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Kitty Hawk’s Duck Woods Country Club

by Francis X. Gallagher

Oct 1, 2018

DUCK WOODS IS A PRIVATE country club just over the Wright Memorial Bridge as you enter Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the home of the first flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright. Even though the course is private, a simple call to the pro shop secures you and your group a tee time, and the club happily takes your payment. Weather conditions over the past winter took their toll on the courses in the Outer Banks, and Sea Scape and Nags Head Golf Links experienced a great deal of damage to the fairways from the cold. The conditions at Sea Scape were so bad this summer, the course offered significant discounts to play. The exception appears to be Duck Woods. Perhaps the course is just protected well enough from the elements or has an exceptional grounds crew, but the course was in pristine condition the two times I played in July. Kudos to the groundskeeper and the greens committee!

Designed by Ellis Maples, the course opened in 1968. Maples was one of the undisputed kings of North Carolina golf, second only to the famed Donald Ross, who trained Maples. Known to do more with less, Maples worked primarily with the topography of the land and crafted the course to fit into its surroundings. This is prevalent at Duck Woods. While on vacation in Kitty Hawk, I teed up with Paul Gosselin and my brother Gerry, as well as Duck Woods member Mike Askew. The Duck Woods employees make for an enjoyable round, and the course never seems overcrowded.

HOLE 1 | 497 yards, par 4
The dreaded first hole leaves little for one to escape. Without a clean, straight shot to the fairway, players are likely to catch the canal that runs along the entire right side of the hole. Trees flank the left — playable, but they can cause you to lose a stroke. Your second shot to the green requires clearing a branch of the canal that dissects the fairways at about 100 yards from the green. This makes for some comical shots that dribble into the water, or even some more adventurous ones that catch the bridge and make it successfully over — I recall Gerry taking this route. After a great drive, I landed right of the green and chipped on for a bogey, leaving my teammates in the dust and water.

HOLE 4 | 355 yards, par 4
Off the tee box your direction can be confusing, as two trees located on the right side of the fairway appear to be in play. Aim your drive left center, making sure you keep the ball in play, as the left side falls off into water. This was Paul’s fate. The water continues up the left side and then turns right, creating a pond near the front of the entire green; this was Gerry’s fate. I hit a textbook drive to the center left. My approach was just short of the green, so a simple chip and a two-putt secured a bogey.

Hole 4 signage showing the water hazard © FRANCIS X. GALLAGHER

Hole 4 signage showing the water hazard © FRANCIS X. GALLAGHER

HOLE 6 | 403 yards, par 4
Another deceptive hole from the tee box requires players to drive the ball far enough on the right side to avoid the marsh and water on the left. The water/marsh is not clearly visible, and any strong drive in this area will almost surely be wet, like mine. Gerry, Paul and Mike took a “righter”-side trajectory, landing safely. I had the drop and took a penalty, continuing my comedy of errors and catching the sand trap on the right. A pair of bogeys won the hole, secured by Mike and Paul.

HOLE 11 | 180 yards, par 3
Most of the par 3s at Woods are straightforward, but this one can be tricky, as it plays a little longer than the card suggests. Many golfers simply do not use enough club and end up in the right bunker or, worse, in the marsh along the right side. I took a mid-iron and nailed a golf shot to the center of the green. Paul followed suit; Mike and Gerry fell for the traps on the right. Making par is a reward on Hole 11!

HOLE 15 | 387 yards, par 4
Holes 15, 16 and 18 are challenging closing holes and really separate the men from the boys. Gerry recently secured a dozen new Callaway balls and proceeded to pepper a bunch into the marsh on the left. Big hitters can get into trouble on 15’s dogleg left, as it is feasible to reach the water that cuts across the fairway about 140 yards from the green. Paul drove his ball long but slightly right, passing through the fairway and ending up in the rough on Hole 10. (It really was a monster of a drive.) Unfortunately, trees made his approach less than desirable. Mike and I hit near-perfect drives, rewarded by a series of high fives. I overshot the green on the approach, but my trusty lob wedge got me close enough to one-putt for par — a jaw-dropping sight for my teammates.

HOLE 18 | 516 yards, par 5
A challenging hole to close out an architectural gem in the Outer Banks. Maples used everything at his disposal to make a narrow and long hole with a small green tucked into the left side. Not known for his fairway bunkers, Maples put one just on the left side, and it caught my drive off the tee, destroying my hopes for parring 18. Others in the group let the pressure get the best of them, driving into the woods on the left. The prime shot is right center; then you can take a fairway wood and drive the ball within a hundred yards of the hole. Bunkers line the green on the right, and a pond cuts in on the front left two-thirds, wrapping around the back. A little throat opens on the right side, occasionally allowing balls to roll on, but more often they end up wet. Balls landing on the green tend to move right to left toward the water. A double bogey for me and Gerry and a bogey for Mike and Paul ended an enjoyable round at Duck Woods.

Duck Woods Country Club

50 S. Dogwood Trail
Southern Shores, NC 27949 tel
252 261 2744


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