Best Public Golf Courses in Wilmington, North Carolina

By now, I’m guessing you’re familiar with our course guides.  If so, you know that I love golf in the Carolinas.  I make a buddies’ trip to play back here every year. 

Even with as much as I’ve played in this part of the world though, I’m constantly reminded that I haven’t even come close to getting to know this area and its golf.  So, when one of our readers emailed me and asked what I thought about golf in the city of Wilmington, I had to be honest and tell him that I’d never been there.  One thing led to another and, with the help of all of you, I’ve compiled enough input to come up with a guide to public golf in and around the area. 

Let’s get to it.

1

Cape Fear National at Brunswick Forest

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The unanimous opinion was that Cape National at Brunswick Forest is the place to be if you want to experience some of the best golf that Wilmington has to offer. 

Unlike a lot of courses in the Carolina’s, the natural landscape remained largely unaltered during the design.  As a result, this track’s aesthetic beauty is second to none.  Nothing manufactured about this place in the least. 

The Tim Cate design meanders through wooded areas and wetlands, and significant undulations can be found throughout. 

The staff here go above and beyond to make sure every golfer has an unparalleled experience.  No detail is overlooked from the time you arrive at bag drop, to the time you close out in the 19th hole. 

I’m putting this place on the list when I get back with the boys this coming spring.

2

Castle Bay Country Club

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True links courses are few and far between in this part of the country.  However, that’s precisely what you’ll find at Castle Bay Country Club. 

Penal bunkers, native grasses, and ample penalty areas can be found throughout.  With that said, the landing areas are generous and well-defined. 

The wind is a consistent factor out here as well.  For that reason, the layout encourages you to use the ground to your advantage. 

The 18th hole is especially memorable.  Measuring just 266 yards from the back tee, this par four will tempt you to drive the green.  Just be careful, if you miss, that easy birdie might turn into double bogey. 

A breath of fresh air on the Wilmington golf scene, don’t miss a chance to play Castle Bay.

3

Old Pointe Golf Club

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Old Pointe Golf Club has a storied history having opened all the way back in 1975.  Today, this semi-private facility boasts an active membership, but is open to play for the public. 

Designed by Jerry Turner, this is a parkland layout that makes its way through native woodlands and over rolling terrain. 

Golfers rave about the Paspalum putting surfaces, a rarity in this part of the world.  Unlike Bermuda greens, these surfaces have virtually no grain. 

When you come to Old Pointe, make sure you’re hungry too.  The Nineteen Restaurant has an expansive menu featuring everything from fine Italian cuisine to more traditional pub fare.

A total experience from door to door, I’ve yet to hear anything negative about Old Pointe Golf Club.

4

Ironclad Golf and Beer Garden

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Yes, you read that right.  This place has not only great golf, but more beer than you can imagine as well.  Sounds like a winning combination to me. 

Owned and operated by Ironclad Brewing Company, this track is in the fourth phase of a major renovation.  So far, the improvements have been met with nothing but the highest praise. 

The course itself is right in front of you.  No blind shots or trickery.  It’s somewhat open as well and doesn’t play long.  In short, this is the perfect spot for anyone that likes to drink beer and doesn’t take their golf too seriously. 

In looking at the beer menu, there truly is no shortage of choices, even for the most discerning connoisseur.

If this place doesn’t sound like fun to you, I’m not sure what will.

5

Carolina National Golf Club

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No less than 27 holes of award-winning golf await at Carolina National. 

Designed by Fred Couples, this layout is the epitome of golf in the coastal lowlands.  The Lockwood Folly River comes into play on a number of holes and is downright gorgeous.  More than 100 acres of native wetlands not only offer glimpses of diverse wildlife, they eat up bad golf shots too.

The Egret, Heron, and Ibis nines all have their own unique characteristics, but one thing is certain: they’re all in spectacular condition.

An experience unlike any other, you’ll enjoy a day spent at Carolina National.

6

Beau Rivage Golf and Resort

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There’s just something especially romantic about golf along the coast.  That’s exactly what awaits at Beau Rivage. 

This 18-hole masterpiece makes its way through coastal estuaries and forests of whispering pines.  Even though this course is located in the low country, elevation changes up to 75 feet can be found. 

Water comes into play on most holes as well.  You’d best have a good day striking the ball if you want to score. 

If an extended stay and play vacation suits your fancy, the accommodations and amenities at Beau Rivage are first-class.

This spot is a favorite for locals and visitors alike.

7

Wilmington Municipal Golf Course

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I love a good muni.  You guys probably know that by now if you’ve read enough of our course guides.

Wilmington Muni is operated by the city.  It was designed by none other than Donald Ross in 1926. 

An old-school traditional layout, the course is framed by stately oak and pine trees.  Strategically placed bunkers can be found throughout.  In typical Ross fashion, many of the greens are pushed up and require precise approach shots.

It’s said that this course does more rounds than any other in North Carolina.  If that’s indeed the case, it’s in remarkable shape. 

Wilmington Muni is going at the top of my list.

8

Magnolia Greens Golf Course

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Another widely respected 27-hole facility is Magnolia Greens. 

Each nine plays distinctly different with a mixture of tight and narrow, long and short holes.  While some holes demand your very best if you’re going to make par, others allow you to play more aggressively and give yourself a chance for bridie. 

A great place to gather with family and friends, everyone is sure to feel welcome at Magnolia greens.

9

Eagle Point Golf Club

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According to Golf Digest, “Eagle Point is some of Tom Fazio’s best work”. 

The locals say this is one of the most underrated rounds of golf in the Wilmington area.  Holes wander through live oaks, sabal palms, and coastal waterways. 

This is target golf as all of the above come into play regularly.  Playing smart and executing the proper shots are the keys to scoring well.

The playing surfaces from tee to green are immaculate too. Eagle point has been listed in Golf Digest’s list of “Top 100 Courses” every year since 2009, and it’s not hard to see why.

10

Compass Pointe Golf Club

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One of the newest courses in the state is located just 10 minutes from downtown Wilmington.  It’s called Compass Pointe.

Designed by North Carolina native, Rick Robbins, this layout has quickly developed a reputation as a tough track. 

While the fairways are wide, the greens are substantial and can leave you with some difficult putts if you end up in the wrong spot. 

Waste areas, bunkers, and water are prominent features so proceed with caution.

A great test that’s still enjoyable for everyone, you can’t miss a round at Compass Pointe.

Conclusion

There’s no shortage of great golf destinations in North Carolina.  With that being said, Wilmington is one that often gets overlooked.

I didn’t know much about this part of the state until our readers chimed in with their thoughts about all the great golf there is to be found.  I send my sincerest thanks to all of you that contributed. 

If you have more to add or would like to share your own experience, we’d love to hear from you below in the comments.

 

Paul Liberatore
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Paul Liberatore

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