With more than half the holes affording views of Albemarle Sound, the course at Scotch Hall Preserve is an Arnold Palmer design that’s been described by one commentator as “the Jewel of the Inner Banks”.
Composing a review for Scotch Hall Preserve was extremely fun and wildly challenging at the same time. My entire day at Scotch Hall and courses in the surrounding area was unlike any other golfing trip I have experienced in North Carolina (80+ courses played in state). The unique atmosphere, layout, and setting of Scotch Hall make it incomparable and therefore, both exciting and difficult to rate.
Although I have lived in North Carolina for a decade, I knew very little about Scotch Hall outside of beautiful photographs in local golf advertisements, that it occasionally held CGA events, and that the few reviews available on GolfClubAtlas were surprisingly strong. When I saw the course offering $25 greens fees through GroupGolfer, I decided it was time to make my first trek from the Triangle to the Inner Banks, a roughly 2.5 hour drive.
Playing on a cool, windy, and drizzly day in the spring, I arrived at Scotch Hall to find the entire course to myself. Upon entering the front gate, one immediately is struck by the vast stretches of undeveloped real estate. Since even my GPS struggled to find a signal, it was somewhat unsurprising to see that home sales were not as high as the course obviously anticipated. Of course, selfishly, as a golfer, this rural setting without a housing community was a major positive!
The Arnold Palmer designed course at Scotch Hall is solid throughout with a number of strategic holes that fit the coastal landscape handsomely. My favorites include:
• #1: This medium length hole sets the tone for your round at Scotch Hall. With a gentle dogleg right and playing generally downwind, players must carefully consider club selection from the first shot. The green is surrounded by short grass with interesting chipping collection areas. I hooked my first tee shot into what I thought was rough and was pleasantly surprised to find a natural area with seashells. From the get-go, I knew I was in for a special day.
• #4: This shortish par four played into the wind when I visited. Two bunkers flanking the fairway challenge any daring player to hit driver; if not, you could be faced with a long iron into a deep green with trouble right. Psychologically, I thought it was fascinating to play this hole – just looking at the yardage, I did not expect to be hitting a mid-iron into the green.
• #5: I find true par fives to be refreshing in the game today, and the fifth at Scotch Hall is a brute. With the fairway pinched through the middle of the hole, both the tee shot and layup must be precise. The green is severely pitched and even a short third shot requires a deft wedge on your approach.
• #6: The tee shot at this par four represents more of what golf needs. A funky bunker in the middle of the fairway forces players to strategically think through their tee shot in a way that you rarely find in golf today. Playing to the right yardage is critical, too, due to the shallow nature of the green.
• #7: With your first true peek at Albemarle Sound, the 7th is a tough par three test into the wind with absolutely no room to bail out. The ocean waves were beautiful, but not relaxing on this difficult one shot hole.
• #8: When I visited Scotch Hall, this par five was playing downwind. Fairway bunkers come into play off the tee, but the more interesting aspects of the hole come on the approach. Players who lay up to the right give themselves a terrific angle into a multi-contoured green. Because the hole was playing downwind, though, going for the green in two is more than tempting. With that said, missing anywhere long or left was almost a guaranteed lost ball, and with the wind at your back, that play could be a dangerous prospect.
• #13: This par four provides so many options off the tee. Daring players can try to blast shots over two fairway bunkers for a better angle but must contend with out-of-bounds while those who lay up have a very wide fairway, but may contend with trees.
• #17: The signature ocean par three at Scotch Hall is a true stunner. Even when playing 35 mph into the wind, I still found myself struck by the amazing view, interesting bunkering, and L-shaped green complex.
With its lack of houses and beautiful setting, it is so easy to get lost in nature at Scotch Hall. Though it may not be the easiest course to walk, I found that the framing and routing of each hole provided a fitting ‘escape’ from the toils of everyday life. Before arriving, I did not know about the rentable cottages lining the 13th hole. Scotch Hall would be an incredible place for a buddies golf trip, and again, is truly unlike anything else I have experienced in North Carolina.
My reservations on Scotch Hall are minor. First, I played the course in wet conditions, and I think to get the full experience, one should attempt to play when the turf is dry and bouncy. Second, for all the advertisements of the 17th hole on the water, the course really does not take advantage of the Albemarle Sound as much as I would have hoped. In other words, it felt like they could have done a little better with the land. That said, I understand the challenge with selling seaside real estate vs. building more ocean-facing holes. Finally, as it currently stands, the club house is almost a mile away from the driving range and first tee. Navigating the community was a bit of a struggle, though the employees at Scotch Hall were always helpful.
My review of Scotch Hall seems incomplete without adding details of the rest of my trip to the Edenton area:
• First, if you have time, be sure to check out downtown Edenton itself. It is one of the most charming North Carolina towns I have visited with wonderful local shops and restaurants. The historic homes are unbelievably stunning, and apparently, around Christmas, are a major tourist attraction.
• On your way to Scotch Hall (coming from the West), you will pass a 9-hole golf course called Cashie Golf and Country Club. I stopped in at Cashie to play on my way home, and boy was I surprised. Built in the 1950’s, the routing at Cashie screams ‘golden age’ design. Though conditions are modest for this cash-only club, the turtle-back greens surrounded by fairway made me think that just maybe, an architect such as Donald Ross may have significantly influenced the designers. It would be a great place to warm up before arriving at Scotch Hall.
• On the same day, I hit another 18 at the locally owned Links at Mulberry Hill. While the architecture was not noteworthy, it made me proud to support the wonderful staff at the course and see the great product they provide clientele. There is a golf course for everyone, and the Links at Mulberry Hill fills a need for local residents. Plus, the view on 18 at sunset was unmatched (even by Scotch Hall).
All things considered, if you are a fan of golf adventures, throw Scotch Hall on your list. I was pleasantly surprised by the golf course itself and my entire day in the Inner Banks.