Cape Fear National is distinctly Carolina with a twist

By Erik PetersonApril 27, 2010, 9:07 pm
cape fear hole 16
The 16th hole at Cape Fear National near Wilmington, N.C. (courtesy CFN)

LELAND, N.C. – Under sun splashed Carolina blue skies, golf course architect Tim Cate unveiled his latest masterpiece, Cape Fear National Golf Club. While the name alone might give a novice golfer anxiety, Cate kept it playable for all types, using his creative touch to mold what has quickly become one of the most picturesque inland golf courses in the Carolina Coast region.
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Hidden within the new and large Brunswick Forest residential development near Wilmington, N.C., Cape Fear National is a few things any Carolina golf course aspires to be: challenging and visually stunning, with an adherence to the natural beauty of the Carolinas.

None of this is new, however, to Cate, a native of the Carolinas who also has highly-acclaimed Tiger’s Eye Golf Links and Thistle Golf Club on his résumé.

“I pride myself on designing golf courses that provide an aesthetically pleasing, memorable experience to all levels of golfers,” Cate said. “Every shot needs a challenge.”

In all, Cape Fear National features more than 7,200 yards of golf from the back tees, 1,500 feet of bridges, as well as waterfalls, rock walls and gnarly-edged bunkers, a few of which you can even drive your golf cart through.

Bring your thinking cap to the par 5s

Cape Fear National opens with a gentle par 4, but the dogleg left second hole is a strategic three-shot par 5 no matter who's playing it, because of a cross-cutting hazard that prevents longer hitters from bombing it off the tee. As is the case with all par 5s at Cape Fear National, the second shot is critically important to setting up your birdie opportunity. A lake protects the right side of the layup area.

“All the par 5s require a thoughtful second shot,” said director of golf Ron Thomason. “You can’t just hit your 3-wood up there somewhere around the green. You have to really think about where you’re placing it in order to avoid the trouble.”

No. 8 is the front nine’s other par 5 and it might be the best example of Thomason’s point. At 576 yards from the tips it’s not only the longest par 5 but also the most treacherous, with water bordering the entire right side.

Two big bunkers protect the left landing zone off the tee and another big one protects the layup landing area. About the only relief is the green, which is relatively flat.

No. 9, a mid-iron par 3, brings the fear into Cape Fear, particularly if the pin is back left. A lake protects the front portion of this deceptively undulating green. Aim for the right side of the green – even off it if the wind’s up – to avoid a big number that can spoil your front nine.

Drive-thru open all day

One of the defining characteristics of a Cate-designed golf course is the creative – and oftentimes massive – bunkering that adds to the natural look of the golf course more than traditional circular-shaped bunkers. Cape Fear National is no exception.

The most notable example of Cate’s eclectic bunkering is in his use of drive-thru bunkers that run along the entire right side of Nos. 5, 13 and 16.

While the visual intimidation of these monstrosities is indeed a factor, this area is actually ruled as a waste area where you can ground your club, so they’re quite manageable to hit out of. If you hit the shot as if you’re on a hard fairway it’ll come out just fine.

No. 13 is no doubt the signature hole at Cape Fear National. This beauty of a par 4 “captures the essence of golf,” according to Cate.

Tucked in the far corner of the golf course, you really feel like you’re out in the wilderness at 13. The entire right side is protected by a 25-foot-tall dune that extends the length of the hole. The fairway is generous, but the large green can be tricky if you’re on the wrong side. After a quality shot off the tee and into the green you’ll leave the prettiest hole with great birdie or an easy par.

The verdict

Cape Fear National is certainly a must-play in the Wilmington area, and even worth diverting toward en route to or from a Myrtle Beach golf trip.

The conditions are very high quality, and at $75-110 it’s priced competitively among the other high-end courses along the Carolina coast.

A few of the holes have a links feel to them, but the experience as a whole is natural Carolina. And if you know a Tim Cate golf course you know that distinctly Carolina is right in his wheelhouse.
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.