The Outer Banks of North Carolina — stretching 90 miles from Virginia to the islands of Ocracoke and Portsmouth — is famous for its wide beaches and great surf. It’s a fragile strip of sand, measuring less than half a mile wide at some points, that cuts between a number of brackish sounds and the open Atlantic Ocean. With some stretches of its barrier islands lying 20 miles from the North Carolina mainland, the Outer Banks is accessible only by boat, plane and a few bridges. Still, it’s grown considerably in the past 15 years.
The area also has historical significance as the site of the “Lost Colony” at Roanoke. In May of 1587, English settlers established a colony here. Its leader, John White, returned to England for supplies and to recruit more settlers. When he arrived back at the colony three years later, all traces of the settlement had mysteriously vanished.
The famed pirate Blackbeard knew the waters here well. The ocean floor off the coast of the barrier islands — it’s called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” — is strewn with the wrecks of ships that have run aground in these tumultuous waters. The Outer Banks is also home to Kill Devil Hills, the site where Wilbur and Orville Wright accomplished the first powered flight, on Dec. 17, 1903.
Here’s also where you’ll find the Sea Scape Golf Links, in the town of Kitty Hawk. Opened in 1968, Sea Scape is the second oldest course on the Outer Banks. Due to its location, dune grass comes into play on most holes, and the wind has to be considered on virtually every shot. You’ll see the ocean from 15 of Sea Scape’s 18 holes. The course was designed by Art Wall, former Masters champion, and sports bentgrass greens and Bermuda grass fairways. Under the direction of Paragon Construction, the 1997 course renovation involved adding and moving trees, adding several waste areas and constructing Scottish-style bunkers to create a layout closer to that of a true links course.
Sea Scape’s sister course, Kilmarlic (http://www.kilmarlic.com), is located just over the Wright Memorial Bridge. Kilmarlic gets its name from one of the ill-fated ships that sank off the coast, leaving its cargo of whiskey barrels to wash ashore. The course has substantially more water that Sea Scape and is surrounded by far more trees.
Hole 1 (579 yards, par 5)
Aptly named, this hole was my nemesis each of the three times I played the course. Off the tee, it appears simple enough: a straight hole that requires three equally straight and long shots to the green. But balls seem to gravitate to the left side of the fairway, and beyond that to the rough and to the sea oats and dune grass. The right side of the fairway is equally covered with scrub brush, small trees and dunes. Some 20 yards from the green is a mound of dune grass that may come into play, since it blocks the right half of the fairway. On the left of the fairway is another dune area, ready to catch errant shots to the green. The green itself is straightforward, but does have a slight undulation at the forward right side, sloping to the back.
Hole 3 (542 yards, par 5)
Your tee shot is vital on this hole, as it is a dogleg right. Position “A” would be slightly left of center, so you have a clear shot to the second landing area, or “big dogs” could possibly go for the green. Again, dune grass, scrub, and small trees can interfere with your game, as the hole is entirely surrounded. A series of traps guards the entrance to the green.
Hole 5 (525 yards, par 4)
Roon the Ben
I am not sure from where this name derives, but many a ball can end up like the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke. You can either blow your tee shot through the fairway, or try to cut the dogleg left and reach the “shmoo” — a golf term for swampy or grassy overgrowth. Those of you who carefully position your tee shot have a relatively easy shot to the green, which is downhill all the way. A low area will catch slicing shots to the green on the right side.
Hole 9 (146 yards, par 3)
This is an elevated tee box with a huge drop to the green. Winds can play havoc with your club selection. The green stands with very little rough around it, and errant shots will make their way to the sand below and may be difficult to find. It’s a good idea to fire a provisional if there is any doubt. The green is long and oval shaped, sloping to the front.
Hole 11 (475 yards, par 5)
Although not the most difficult handicap hole, Plateau has strong prevailing winds that many feel make it the most challenging one on the course. It’s long, and your tee shot needs to reach the top of the flat landing area without catching the bunkers on the left or the brush on the right. Making this hole in two is a challenge, as it is uphill all the way. Those not selecting enough club to the green will find two bunkers eager to catch them if they fall short.
Hole 15 (420 yards, par 4)
From the tee box, you cannot see the green because this is a dogleg right and uphill all the way to the landing area. Two fairway bunkers lie to the right, ready to snare those trying to cut the corner; a large waste area sits on the left. A thicket of brush and brambles meets any shot left or right on this hole. Your second shot to the green needs to be accurate, as it lies to the right of the fairway, close to the thicket.
Hole 17 (215 yards, par 3)
This long par 3 requires accuracy off the tee box, or yours will join the graveyard of golf balls (which includes a few from my group) in the water. A tee shot that slices to any degree will find the water. Fortunately, there is a rather large bunker to the right of the green that helps catch rolling shots that would otherwise fall into the drink. The green is elevated on the back left side and, when the pin is placed there, makes for interesting putting.
Hole 18 (342 yards, par 4)
Again, the tee shot is important here, as you can easily block yourself out of a clean shot to the green if you are too far left. Tee shots too far right can roll down the embankment and out of play. Your second shot on the dogleg left to the green is nearly blind: it lies above you and is protected by a huge waste bunker in front and a larger one to the left. Out-of-bounds both left and right comes into play due to houses built alongside the course.
SEA SCAPE GOLF LINKS
300 Eckner St.
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949
tel 252 261 2158
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Since 1970, Goway Travel has been committed to providing customized travel experiences for world travelers. Few things are better evidence of this commitment than being awarded the 2019 Trazees award for Favorite Tour Operator. Goway Travel heartily thanks the readers of Trazee Travel for this honor and for their confidence in Goway’s work in creating travel memories that’ll last a lifetime.
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