Thursday, July 31, 2014

Outer Beauty, Inner Beast: Nags Head Golf Links in NC's Outer Banks

Nags Head Golf Links in North Carolina’s Outer Banks takes on entirely different appearances from day to day — sometimes even moment to moment

(OUTER BANKS, N.C.) — With beach chairs in tow, a man and woman begin their plodding descent from atop Jockey’s Ridge — the tallest natural sand dune in the Eastern United States. Their sunset-seeking mission has just been cut short by the rumble of an approaching thunderstorm. Sand beneath their feet, a memorable day of vacation slowly shifts into nighttime mode across North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Just a few miles south, the Nags Head Golf Links staff shutters its sound-side clubhouse as the storm begins to touch the plush, green-carpeted landscape. With their last golf cart safely tucked away after a day of calm, the attendants depart for home; fully anticipating entirely different conditions the subsequent morning.

A “cold front” passing through that night does indeed brings a different look, feel and challenge to Nags Head the following day. With its guard down just hours prior, Nags Head was vulnerable to well-executed tee balls, feathered iron shots and precisely-read putting strokes. Today, with whitecaps lapping on the Roanoke Sound, temperatures “only” in the 70s and the wind blowing steadily across well-manicured fairways, the strategy is vastly different. It is British Open interpretation golf — windbreakers and wind-breaking shots; a feast of 9-iron knockdowns.

One day the beauty, the next day the beast. Such is the golf life for nearly 6,200 yards out on a barrier island.

The central portion of OBX is considered the town of Nags Head along with neighboring Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills. It is a land of cottages and small hotels, crafted in a style often copied by beach home designs up and down the East Coast.

OBX is a region defined by its numbers. You always know where you are by its mileposts. At milepost 4 there’s Barefoot Bernie’s, a popular restaurant/bar. At No. 6 you can take in a movie. At No. 7, you can shop the island’s only department store, a Belk. At No. 8 there is the Wright Brothers’ Monument. At No. 12 looms Jockey’s Ridge.

Nags Head, with it small-town atmosphere and family operated businesses, comprises 6.5 miles of territory. Eleven miles of ocean slap up against Nags Head beachfront.

The number 12 is the amount of years Randy Hall has been working as a starter at Nags Head Golf Links — which, incidentally, rolls past milepost 15. The Rocky Mount native migrated to the beach shortly after graduating from high school off the lure of surfing. That was in the early ’70s. With surfing now in his past, he now spends much of his time working and playing at golf.

“It seems so long ago, I can’t even relate to there [life in the Carolina interior],” Hall said.

The Nags Head motif is often borrowed though rarely duplicated. Almost no one can match the style of golf found at Nags Head Golf Links. A unique piece of property enabled designer Bob Moore to craft a landscape and environment that is indeed a one-of-a-kind opportunity for those who love the game. The Scottish-style approach is challenging and awe inspiring all in one.

“A group of professional surfers from Southern California came out here a few years back and the one comment they made to me was, ‘Wow, the East Coast is not what we expected,’” Hall said. “They were impressed by the coloration of sunsets and the beauty of the golf course. It just wasn’t what they had expected when leaving the West Coast.”

The Outer Banks, with its constantly shifting sand and changing forecasts, is known for is adaptability. The same goes for Nags Head Golf Links.

“The course has been opened up a lot since I started playing here,” Hall said. “They’ve done that to improve the pace of play. There are a lot more areas now for you to land the ball and play out of instead of having it end up in the junk.”

Still, Nags Head is a layout you need to play a few times before you truly find yourself at ease.

“I call it having ‘golfer’s remorse,’ like buyer’s remorse,” Hall said. “After you have played it for the first time, you often end up saying to yourself, ‘I wish I’d played it that way, or I wish I’d aimed over there.’ Golfer’s remorse. With its killer views and mystery-around-every bend design, it’s definitely a course you need to come back to — and you’ll do better.”

Learn more about all OBX golf experience and Fall golf getaways at or 800-916-6244.

No comments: