100 Courses in North Carolina, Pinehurst-area layouts are represented in quality and quantity. Within the top 20, seven are courses in the Sandhills, led by top-ranked Pinehurst No. 2, which has maintained that spot each year since the panel’s inception in 1995. Fifteen Pinehurst-area courses dot the top 100.
The top 20 courses remain unchanged from a year ago, but there is subtle shifting. Grandfather Golf & Country Club in Linville is the second-ranked course for the fifth consecutive year. Moving from fifth to third is the Dogwood course at The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst. Also making a major move – from 14th to 11th – is Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington. The Donald Ross design underwent a $5 million overhaul that involved substantial tree removal and the lowering of every green by at least 18 inches, part of a greens renovation that included the installation of ultradwarf Bermuda.
“Everything about Cape Fear Country Club is exceptional,” says Kevin Brafford, the panel’s executive director. “The golf course was really, really good before, and members were understandably proud. Now they’ll tell you it’s great, and they’re absolutely correct.”
Founded by public relations specialist Bill Hensley, the N.C. Golf Panel consists of nearly 190 members from the mountains to the coast. The annual rankings, which first appear 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 six regions in the state. For 2021, there are two specialty ballots (courses ranked by region): Fairest Courses to Play and Most Strategic Courses. All current rankings can be found at NCGolfPanel.com.