Pinehurst No. 2 has once again secured the top spot as the best golf course in the state as determined by the prestigious North Carolina Golf Panel. The Top 10 courses in the state remained consistent due to COVID restrictions which limited panel members from visiting clubs around the state as a group, but many were able to rate courses individually.

Among the Top 10, the Dogwood Course at The Country Club of North Carolina rose from fifth to third in the rankings. CCNC’s Dogwood and Cardinal courses will host the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur this summer. The Cardinal course moved up one spot to number 16.

Pinehurst courses dominate 2021 N.C. Golf Panel rankings

Dogwood Course at CCNC. Image by Kevin Murray.

The North Carolina Golf Panel was founded in 1995 and is recognized as the most authoritative statewide source of golf course rankings in a state that arguably has some of the nation’s best courses.

The 135-member panel is composed of golf media, club professionals and general managers from many outstanding courses, accomplished amateur players and college golf coaches and others who play an active role in promoting golf in North Carolina.

“As a member of the (North Carolina) Golf Panel, 2020 was a very different year and obviously restrictive when it came to ranking our great golf courses around the state,” said Phil Werz, president and CEO for the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Fortunately, for our tourism economy in Moore County, golf remained open throughout the pandemic. We are so blessed with world-class golf in the Pinehurst area and with the USGA announcement last fall to move a second headquarters here and create an anchor site for future U.S. Open championships, it merely enhanced that this destination is arguably the finest in the country to visit and experience the game for all ages.”

Among the 2021 rankings of the Top 100 Courses in North Carolina, a total of 15 are located in the Pinehurst Area. Those rankings include: Pinehurst No. 2 (#1); CCNC, Dogwood (#3); Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club (#4); Pinehurst No. 4 (#8); Pinehurst No. 8 (#14); CCNC, Cardinal (#16); Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club (#18); Forest Creek, South (#27); Pinehurst No. 9 (#30); Dormie Club (#33); Forest Creek, North (#34); Mid South Club (#40); Pinehurst No. 7 (#47); Pinewild, Magnolia (#59) and Talamore Resort, The New Course (#80).

Pinehurst area courses dominate N.C. Golf Panel rankings

Cardinal Course at CCNC. Image by Kevin Murray.

The panel also ranked the Top 50 Courses You Can Play and the Pinehurst area once again dominated the list with 15 locations, or 30 percent of the clubs, including the top six and eight of the top 11.

The top six include Pinehurst No. 2, Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Pinehurst No. 4, Pinehurst No. 8, Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club and Pinehurst No. 9. Mid South Club was ninth and Pinehurst No. 7 eleventh.

Other golf clubs among the Top 50 include The New Course at Talamore (#25), Southern Pines Golf Club (#36), Pinehurst No. 6 (#38), Legacy Golf Links (#39), Tobacco Road (#40), Longleaf Golf and Family Club (#41) and Hyland Golf Club (#50).

“Every serious golfer has a trip to the Pinehurst Area on their bucket list,” said Kevin Brafford, executive director of the N.C. Golf Panel. “One of the many blessings of living in North Carolina is that you can so easily become a repeat visitor.”

The Panel also determined a pair of subcategories for the 10 best Fairest Courses to Play and Most Strategic Courses and the Pinehurst Area is well-represented on both of those lists.

According to the N.C. Golf Panel, the Pinehurst Area has the top three Fairest Courses to Play in the state — Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club is first, followed by Pinehurst No. 2 and the Dogwood Course at The Country Club of North Carolina. Pinehurst No. 8 is included as eighth on that list. The Fairest Courses to Play list considers courses regardless of overall difficulty on the premise that it rewards good shots and penalizes poor ones in a manner that is reasonable.

Video by The Pinehurst Southern Pines Aberdeen Convention & Visitors Bureau.

For Most Strategic Courses, Pinehurst No. 2 and Tobacco Road Golf Club are tops in North Carolina as determined by the Panel. Pinehurst No. 4 and Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club rated sixth and eighth, respectively. This category’s Top 10 was determined based on how each course requires thoughtful planning and precise execution of shots from tee to green.

Pinehurst area golf courses are no strangers to the national and global stage as well when it comes to major championships. In 2019, Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club hosted the U.S. Senior Women’s Open while Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4 hosted the U.S. Amateur.

In 2021, The Country Club of North Carolina will host the U.S. Junior Amateur. In 2022, the U.S. Women’s Open returns to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. And the U.S. Open will be back at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2024, marking the fourth such major championship to be played at the historic club over the course of 25 years (1999, 2005, 2014 and 2024), the most to be played over the course of a quarter-century than any other location in the country.

Last fall, the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced additional U.S. Open championships for Pinehurst No. 2 in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.

For more information about all golf courses in the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen area, visit For the complete list of the Top 100 Courses for 2021, Top 50 Courses You Can Play and other rankings, visit

Top 100 Courses for 2021 (second number is previous year’s ranking)

1.         1. Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst

2.         2. Grandfather Golf and Country Club, Linville

3.         5. The Country Club of North Carolina (Dogwood)   

4.         4. Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Southern Pines                      

5.         3. Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club, Cashiers           

6.         7. Elk River Club, Banner Elk

7.         6. Quail Hollow, Charlotte

8.         9. Pinehurst No. 4, Pinehurst

9.         8. Old North State, New London

10.       11. Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro

11.       14. Cape Fear Country Club, Wilmington

12.       13. Old Town Club, Winston-Salem   

13.       10. Charlotte Country Club, Charlotte

14.       12. Pinehurst No. 8, Pinehurst

15.       12. Wade Hampton Golf Club, Cashiers        

16.       17. The Country Club of North Carolina (Cardinal), Pinehurst

17.       16. Eagle Point Golf Club, Wilmington

18.       18. Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club, Southern Pines

19.       19. Old Chatham Golf Club, Durham

20.       20. Raleigh Country Club, Raleigh     

21.       23. River Landing (River), Wallace    

22.       24. MacGregor Downs Country Club, Cary

23.       21. Rock Barn Country Club (Jones), Conover

24.       22. Biltmore Forest Country Club, Asheville

25.       35. Forsyth Country Club, Winston-Salem     

26.       25. Governors Club, Chapel Hill

27.       26. Forest Creek Golf Club (South), Pinehurst

28.       27. Prestonwood Country Club (Highlands), Cary

29.       29. Country Club of Landfall (Dye), Wilmington

30.       32. Pinehurst No. 9, Pinehurst

31.       30. Treyburn Country Club, Durham

32.       31. Country Club of Landfall (Nicklaus), Wilmington

33.       41. Dormie Club, West End

34.       33. Forest Creek Golf Club (North), Pinehurst

35.       27. Trump National Golf Club, Mooresville

36.       34. Linville Golf Club, Linville

37.       40. River Landing (Landing), Wallace

38.       38. Myers Park Country Club, Charlotte

39.       36. High Point Country Club (Willow Creek), High Point

40.       44. Mid South Club, Southern Pines

41.       47. The Hasentree Club. Wake Forest

42.       39. Finley Golf Course, Chapel Hill

43.       42. Greensboro Country Club (Farm), Greensboro

44.       43. Bald Head Island Club, Bald Head Island

45.       52. Balsam Mountain Preserve, Sylva

46.       50. Starmount Forest Country Club, Greensboro      

47.       58. Pinehurst No. 7, Pinehurst

48.       47. Country Club of Asheville, Asheville

49.       46. Gaston Country Club, Gastonia

50.       45. Duke University Golf Club, Durham

51.       48. Scotch Hall Preserve, Merry Hill

52.       51. The Cardinal by Pete Dye, Greensboro

53.       64. Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center (Champions), Browns Summit

54.       55. Grandover (East), Greensboro

55.       53. Hope Valley Country Club. Durham

56.       49. Leopard’s Chase, Sunset Beach

57.       56. The Currituck Club, Corolla

58.       59. Lonnie Poole Golf Course, Raleigh          

59.       54. Pinewild Country Club (Magnolia), Pinehurst

60.       60. Prestonwood Country Club (Meadows), Cary     

61.       66. Hound Ears Club, Blowing Rock

62.       63. Ballantyne Country Club, Charlotte                     

63.       61. Jefferson Landing, Jefferson

64.       57. Alamance Country Club, Burlington

65.       62. The Club at Irish Creek, Kannapolis

66.       65. Tiger’s Eye, Sunset Beach

67.       69. Pinewood Country Club, Asheboro

68.       67. River Run Country Club, Davidson           

69.       68. Carmel Country Club, Charlotte

70.       77. Mimosa Hill Golf Club. Morganton          

71.       70. Croasdaile Country Club, Durham           

72.       72. Cedarwood Country Club, Charlotte

73.       73. The Peninsula Club, Cornelius     

74.       74. Thistle Golf Club, Sunset Beach

75.       71. Porters Neck Country Club, Wilmington 

76.       75. Lake Toxaway Country Club, Lake Toxaway

77.       78. Kilmarlic Golf Club, Powells Point

78.       94. Crow Creek Golf Club, Calabash

79.       79.    Providence Country Club, Charlotte     

80.       83. The New Course at Talamore, Southern Pines

81.       80. The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation, Raleigh

82.       84. Grandover (West), Greensboro

83.       76. St. James Plantation (Reserve), Southport

84.       81. Linville Ridge. Linville

85.       82. Tanglewood Park (Championship, Clemmons

86.       89. Benvenue Country Club, Rocky Mount

87.       98. Blowing Rock Country Club, Blowing Rock

88.       86. Bermuda Run Country Club (East), Bermuda Run

89.       85. Wilson Country Club, Wilson       

90.       — Forest Oaks Country Club, Greensboro

91.       92. Mill Creek Golf Club, Mebane

92.       88. Brier Creek Country Club, Raleigh

93.       90. Rocky River Golf Club, Concord

94.       91. Compass Point Golf Club, Leland

95.       93. North Ridge Country Club (Lakes), Raleigh         

96.       95. Carolina Golf Club, Charlotte       

97.       99. Stoney Creek Golf Club, Whitsett

98.       — Deep Springs Country Club, Stoneville       

99.       100. Nags Head Golf Links, Nags Head

100.     96. Brook Valley Country Club, Greenville

Feature photo: Pinehurst No. 2 by Sandhills Sentinel Photographer John Patota.



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