Bald Head Island Golf Course: The Best in Laid-Back Island Living

By Douglas G. Scarboro, Contributor

SOUTHPORT, NC - Serenity, beauty and difficulty are three ideals that are wrapped into one on the Bald Head Island Golf Course. The setting is one filled with the stuff that dreams are made of. This quiet island location is filled with vacation homes, a nature conservatory and various forms of wildlife. The course can only be accessed by crossing the Cape Fear River either in a personal ship or on one of the island's ferries.

The experience in getting to the island is the first thing that will slow down your pulse. The next planned occurrence that will force you to leave the hectic pace of the real world behind you is the use of golf carts for transportation. Rush hour traffic and road rage are a thing of the past when the posted speed limit is 18 mph.

The island has been beautifully preserved in spite of the constant onslaught of couples and families seeking some time off. Whether you arrive in the day or night, the calm, natural feel of the island will overtake you. While in the midst of sea grass, beautiful trees and miles of sandy beach, you will find it hard to think of anything else.

Hopefully, you will be able to concentrate on your golf game as this George Cobb designed course is a challenge. With one of the higher slopes in the Carolinas, this course will challenge those of all skill levels.

This links style course is not relatively long at 6,855 yards. The difficulty comes in the placement of the holes and Cobb's expert use of the island's greenery and landscape. The first hole is a relatively tame dogleg left that measures 380 yards from end to end. The ideal tee shot is also the hardest because it requires you to play down the left hand side of the fairway. Marsh and water will welcome those who take the shortcut and are unable reach the fairway.

The right hand side of the fairway is bordered by shrubbery, which separates the fairway from the driving range. The range and additional putting and chipping areas extend from the clubhouse. The unobtrusive yet large structure houses the pro shop and the member's restaurant and lounge area. The building is also the sight of many conferences and meetings.

The number two hole is a 190-yard par three that is more dangerous than it looks. The wind will play a large part in how the ball moves, as this fairway is a wind tunnel due to the trees that surround the hole. The large green is protected by bunkers on the right and left sides that should be left alone at all costs. Among the many factors that face you on this golf course, club selection should be placed high on the list.

Hole number three is a very difficult hole to drive. With little visible area to land the ball, a good tee shot is usually anything that hits the fairway. You will need all four shots to reach this green that is 370-yards from the tee. To add to the danger of this hole, be sure to look around the water areas, as alligators are indigenous to the area.

The water on the left hand side of the hole from the tee box to about the middle of the fairway is accompanied by water on the right hand side of the hole. Trees protect this hole on the left hand side and bunkers on the right. The best shot is to play to the back of the green and hope for a kind roll on these undulating greens.

The fourth hole is a par 5 that can produce low scores. The fairway turns to the left at about 250 yards from the green. At 505 yards from the back tees, the best shot is to play into the turn and worry about distance on the second shot. Keeping the ball in the fairway is important here as the majority of the bunkers surround the greens. For those long hitters that make it on in two, the green usually roll fast and furious.

The next exciting hole on the front nine is another par 5 that measures 500 yards. Take time to observe the direction of the wind while on the tee box. The seventh hole will test your gambling instincts. Be careful if you decide to go for it on this hole that demands accuracy.

The left hand side is closely guarded by water, and the right side complicates your second shot by blocking your sight line to the hole. Those who decide to risk it on this hole will reap the reward of low numbers.

The front nine finishes with the hardest hole on the course. This par 4 measures 440 yards and is filled with water, hazards and blind shots. The first shot into the fairway should be played carefully and distance should be sacrificed for placement. Water runs along the length of the hole on the left and from the 200-yard marker to the end on the right. Shots played too hard to the right will find a landing area beyond greenery that juts out into the fairway.

Once you have achieved good placement on the first shot, you are faced with a longer shot into the green. The tall sea grass and island shrubbery will block your view, but don't worry, there is a green beyond the trees. The larger green opens up as the fairway slims down to about 15 feet and then opens back up.

The large green will hold all types of shots but there will be difficulty putting any long shots. Four bunkers surround the oversized green and the sea shelled filled sand make getting up and down a harder challenge than usual.

The back nine contains the usual assortment of hard shots, beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife. However, it is the three finishing holes that will leave you scratching your head. After finishing hole number 15 and walking up 'Fainting' Joe Hill, you look out into the beautiful sixteenth hole.

The beauty of the island reveals itself to you as you get a great view of the Atlantic Ocean from the top of the hill. Pastel homes line the ocean drive as you prepare to finish yhe tough course. The downhill shot into the green on this par 3 measures 195-yards from the back tees. The shot is made more difficult by water that appears on the front and on the right.

Bunkers guard the hole on the front side, left side and far in the back. With all these factors already to contemplate, the hardest will always be the wind. The open nature of the hole to the ocean allows winds to sweep in and affect the ball flight. Be sure to factor in all of nature's fury and Cobb's ingenuity as you attempt to play this hole.

The next hole, number 17, is a par 5 that seems to allow you to get back some of the points lost on other holes. This short hole only measures 485-yards and should be a birdie attempt for most players. The danger comes in the simplicity of the adventure, long and straight.

The svelte fairway is guarded by water on the left and a dense tree line on the right. While relatively flat, the fairway on this course makes for a hard shot into the green.

The finale of the Bald Head Island Course is a spectacular yet difficult feat. The par 4 hole has water along the left hand and right hand sides. The green is protected left and right by bunkers full of seashell sand.

The hard fast green will make any pitch a tedious affair. It is not a surprising occurrence for what is usually a good pitch to turn into a 30 plus yard putt. Getting in the clubhouse with par is an event that should be celebrated.

The Bald Head Island course is difficult gem that should be savored and played repeatedly. The costs are relative to the time of year and whether you are staying on the island. You should expect to spend at least $80 for a day of golf. The island has many vacation and weekend packages that will make the experience even better.

Bald Head Island Resort

Okay, it's official; I am moving. Bald Head Island Resort is the best in laid-back island living. Only a short drive from Wilmington, North Carolina, this island retreat emits feelings of relaxation from the moment that you step onto the ferry from Indigo Plantation.

The short hop to the island is the perfect time to wind down mentally and physically leave the worries of the world behind. With a gentle breeze in your face and thoughts of only relaxation on your mind, your vacation can start immediately.

As you approach the island, the first thing that catches your eye will be the lighthouse known appropriately as, 'Old Baldy.' This rustic landmark and functioning lighthouse is a relic of the past. Built in 1817, it originally served the needs of leading sailors to shore. Now the lighthouse is filled with memorabilia of days gone by.

At this point you will begin to see an abundance of golf carts. These electric powered vehicles are the main transportation on the island. The slow speed of these vehicles will help get you in the slow relaxed mood of the island.

For those who decide to become regulars on the island, there is a full service marina to satisfy your sailing needs. With ten acres of space, the sailing public from the Intercoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean can easily access the island's offerings.

Only ferries and personal ships owned by people on the island may use this harbor. This marina is in a central location on the island area. This is also where two of the island's three restaurants are located and where the grocery store, island shop, library and rental management office are located.

While enjoying the relaxed pace of the island, it is almost a certainty that you will want to leave the tasks of cooking and washing dishes far behind. If that is the case, the island has three restaurants for your choosing.

The River Pilot Café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves everything from crab soup to rib-eye steak. They have a daily breakfast buffet and offer an Early Bird Special from 5:30-6:15 daily. The atmosphere is relaxed and the dress is casual.

For the health conscience traveler you have Eb & Flo's Marina Steam Bar. They are only open for dinner during the week and lunch and dinner on the weekend. They offer many varieties of steamed seafood. The low country boil is a particular favorite. The atmosphere is casual as well and should be enjoyed by all.

The final dinner destination is the Bald Head Island Club. It is open only to members, their guests and temporary members. They serve lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Sunday with a preset menu during the dinner hours. The Sunday Gala Buffet is a decadent affair and should be enjoyed by those who seek a more formal setting.

After a healthy meal, you may proceed to one the island many sporting venues. Several of the home sites contain pools, and there is one in the marina area. Tennis courts are available around the island along with croquet. The 18-hole George Cobb designed golf course is even a challenge for seasoned golfers.

The multitude of wild life on the island is due to the Bald Head Island Conservancy. This association is dedicated to preserving the life and natural resources in and around Bald Head Island. This non-profit organization was started in 1983 and seeks to make visitors aware of the island's environment.

Bald Head Island is a beautiful place to visit and live. The relaxed atmosphere and plethora of activities ensure an enjoyable vacation. If you seek an island vacation without the hassle of going out of the country, Bald Head Island should be at the top of your list. Who knows, maybe I will have my stuff moved in by then.(DS)

Bald Head Island Information Center
5079 Southport-Supply Road
Southport, NC 28461
Phone: 800-234-1666

Douglas G. Scarboro, Contributor

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