Pinehurst and beyond: The five best golf destinations in North Carolina

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Round Trip Feature: Pinehurst

The state of North Carolina has a great amount of topographical diversity, which is reflective when you look at some of their top golf destinations from the Atlantic coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The caliber of golf is strong thanks to the influence of Donald Ross, who lived in Pinehurst for several decades and built some the state's best early courses. And while Pinehurst is the obvious first choice for a North Carolina golf trip, there are some solid options beyond the Sandhills.

Here are five of the best destinations for a North Carolina golf trip.

1. Pinehurst and the Carolina Sandhills

The Carolina Sandhills area, made up of Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen, is so deep and versatile you could set up five separate golf trips on all different courses and it could probably make a case for a top 5 North Carolina destinations takeover. The historic resorts -- Pinehurst, Mid Pines and Pine Needles -- are the main attraction, while a few modern standouts like Tobacco Road Golf Club and Dormie Club are must-plays.

Then, there is a huge collection of less-famous value resorts and semi-private courses. So if you're on a budget, you can stay and play affordably and save your Pinehurst experiences for drinks in the village or at the main clubhouse overlooking the No. 2 Course.

2. Asheville, N.C.

Asheville is the best place to play summer golf in North Carolina, thanks to its altitude; over 2,000 feet. Golf doesn't have the massive footprint of the Sandhills or Charlotte area, but what's here is worth playing, much of it designed by Donald Ross. Start at Omni Grove Park Inn, home to a gorgeous, old Ross design. Ross also designed Asheville Municipal, which is a bargain play with great scenery. Mount Mitchell Golf Club is another solid resort course that makes many top state public rankings, and Maggie Valley Resort & Club is Golf Advisor's current top-rated course in the area.

3. North Carolina's Outer Banks

Coastal golf is far more prominent in South Carolina, thanks to Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Kiawah Island. The big exception in North Carolina is the Outer Banks, or OBX, a narrow, 200-mile strip of barrier islands and peninsulas just south of Virginia Beach. There are a handful of courses here ranging in price between $65-165.

The Currituck Club, Nags Head Golf Links, the Carolina Club and Kilmarlic anchor the seaside must-plays here. A little further west, Scotch Hall Preserve was one of Golf Advisor's Top 50 courses in 2015, and can be played on your way in or out of OBX.

4. Brunswick County

Making up the northern end of the Grand Strand, Brunswick County borders South Carolina and is located about north of Myrtle Beach. Ocean Isle Beach's Ocean Ridge Plantation is home to five courses, including Tiger's Eye and Leopard's Chase. Sea Trail Golf Resort features 54 of its own holes. Rivers Edge, Thistle Golf Club, Oyster Bay and Carolina National are a trio of recommended public-access courses. Bald Head Island C.C., accessible via ferry, is another unique experience. There are plenty of vacation rentals with fairway views.

5. Yadkin Valley

There are a handful of great pockets of value golf around North Carolina, and one of the most unique is in western North Carolina's Yadkin Valley, another top summer spot at high altitude. A little off the beaten path, great value-golf awaits. Cross Creek Country Club and Cedarbrook both earned strong ratings in 2015, both making Golf Advisor's top 20. Mike Bailey visited the area, home to Mt. Airy and the home of the Andy Griffth Show, and penned this dispatch.

You're also within a manageable drive through the mountains to Linville Golf Club, a Ross course in the mountains considered by several publications to be the best public course in the state outside of the Pinehurst area.

Other North Carolina golf destinations

There are certainly other destinations to choose from around North Carolina. You can visit the North Carolina Triangle and play two stellar college courses, UNC Finley G.C. and Duke University Golf Club (both open to the public). Charlotte has a collection of good resort-golf options that cater in particular to business groups. Greensboro, despite being strong on the private-club side, does have a few good public and resort courses including the West Course and East Course at Grandover Resort and Greensboro National. Fayetteville is a favorite stop for I-95 bargain-seekers and is particularly popular with military golfers due to the presence of Fort Bragg.

Do you have any favorite destinations to play golf in North Carolina? Let us know your favorite itinerary in the comments below, or tweet us @GolfAdvisor.

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
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Pinehurst and beyond: The five best golf destinations in North Carolina