By Craig Distl

North Carolina has both a rich golf history and an excellent selection of courses that welcome public play. Let’s touch on that history first, then highlight public-access links across the state where Carolina Country readers can tee it up.

Next year, for the fourth time, the men’s U.S. Open returns to North Carolina’s famed Pinehurst No. 2 course — considered among the finest courses in the world. In 2029, the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens will take place during back-to-back weeks at Pinehurst No. 2 for only the second time in American history.

North Carolina received statehood in 1789, but it wasn’t until the 1890s that golf courses began to dot the landscape. During that decade, Boston businessman James Walker Tufts purchased 5,800 acres of deforested timberland in the Sandhills of Moore County. He was enticed by warmer weather and the dream of building a wellness retreat. That retreat quickly evolved into the golfing paradise known as Pinehurst, which now has nine courses and is marketed far and wide as the “Home of American Golf.”

Golf in the Old North State enjoyed steady growth in the early decades of the 1900s before slowing during the Great Depression and World War II. As post-war America boomed, so did golf in the Old North State. The sport’s future king, Arnold Palmer, headed south from Pennsylvania in 1948 to play collegiately at Wake Forest College, creating a powerhouse program that remains a force today. Along the way, golf courses and resorts sprung up, people moved to golf communities in the suburbs and the golf bug that touched every corner of the state throughout the 1980s and ’90s continues to this day. More