RALEIGH, N.C. – With new golf course openings few and far between these days, it came as a breath of fresh air when the Arnold Palmer-designed Lonnie Poole Golf Course opened earlier this year. But behind all the pomp and circumstance lies a golf course that’ll bring even the longest hitters to their knees.
Situated atop rolling terrain, adjacent to the main campus at North Carolina State University, the par-71 tips out at 7,358 yards and gives Tobacco Road Golf Club a run for its money in the unofficial battle for North Carolina’s most difficult golf course. Even from the third-longest set of tees the course boasts a 500-yard par-4 (No. 3, shown above) and a par 5 approaching 600 yards (No. 11).
Palmer’s first public golf course design in Raleigh, Lonnie Poole is a super-sized version of the friendly, resort-style layouts for which Palmer is known. With wide fairways and large greens, it’s a bombers delight, a perfect venue for the long-hitting collegian (it's the new home for North Carolina State University’s men’s and women’s golf teams).
Holes 11 and 12 give players a dramatic view of the Raleigh skyline, a rare treat considering Lonnie Poole is the first course built inside the city’s Interstate 440 beltline since 1948. No. 11 might be the toughest tee shot because of a gnarly tree branch that overhangs the tee, requiring a left-to-right shot if you’re playing the back tee (one member of the grounds crew said he wouldn’t be surprised if they cut it down). At 658 yards it’s a three-shotter for just about everyone.
A few holes down the stretch have treacherous water hazards, most notably No. 15, which has a lake left off the tee and another one short and right of the green. The par-4 18th is a good birdie hole that will undoubtedly set the stage for some exciting tournament finishes.
N.C. State’s golf course, like its football team, looks to have the key components in place, and a bright future on the horizon.