With professional golf and spring seasons both in full swing, there’s never been a better time to hit the links! Sanford and Lee County are home to some of the finest golf courses in North Carolina guaranteed to test and thrill golfers of all kinds.
Carolina Trace Country Club
Carolina Trace has quite the reputation in golf and hospitality. It’s considered by many to be a champion golf course on par with Pinehurst, well-known as the anchor site of the U.S. Open. Sporting two 18-hole courses with meticulous Bermuda greens and stunning lake vistas, Carolina Trace invigorates players with challenging play while delighting them with breathtaking beauty.
Legend has it that famous golf architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. was inspired to create Carolina Trace’s uniquely designed courses after taking a boat out on Lake Trace. From a certain vantage point, he could clearly see the vision of amazing golf games to come.
Today, the club’s courses provide a great deal of flexibility with seven different T-boxes available for players to choose their level of difficulty. In addition, Carolina Trace offers all the amenities of a full-service private club including golf, tennis, swimming, state of the art fitness facilities and fine or casual dining.
Ray likes to joke that he’s lived his entire life on a golf course. He begin playing at age 6 when his parents joined a private club. What’s more, Ray has practically done every job there is to do on a golf course from caddy to general manager.
Like every other junior golfer, Ray dreamed of becoming a professional golf player. When he arrived at Ferris State University however, he quickly realized that working in golf rather than playing the game professionally was a much more attainable goal. “I thought I was good, but then I met really good golfers,” he says.
After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Business and his Masters in PGA Management, Ray embarked on a career that now includes 25 years of membership in the Professional Golfers Association. Three of those years have been with Carolina Trace. As Assistant General Manager and Golf Professional, Ray oversees daily operations which include managing the course, guest relations, club membership, club amenities, employees and staff.
What Makes Sanford Golf Special?
According to Ray, the biggest reason golf in Sanford is so special is due to the area’s proximity to Pinehurst – considered by many to be North Carolina’s golf mecca. “Even when I lived in Michigan, I knew people who went to Pinehurst and Sanford to play golf,” Ray recalls. When it comes to Carolina Trace in particular, Ray credits the club’s two championship courses as the reason for its popularity.
Ray’s Golf Advice
Visit Sanford, and Carolina Trace specifically, for the opportunity to play where the pros play. The degree of difficulty of each course at Carolina Trace proves challenging, but doable. The greens here are also meticulously maintained to offer championship level play all year long. Add to the mix the popularity of downtown and great restaurants like The Flame Steakhouse and a visit to Sanford is truly a hole in one.
Tobacco Road Golf Club
Tobacco Road is a course like no other. Known as one of the top public golf courses in North Carolina, the course was also voted one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the World by Golf Course Architecture. Its landmark design is not only a stunning work of art but also a golf player’s dream.
Established in 1998, Tobacco Road is younger than many other celebrated courses. Designed by architect Mark Strantz, it seamlessly incorporates many “conventional features” of the Golden Age of golf course design. Think elegant fairways set against a sandy waste and bolder designs reminiscent of the British Isles.
Beyond the panoramic views and stunning vistas lies a course that tests all a player’s faculties. Five sets of tees allow play worthy of various skill levels, while still offering everyone enough of a challenge to keep things interesting, eye-opening and invigorating.
Chris Brown started at Tobacco Road Golf Club as head Golf Pro in 2000. He quickly rose through the ranks and became the Director of Golf in 2015. As a golf professional, Chris facilitates the best possible experience for each and every golfer who plays Tobacco Road. He accomplishes this by managing club staff, being knowledgeable about the game and utilizing the business tools necessary for success.
Chris developed a passion for golf very early on. His involvement started out small and slowly grew until it was the one sport he couldn’t do without. “I was playing other sports, but golf started to take up more and more of my time until it was my only sport,” he says. Chris was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to play in college and eventually turned his passion into a career.
“I went through high school and college seeing myself in a typical corporate environment,” he recalls. One day, Chris receive a call asking if he’d be interested in becoming an Assistant Golf Pro and the idea intrigued him. He leapt at the chance to use both his business and golf skills and the rest was history.
What Makes Sanford Golf Special?
When asked what makes golf here so special, Chris points to the history of the game. There’s also the fact that Sanford and Lee County are home to three accessible golf courses offering a wide range of experiences.
Speaking of Tobacco Road specifically, Chris credits Mike Strantz for designing a course that’s “memorable, challenging and fun, but also ahead of its time.” When it first opened, Tobacco Road stood out amidst a sea of “cookie-cutter” layouts. To this day, it’s still one of the best courses around.
Golf Advice From Chris
If Chris could give visiting golfers one piece of advice, it would be to have fun in Sanford. Don’t worry about playing your best round ever. Just play each hole the best you can. When off the course, kick back and enjoy great meals at restaurants like Smoke and Barrel, Davison’s Steak House and Yarborough’s Homemade Ice Cream.
More Choices, More Golf
Quail Ridge Golf Course
At 6,900 yards, Quail Ridge is a premier, daily-fee golf course boasting rolling hills, lush fairways and immaculate greens. Head over for a regular round of golf or an exciting, new destination to tee off.
Quail Ridge was designed by course architect Ellis Maples who created more than 60 golf courses in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and the Mid-Atlantic. True to his form and style, the course takes full advantage of its location on the highest piece of land in Lee County. Each hole has its own unique terrain and views. The well-bunkered, bent-grass greens give golfers at all levels the challenge they’ve been looking for.
Boasting a rich history of tournament play, Quail Ridge also offers visitors additional features like a clubhouse, restaurant/lounge, driving range, pro shop and both a putting and chipping green.
Sanford Municipal Golf Course
Not far from downtown Sanford is Sanford Municipal Golf Course offering terrific views and challenging games. Marvel at lush fairways, eye-catching azaleas and a spectacular view of Buffalo Creek on the back nine. Getting in a round or two here is quite frankly North Carolina golf at its finest.
Sanford Municipal Golf has everything you’d expect from a Donald Ross-designed course. It features 6,205 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 71. Well-groomed fairways and greens also keep play challenging yet friendly. Whether you’re sinking 18 holes or just tuning up your game on the putting green or driving range, the course’s friendly staff is always on hand to assist you. Golfers will also enjoy a practice bunker, pro shop, chipping green and a snack bar.
for a Spring Visit
Plan your golf getaway to Sanford and Lee County by booking the perfect vacation package.
Spend two glorious days enjoying picturesque rounds of golf at Carolina Trace Country Club. The beauty of both the Lake Course overlooking Lake Trace and the Creek Course will surely dazzle and amaze you almost as much as your golf game.
Overnight hotel accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express will offer a relaxing respite from the green. You’ll also dine on a delicious cuisine at the Club restaurant Jones Pub as well as The Flame Steakhouse in downtown Sanford.