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) and a near 600-yard par-5 (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 serves as the new home of N.C. State’s men’s and women’s golf teams).
Nos. 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 is made even more difficult by a gnarly tree branch that overhangs the tee, requiring a cut-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 coming 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. No. 18 is a birdieable par-4 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.