It’s a steamy, sun-baked land steeped in sweet tea and basted in barbecue sauce, a golf-mad corner of the world where fairways and food go hand-in-hand, especially if you’re a club-wielding carnivore.
Let South Carolina have Myrtle Beach, with its teeming crowds and garish 24-hour neon. If you’re looking for a civilized, upscale golf experience where the greens are speedy and the steaks are falling off the plate, look to the Old North state, the side of the Carolinas that’s closer to Canada.
Fall is the perfect time for thicker-blooded Canadian players to check out North Carolina’s McConnell Golf Trail — a collection of high-calibre country clubs owned and operated by local business magnate John McConnell, who caught the golf bug in 2003 after cashing out a multimillion-dollar health software business.
He started with Raleigh Country Club, a stately, old-world Donald Ross layout in the heart of the city for which it’s named.
The club was bankrupt and doomed to urban sprawl when McConnell rescued the last course Ross — best known for famous U.S. Open venues like Oakmont and Pinehurst No. 2 — designed.
From there, McConnell rounded out his collection with Pete Dye’s telltale railroad ties and dastardly par-3s at Cardinal Country Club, Arnold Palmer’s laid-back style in Musgrove Mill, and the classic American parkland style of Tom Fazio in both the challenging Treyburn Country Club and the charming Old North State Club.
To introduce the private-club delights of North Carolina, McConnell Golf offers a year-round package deal for groups of four or eight golfers: Three, five or seven-day tours.
Accommodations, transportation to the courses and most meals, prepared by private chefs no less, are included.
When the weather starts to turn north of the border, the temperatures in the Carolinas are downright hospitable, to say nothing of the locals, whose southern accents often make it a hard place to leave.