Of North Carolina’s top golf destinations, there’s none more familiar to me than the Outer Banks, where I spent each summer growing up and Nags Head Golf Links and The Currituck Club highlight some of its must-plays.
But on a trip to Nags Head last week, my father and I ventured about 85 miles inland to pay our first visit to Scotch Hall Preserve in Merry Hill.
Midway through our round, we were already talking about coming back.
Scotch Hall, formerly known as Innsbrook Golf Course, opened in 2009 and was designed by Arnold Palmer. Since then, it’s garnered numerous accolades, most recently coming in as the No. 25 course in the country in 2016 and Palmer’s top design, according to customer ratings and reviews on Golf Advisor.
The day before our round, we heard similar praise inside the Nags Head pro shop, where we were told that Scotch Hall is one of the few courses in the eastern part of the state that could currently be declared tournament ready.
Our expectations were high as we made the hour-and-a-half long drive to the course. But Scotch Hall exceeded those in almost every facet.
Perhaps the course’s only negative revealed itself early on, as the trek from the clubhouse to the first tee is about a half-mile, at least. However, with a cart featuring a touch-screen GPS system and having snagged a great sandwich from The Shed Bar & Eatery, we couldn’t have cared less.
Before teeing off, we made a stop at the driving range, where unlimited balls awaited us. Although we didn’t visit them, a putting green and a par-3 practice hole are also on the route to the first tee. The extra swings might come in handy.
From the tips, Scotch Hall measures 7,262 yards and boasts a slope rating of 146, according to the U.S. Golf Association. Despite such a challenge, the course plays fair and encourages creative shots. But be sure to play from the correct set of tees, which there are five.
A driving factor in the course’s difficulty are the large, strategically placed bunker complexes that define the course. Bring your beach clothes because there’s almost as much sand here as there is at the beach.
Many of those bunkers guard the greens, which are a 50-50 blend of A1 and A4 creeping bent grass and currently in pristine condition. Subtle undulations lead to some tricky putts.
And don’t forget about the water. Eleven holes border either the Albemarle Sound or Salmon Creek, adding to the challenge and offering some spectacular views. Few houses litter the course, and none influence play. But you’ll be jealous of the scenery that they have – perhaps none more than the houses behind the 17th tee.
The signature 17th hole, a 207-yard par-3, is the closest you come to the Albemarle Sound. With it to your left, you might struggle to keep your eye on the ball as you attempt to clear the wetland situated below the elevated green.
Such a carry is a common characteristic among three of the course’s four par-3s. All four holes also feature coolers filled with ice and bottled waters – a necessity on a day when the heat index reached 111 degrees. However, the heat couldn’t ruin our round.
As we drove back to the clubhouse, my father and I kept discussing how impressive the course was, with both of us calling it the best we’ve played in quite a while. The value sure didn’t hurt, either.
For an adult to play 18 holes with a cart, it costs $40 Tuesday-Thursday and $50 Friday-Sunday. Using GolfNow, we booked our tee time for $24 each. Scotch Hall also offers some great stay-and-play packages, starting with one night at The Inn at Scotch Hall and two rounds of golf for $120 per person on weekdays.
Reaching Scotch Hall might be difficult. But for such an experience, it’s a journey I’m already looking to make once again in the near future.