(GREENSBORO, N.C.) – First impressions often mean a lot, and evidence of that is found near the top of the North Carolina Golf Panel’s Top 100 courses for 2017. Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club, which opened in 2006, wowed Panel members in their initial visit, enough so to merit a No. 3 ranking, the highest debut for a course since the Panel was founded in 1995.
As has been the case every year, Pinehurst No. 2 leads the Top 100. Many believe Donald Ross’s best work has never been better as it’s matured following a 2010 restoration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville, perhaps the best work of another renowned course architect, Ellis Maples, remains second. Next is Mountaintop in Cashiers. Befitting its name, the Tom Fazio design sits at 4,000 feet in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The course flows seamlessly and sensibly through a majestic setting of hills, woodlands and streams.
Another Fazio masterpiece, the Old North State Club in New London, ranks fourth. Next is Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines. Sixth is the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, which in August will host the PGA Championship. Rounding out the top 10 are the Country Club of North Carolina’s Dogwood course, Elk River Club, Charlotte Country Club and Pinehurst No. 8.
Three other courses cracked the Top 100 for the first time. Thistle Golf Club in Sunset Beach debuts at No. 67. It features 27 holes designed by Tim Cate (best known for his outstanding Leopard’s Chase and Tiger’s Eye layouts at Ocean Ridge Plantation) and has a private-club feel in a daily fee setting. The Lakes course at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh is No. 86, and the Lake course at Carolina Trace Country Club is Sanford is No. 93. Two courses re-appearing in the Top 100 are Southern Pines Golf Club (95th) and Stoney Creek Golf Club (99th).
The Top 100 is determined by a scoring system where panelists consider among these factors: routing, design, strategy, memorability, fairness, variety and aesthetics. The Panel’s 2017 rankings are detailed in the April issue of Business North Carolina magazine and at NCGolfPanel.com.