The front nine holes of the Cardinal course at the Country Club of North Carolina were built by Willard Byrd in 1968 then he returned eleven years later with Robert Trent Jones Snr to add the back nine.
Around the turn of the new millennium, Arthur Hills renovated both the Dogwood and the Cardinal course, the latter is located on the western section of the extensive property and is by no means the country club's poor relation.
Country Club of North Carolina (CCNC) is a private members club located in the Sandhills of North Carolina near Pinehurst. The club boasts two 18 holes golf courses- the Dogwood, and The Cardinal courses, as well as tennis courts and pool- all in a glorious lakeside setting... Both courses are a joy to play.
The fairways are immaculate and the putting surfaces as pure as the driven snow- and quick! It takes some getting used to..
You will need to bring your 'A' game to play here, and on the holes where the lake is in play- and there are many- staying dry becomes a major focus. The Cardinal course is well designed and will challenge all level of golfer
Notable holes include:
- hole 1, a driveable short par 4
- hole 2, lovely par 5 where the approach needs to be accurate to avoid the lake beyond
- hole 3, a challenging par 3 over water
- hole 4 is another challenging hole
- a par 4 with a diagonal approach over water.
- hole 11, a par 5 with pond in front of the green
- hole 17, a long strong par 3
- hole 18, a par 4 with water in play along the left
CCNC is a haven for golfers. With two wonderful courses CCNC members must be pinching themselves.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Generally regarded as a top 100 course in the state, the Country Club of North Carolina’s Cardinal Course has sat on my bucket list for years. Just recently, the opportunity to check off both the Dogwood and the Cardinal arose, and I eagerly made my way to the Sandhills.
Two aspects of the CCNC experience were ingrained upon me before my round even began. The first was the incredible hospitality shown to me and my playing partner by the staff. Every single employee we encountered – from bag attendants, to food servers, to Mr. Jeff Dotson the head professional – treated us as if we were a seasoned member. Each went out of their way to make us feel welcome, and that type of greeting is hard to forget.
The second was the unbelievably superb playing conditions present on both courses. My praise for CCNC’s superintendent and their staff knows no bounds. Fairways were springy and every lie was perfect; the rough was thick and actually played like a true, unpredictable hazard; and, the Bermuda greens rolled exceptionally true with virtually no impact from grain. While I do weight routing and layout more when I rate courses, CCNC’s playing surfaces are too pristine to ignore. Of 101 courses played in North Carolina, CCNC’s conditioning was comfortably top three.
With more dramatically rolling terrain than its Dogwood sister, the Cardinal course allowed for creativity off the tee and when approaching greens. With tremendous variety throughout the routing, players are bound to hit every club in their bag in addition to numerous shot shapes. Holes which stood out to me most include:
• #1: My favorite hole on the entire CCNC property, this very short, potentially drivable par four was incredibly unique. More conservative players can take advantage of what must be the widest fairway on the course, shunted by three small fairway bunkers. This right-side angle, though, is far inferior on the approach to a green which then is quite narrow. More aggressive players who challenge water and trees can be rewarded with an easy bump-and-run or maybe even a green under regulation, if they can find the thin entryway. This hole is a perfect way to begin a round of golf: exhilarating fun, endless options, and not too much difficulty from the start.
• #2: This par five can easily be played as a three shot hole with wide landing areas for a metal from the tee and a lay-up. However, one can also attempt two very bold shots to reach the putting surface. The first is a massive drive over four bunkers that pinch the fairway. The second is a downhill shot to a small green that essentially must stick the landing. In firm conditions, this is nearly impossible, and players may watch a well-struck ball leak off the back into a lake.
• #3: This par three features a penal, undulating peninsula green. I found this out the hard way. Playing conservatively to the right portion of the green, I faced an impossible putt down a hill, towards the lake, directly over a massive spine. I was pleased with a three whack and learned quickly that the Cardinal rewards those who take a little more risk.
• #4: Having any idea of the pin placement may drastically change the method of attack at the fourth. A pond diagonally cuts off this fairway, ultimately pinching it down the right side. If a pin is on the left portion of the green, it may be wise to play aggressively down this right side. However, for most pin placements, challenging the water left or laying up may actually improve the angle significantly. A hole need not have bunkers to offer such compelling options.
• #7: The green at the par three seventh is deceptively crowned. This extra padding not only forces one to club up, but also rejects shots which are (very likely) to come up short.
• #9: Swooping to the right and down a massive hill, the par five ninth may tempt players to try and run a shot up to the green. However, banked into a hill, this approach is nearly impossible. With the putting surface being so deep and elongated, laying back may actually be a strategic win with a better view of the many tiers and pin placement.
• #10: Playing down the left side of this hole and avoiding two pot bunkers provides the best angle into this green complex, though it is possible to cut of distance down the right, risking a bad lie in the rough but potentially cutting off significant yardage.
• #13: While I generally dislike trees which sit in the middle of fairways, the tree at the inside corner of the dogleg left thirteenth is an excellent, fair natural challenge right in the line of sight.
• #15: A truly awesome par five, the right-to-left cant of this hole’s corridor provides loads of challenge. From the tee, one must avoid the massive fall-off to the left. On the second shot, the player again sees that they can favor the right side for a potentially good kick into the fairway. However, play too conservatively, and face a nearly impossible up-and-down to a shallow, skinny, deep putting surface.
• #18: This finisher is a bit quirky, but does test the nerves exceptionally. From the tee, it is imperative to hit your shot far enough past the corner, but also not into a pond or thick rough – a difficult task on this firm, downhill fairway. Hugging the right provides the best angle, but also the highest risk of not having a view at the green.
On this website, as of July 2020, the Dogwood course is ranked #13 while the Cardinal course is ranked #45; on the N.C. Golf Panel rankings, the Dogwood is ranked #5 while the Cardinal is ranked #17. Personally, I found both to be compelling. In fact, my playing partner and I both felt if we had to divvy 10 rounds between the two, it would likely be close to a 5-5 split, maybe even 6-4 towards the Cardinal. This is simply just to say that, in my opinion, the courses are far closer in their ‘ranking’ than it might appear on the surface. The front of the Cardinal and the back of the Dogwood is arguably the best composite of the four nines.
All-in-all, the Cardinal course at CCNC kept my interest steadily throughout the round. I hit every club in my bag, played some tremendously fun shots on the ground both in the fairway and around greens, and felt completely lost on the property. If ever provided the opportunity, it is well work the trek to the Sandhills to experience it yourself.
The Country Club of North Carolina’s second course, the Cardinal, has some similarities to its big brother the Dogwood.
It is also a tree-lined course played across a nice topography. Some lakes are thrown in and greens are relatively large. For the most part the landscape consists of a gentle rolling nature.
Conditioning is superb and the greens ran very quickly. It’s an excellent second course and members’ course that provides a very enjoyable day out.