As a frequent traveler to the Outer Banks, I have played nearly every course within a stone’s throw of my base, Kitty Hawk. Kilmarlic Golf Club, located just over the bridge connecting the mainland to Kitty Hawk and the rest of the Outer Banks, is within reach for beachgoers desiring a round of golf while on vacation.
The club’s name originated with a local legend. A ship laden with whiskey from Kilmarlic, Scotland, ran aground in the treacherous waters of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” off the North Carolina coast. Locals “rescued” the casks of Scotch whiskey and named the area Kilmarlic in celebration of this gracious gift. Whether or not this story is based in fact, you will want to raise a glass to Tom Steele, the course designer, after you complete your round.
The course is a thicket of giant oaks, pine trees and more wetlands than you care to search through for your ball. The Albemarle Sound borders the course, where more than 300 acres of wetlands and coastal ponds will test your skills.
Kilmarlic plays 6,412 yards, and since this is a placement course, first-timers will want to replay many holes to correct wrong decisions. There are plenty of places to “go for it,” as many of the holes offer a risk/reward scenario; however, the risk often turns into disaster. I have played this course more times than I can recall, and I must say, the pro shop staff run a well-oiled machine.
(526 yards, par 5)
The fourth is the most difficult hole, not just because it is ranked the No. 1 handicap, but also because it has so many areas that test your game and boldness of play. First, the tee shot: Trees line the left side of the fairway in what looks like a parkland layout; you’ll need to make a straight drive in the center. From here, the course changes and a thick peninsula of marsh forms the inner ring of this magnificent dogleg left. Many players — myself included — try to clear the corner; most fail, ending up in muck and marsh. The smart play is to nail a 7-iron to the turn and then hit a wedge to the slightly raised green. With this approach you will walk away with par rather than a score you won’t want to mention.
(163 yards, par 3)
Water comes into play on all but one par 3 at Kilmarlic, and this one is no exception. Your best tactic is a full mid-iron from the tee box to the green. A short shot will fall into the drink, which I have personally witnessed many times. The last time I teed up on this par 3, I nailed my 7-iron on the front part of the green, leaving me a long putt — which I missed, thus carding par. If you think more club is the answer, there is a bunker behind the green to cause trouble.
(487 yards, par 4)
Yes, par 4 — and a difficult par 4 it is. Well bunkered on the left, this hole is a challenge to reach in two. A pond lines the left tee box and should not come into play. Wild shots right will remain in the Outer Banks forever, like the ships that line the graveyard coast. If you can control your woods, this is the time to manhandle your 3-wood to try for the green, knowing you will probably fall short. Scoring five will feel like par.
(545 yards, par 5)
This one is all about the drive; it’s long and has a pond right where the average golfer tends to place the ball. The best shot is left center or right next to the pond. I have seen many short drives where a second mis-hit shot falls into the drink. You will need the best fairway wood shot to get some distance toward the hole, and then you should be left with a comfortable iron to the elevated green, with an often-caught bunker guarding the right front.
(151 yards, par 3)
This island green typically plays less, but many golfers end up wet trying to reach this small, oddly-shaped patch of terra firma. The green has a bunker on the right front edge, which also catches many errant shots.
(495 yards, par 5)
The same devil that sank the Kilmarlic ship can sink your drive into the wetlands. It is absolutely key to drive your ball left center so you have a clean second shot and an approach to the green. The average golfer has difficulty with this second shot, as there are so many areas where you can be led astray. Shots too far right can be lost in the wetlands. Even when you are safe right, you then have a precarious shot where you are tempted to aim to the green over part of the wetlands and a pond. The green, tucked in on the right side of the dogleg right, is well bunkered.
(552 yards, par 5)
Here’s another wild challenge. Your drive must stay clear of the bunker on the right and land center of the fairway. Balls left will require a punch-out, making par difficult. Your second shot has to clear the marsh area, which catches many mis-hit shots; be careful to cut the dogleg left and at the same time avoid running your ball through the other side of the fairway. Achieve all this and you will have a relatively clear shot to the green.
(514 yards, par 5)
On this fine finishing hole, keep your drive in the center of the fairway to avoid a marshy outcropping on the left side. Big hitters have a good chance of reaching the pond that lies about 250 yards out and continues on the entire left side of the fairway. Fairway bunkers snatch second shots as this hole turns left to a raised green.
Kilmarlic Golf Club
215 West Side Lane
Powells Point, NC 27966
tel 252 491 4220
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