Appeared in April/May 2009 LINKS
There is no better running trail than following the holes of a golf course, which provides great scenery, offers varied topography and has turf that is easy on the knees.
Unfortunately, going for a run on many 21st century layouts means that you seem to log just as many miles through housing developments and on concrete as you do on grass. In addition, it is easy to get lost without signs directing you to the next tee.
But a run over Eagle Point Golf Club, built in 2000, has none of those downsides. Quite to the contrary, it shows how well Tom Fazio routed a 7,258-yard layout on a 229-acre site just outside Wilmington, North Carolina. During the run, it is clear how the holes flow seamlessly into each other and follow the natural topography, and no signs are needed to traverse all 18 holes in order.
The next morning, I am eager to play the holes, and a closer examination strengthens my initial positive impression of the course. There are no spectacular holes but rather a succession of well-thought-out ones that test both strategy and execution.
That was exactly the type of layout the foursome of Eagle Point’s visionaries—Billy Armfield, Bobby Long, John Ellison and John Mack—had in mind when they started the club along with 20 other founders. With only a handful of water hazards, the course is friendly for average players. But it provides plenty of subtle challenges for contestants in the six-year-old Eagle Point Amateur Invitational, fast becoming one of the key stops on the regional amateur calendar.
Amateur golf’s traditions, values and camaraderie make up much of Eagle Point’s character. The tone of the club is casually pitch-perfect, from the modest clubhouse to the comfortable cottages for out-of-town members to the welcoming staff that takes their cue from director of golf Billy Anderson, who has built a club that may be serious about golf but doesn’t take itself seriously.
When it comes to the course, there is plenty to be serious about. Its location less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean gives the layout a unique character that is part Sandhills and part Lowcountry. With enough elevation changes to hold a player’s interest, the course has a memorable group of long par 4s, like the 461-yard 3rd, which looks as though it could be in Pinehurst, and the 431-yard 9th, which plays over marshland and would be right at home in coastal South Carolina.
Fazio concluded with three of the strongest holes on the course: the 436-yard 16th, 442-yard 17th and 580-yard 18th. The last two holes play toward the ocean and into the wind most days. A closing birdie is possible, but only with three well-played shots to a green guarded by a marsh.
If the final hole fails to decide the match, players can play off on the club’s par-3 course. No pitch and putt, the nine-hole layout was designed by Fazio and presents just as many challenges as the big course, with holes ranging as long as 215 yards and testing nearly every club in the bag.
Only then can the group return to the clubhouse to cap off as enjoyable a day of golf as one can find anywhere.