On a sunny, windswept October afternoon, the Country Club of the Crystal Coast proved an ideal place to get out for a few hours, take in some fantastic views of the Bogue Sound and the Intracoastal Waterway, and test my shot making abilities in 20 – 30 mph sustained winds.
Situated on the north side of the Bogue Banks in Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina, CCCC is the only golf course on the Crystal Coast’s barrier island.
It’s a semi-private club that welcomes public play, and for a twilight rate of $35 starting at 2:00, I was confident I could get my money’s worth.
The Country Club of the Crystal Coast is a much less imposing facility and golf course than its name would portend, both in course design and amenities, as far as I could tell.
Nestled in a pleasant-looking, upscale residential development, CCCC’s course and clubhouse were short of spectacular, favoring function (and resistance to hurricanes) over style or form.
Designed by Maurice Brackett, CCCC opened for play in 1971, and the course displayed signs of every bit of its 44 year history. At 6,004 yards from the tips, it maintains a course rating and slope of 70.4/130.
Maybe it’s a product of being on a barrier island or the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin, or perhaps it’s just spending very little money, but the course lacked a certain crispness in its presentation and features.
The front nine had elements of both “Hilton Head” and an inland Florida course feel to it.
Several holes on the front nine are carved out from thick stands of live oaks and other coastal hardwoods, with a series of lakes, ponds, and pools providing an omnipresent water hazard threat throughout the entire side.
Given the waterlogged fairways and rough, it is tough to assess how challenging the front side would be under normal or dry conditions. I suspect that under unsaturated turf conditions, hitting less than driver would be prudent on many of the par 4 holes.
The back nine is markedly more fun and infinitely more interesting than the front nine, simply for the routing’s exposure to the Intracoastal Waterway.
Holes numbers 10 and 11 use the Intracoastal Waterway to guard the left-hand side for the entire length of both holes.
Additionally, the Bogue Bay also provides a brilliant backdrop for the 12th tee and the 13th green, before the course turns inland.
This four hole stretch pretty much defines the golf course in terms of being memorable or unique. It’s a fun stretch of holes, that while not particularly challenging or dazzling, is extremely enjoyable due to the remarkable scenery.
CCCC’s layout is generally narrow, played out among corridors formed by the aforementioned trees and ponds, and the entire layout is completely flat.
There is very little change in elevation, man-made or otherwise, which was fitting giving its location next to the Bogue Sound.
Unfortunately, this was especially true of the greens, which were only gently sloping at their most severe, with one or two notable exceptions where the green was divided by distinct tiers or shelves.
There were just enough curves and doglegs to provide some real intrigue and challenge tee to green, as the tree groves often interrupted line of sight from the tee.
Thus, the preferred line or landing area sometimes ends up being slightly deceiving or difficult to judge.
The entire course is covered in a coastal Bermuda grass, so there is very little differentiation visually between fairways, rough, approaches, and green surfaces.
Much to my delight, considering how many up close and personal examinations I afforded myself, the bunkers were full of fantastically clean, soft white sand.
We were visiting just a week or so after Hurricane Joaquin had soaked the island, so some slight damage from the storm’s aftermath remained. Several fairways and other areas through the greens were ground-under-repair, as the lakes and ponds had not yet fully receded.
Predictably, the club had been unable to mow some areas since before the storm 10 days prior, which I completely understood.
The real downside is that with the ground completely saturated, there was little to no run-out on a well struck tee shot, which added a degree of difficulty to an otherwise relatively short golf course.
As the only option to play golf and smell the sea air along the Crystal Coast, CCCC is worth playing for the sake of its convenient location and the novelty of being able to hit a ball in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Also, if the wind is up on the surf outside your hotel or rented house windows, it’s going to be howling at CCCC as well. The 25 mph sustained wind was a fun divergence from the usually docile summer breezes we experience in Lexington, though I realize not everyone would share my enthusiasm for such conditions.
Beyond those limited purposes, the course itself is pretty bland, and while there are only a handful of nearby competitors, there are better pure golf experiences within a 15 minute drive.