RALEIGH, N.C. ― North Carolina has been named 2018’s Golf Destination of the Year for North America by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO).
With stunning landscapes cradling courses from the mountains to the Atlantic coast, North Carolina ranks as a premier place for championship rounds and leisurely play. Courses that make headlines include Pinehurst No. 2, the Donald Ross masterpiece that made history by hosting both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open in 2014; Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, where the 2017 PGA Championship was played; Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, home of the Wyndham Championship; and Eagle Point Golf Course in Wilmington, site of the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship.
“Between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Outer Banks, North Carolina has more than 400 resort and public golf courses with all kinds of bragging rights,” said Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina. “Pinehurst has been called the ‘golfiest resort in America’ with nine 18-hole courses. Farmstead Golf Links in Calabash takes you across state lines on last hole, which measures 767 yards. At Cleghorn Plantation in the mountains, you’ll see an old grist mill and a slave cemetery.”
IAGTO is the global trade association of the golf tourism industry, comprising 600 golf tour operators from more than 60 countries who cast their vote for this award. Each operator is asked to nominate the best performing golf destinations enjoyed by their clients, resulting in five Golf Destination of the Year winners from each of the five regional categories ― North America, Latin America & Caribbean, Europe, Africa & Gulf States & Indian Ocean, Asia and Australasia. Criteria include customer satisfaction, quality of courses and accommodation, value for money, professional conduct of suppliers, support from local tourism industry and accessibility to tee times.
The winners of the 2018 IAGTO Awards were announced during the Opening Address of the 20th International Golf Travel Market (IGTM), which took place on 12 December, 2017, in the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes, France, in front of an audience of 1,300 international golf tourism delegates.
North Carolina’s selection speaks to the quality of the travel experience as well as the excellence of its courses. In addition to Pinehurst and its courses by Ross, Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus and others, wellrounded stays are experienced at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, The Ballantyne in Charlotte and Bald Head Island at the state’s southernmost tip. Vacation rentals and course-side condos offer roomy comfort as well as convenience. Beyond exceptional clubhouse dining, golfers can sample everything from North Carolina’s world-famous barbecue to modern Southern cuisine. The best 19th holes add unique flavor from some of the state’s 225 craft breweries.
Each of the state’s three main regions ― the mountains, the Piedmont ― and the coast ― is home to major attractions that help make North Carolina the sixth most-visited U.S. state for overnight travel. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the 8,000-acre Biltmore estate draw large numbers of travelers. In the Piedmont, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, the Old Salem living history complex in Winston-Salem and the Guinness World Record-holding Raleigh Beer Garden are top attractions. For the coast, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, historic brick lighthouses and dunelined beaches offer unforgettable experiences.
Air travel makes North Carolina courses accessible. In central North Carolina, Charlotte/Douglas International Airport offers daily nonstop flights from more than 160 cities; Raleigh-Durham International Airport flies nonstop between 50 destinations. Airports in Asheville, Wilmington and Norfolk, Va., help minimize drive times as well.
For more information about the IAGTO Awards, visit www.iagto.com/awards.