6,390 yards, 138 slope from the Blues
Sitting in the Hummer for the wild horse tour, I was able crane my neck to get a glimpse of where I’d playing in a couple days. We finally decided to start exploring after multiple trips to the Outer Banks and this meant checking out the more northern parts of Corolla and the beach where wild horses roam free. We find some of them on the beach but most are within the hills where houses are scattered and all of them on stilts. There are no paved roads so there’s a ruggedness to the area, yet I get the feeling it’s more developed than most want. Indeed, we keep seeing signs on the houses for even the horse tours to get out, as we see more than six or seven trucks like ours, full of people like us wanting to see the horses and beaches. The beach was my favorite part of the tour. You’re able to drive on it and with the ocean calm and tranquil, there was peace to be had. A more sobering moment is when we came across a horse named Alma, who had seemingly been ostracized from her group with wounds to her sides and both sides of her face. She was on the beach alone and the tour guide painted a grim outlook. You could sense her loneliness and despair. Searching for another group to belong to, she was lost that morning, unsure where to go or what to do, or what lay ahead. We have all been there. Fortunately, Alma did find another group of horses (apparently called, “harems”) and seems to be doing much better.
Well into our vacation and instead of returning to nearby Nag’s Head Links, I drove back up to Corolla to play some where different, the Currituck Club. Designed by Rees Jones and his associate Greg Muirhead in 1996, the course sits on the inland side of the island, on a tinge of hills but most of it along the wetlands that eventually gets to places like Sedge Island, Wells Creek and Buzzard Lead. Most of the trees and plants block views of this wetlands bay area but there is no doubt there. The environmental restrictions are usually fairly strict with this type of eco system.
Built when and where it was, there are houses along the course and the holes weave about them, in addition to managing the environmental issues. There is variety in length and hole configuration with some suggestions of strategy but most of the time the answer is to hit the ball straight and far. There are some blind shots, which is not like Rees, who favors allowing the golfer to see everything before him. Rees and his team mostly did well with the fairway shaping and bunkering, as well as routing through land earmarked for development or environmental restrictions. It is also flexible for wind that comes through frequently. In possibly a Golfadelphia first, however, it is my opinion the greens and fairways are actually playing too slow. This renders all the contours and shaping mostly ineffective at bringing the thrill and excitement to the round it is meant for. The housing doesn’t interfere with play and is set far enough back but they take the more interesting land and create mostly straight corridors that sterilize the course in spots. It enjoys a location where golf courses are sparse and is a better option for that reason and while it can’t do much about routing, conditioning could significantly improve the playing experience by fully utilizing the design intentions. At the end of the day, however, it’s a vacation destination and provides that golfing experience most expect in a resort type setting.
My golf game was a bit uneven around this time. As things in the game go, this would change in a few weeks when I ended up shooting my personal best. Like Alma, some times we have to search. It may feel bleak at times, the tour guides may tell others of our grim outlook but you never know when another harem is around the corner, waiting to bring you in. For me, this round on that day, the tail end of Summer lingering on, the degree of bleakness and harems changed dramatically from hole to hole.
The First is a 514 yard par 5 (from the Blues). From the rear of the clubhouse, we head out to the fairway below where a bunker on the left is really the only hazard to avoid. Moving up to the green, there is water on the right and a larger bunker on the left to focus the shots now that we have had a couple to warm up, but there is till good width to work with through the green.
The Second is a 147 yard par 3. Rees has used a forced carry par as the second hole on past occasions, with LedgeRock coming to mind as I sit here. The green is well-sized but missing off the green can get complicated, depending on where you are. Short and to the right have the most room but the tree on the right comes into play quickly.
The Third is a 381 yard par 4. A slight dog leg left around marshy long grass and trees. The tee shot should clear a path to the green but those that try to list too far to the right could end up in the tree line on that side. The green is cradled off to the left, bunkers at the corner posts and a wide affair. Lots of room before to work with as well.
The Fourth is a 393 yard par 4. Things gets a little saucier all of a sudden with water running down the entire right side. The trees on the left side aren’t exactly inviting and we are faced with the most intimidating tee shot of the round. Be not afraid; there’s plenty of room out there. In fact, the approach is more harrowing, as the larger bunker on the front left needs to be carried and anything even a touch to the right will move into the water. Time to get your act together and hit a golf shot.
The Fifth is a 359 yard par 4. The water isn’t done with us yet. In fact, it insists on being carried here off the tee. The approach, however, is much more inviting than the hole prior, so take advantage. Thus far, the bunkering has been restrained yet effective. The fairways and contours influence the greens and shots while various angles and tee/fairway/green configurations have livened up play. The approach here even invites the ground game should the golfer opt to stay below the wind.
The Sixth is a 176 yard par 3. We start heading to the bayside, getting this par 3 in on the way. Another carry over the water to an angled green, running at an 11:00 to 4:00 angle. Really, just don’t miss left.
The Seventh is a 500 yard par 5. The bay is to our left and essentially remains there for us until we cut back in to the clubhouse at the Ninth. The contours and mounds of the fairway show off well in contrast to the longer marsh grass at the sides, allowing the ball to roll in whatever direction the mood hits. Trees on the right, bay/long marsh grass on the left continues to the green until some bunkers pop up closer to the green. Keeping it off the sides is the prominent consideration.
The Eighth is a 386 yard par 4. A creek leading to the bay cross the fairway just after the tee and must be carried, which shouldn’t be too much of an issue. The green is narrow yet deep, with bunkers running alongside it. There is good width here but like the last hole, stay as centered as possible.
The Ninth is a 327 yard par 4. The forced carry tee shot is a bit further out from the tee but should not be too tough for most. The green is uphill, with bunkers at the lower front side. A right to left pull dominates most shots here and the green accommodates that with its shape. It’s a good little short par 4, leaving some thinking to do on both shots.
The front nine starts off gentle enough then ramps up in challenge as the holes progress. The par 4’s stick out for their variety in several ways. I would rank them 9, 3, 8, 4, 7, 5, 1, 2, 6.
The back nine starts with the 357 yard par 4 Tenth. Moving on from the Ninth without returning to the clubhouse (even though it’s next to the Ninth green), the fairway heads uphill from the tee, then dog legs right and downhill to the green. The contours do well to move the ball in various directions near the green, as well as obstruct clear views of the green. The entry point on the left looks enticing to feed it towards the center but again, be weary of slower speeds that may prevent that from happening. It’s a nice shorter par 4 to start off the back.
The Eleventh is a 164 yard par 3. An uphill par 3 gets us to the hilliest part of the course, the wind complicating things most of the time. The lower right side turns into trouble quickly while the higher left off the green runs out of room quickly to make room for the cart path and houses beyond.
The Twelfth is a 422 yard par 4. Another dog leg right where the tee shot forces the issue of moving with the dog leg for fear of running out of room on the left. Not too far on the inside, as a trio of bunkers is camped out there. The approach is nice enough after the turn; wide open and free of bunkers until you reach the green.
The Thirteenth is a 536 yard par 5. A narrower affair for a longer hole, the elevated tee shot at least gives us a little advantage in getting the ball out there a bit further. The hole is satisfied with its defense in narrowness until we reach the green, where bunkers start to dot the landscape. The green is wide but still of modest size considering the longer shots coming into it, yet the contours and run off areas are enough to accommodate most shots.
The Fourteenth is a 294 yard par 4. The shorter par 4 does not come without its trouble, with water up the right side, then bunkers and even some perilous rough on that side. Left to left center makes the most sense off the tee, which then sets up a shorter approach into a smaller green. The contours and undulations here and how they tie into the smaller green work well.
The Fifteenth is a 143 yard par 3. The back nine is more of an out and back and starting with the hole prior, we are heading in the direction of home. The terrain movement should be of the utmost consideration, as its pull from left to right will impact most every shot. In this way, the marsh grass coming in from the right is a suggestion to stay over on the left. A single bunker is short right and there is room right of the green to miss, but not much.
The Sixteenth is a 491 yard par 5. Long and straight, trees become the dominant features as they loom on either side. Their intrusion on the right gives the hole a little definition to favor the left side while the smaller kidney shaped green is surrounded by a quartet of bunkers on the sides.
The Seventeenth is a 388 yard par 4. Straight but wider than the last hole, there are more bunkers to contend with leading up to the green.
The Eighteenth is a 382 yard par 4. Yet another straight, insulated hole and they start to all mesh together towards the end. The bunkers are larger near the green but the concept is the same as the last couple holes; hit it straight and avoid the bunkers on the approach.
The back nine starts out nicely but the last few holes flatline a bit, which leads to a flat finish. The design tries to vary these holes with width, trees and bunker configuration and may have been henpecked on the land they could use. I would rank them 10, 12, 14, 13, 11, 15, 18, 16, 17.
Generally, The Currituck Club is a stiffer round of golf that relies on contours and angles much more than expected, bringing in components of strategy and variety in spots during the round. While I enjoyed the bouts of terrain-based options, it was tough to use them all that much with the slower speeds. The grass could have been up based on the time of year or a host of other reasons but it’s one of the rare instances where more speed could make things more interesting. There are a number of forced carries, although there is an effort to provide alternate paths. Bunkers are used sparingly but usually in the right spots as well. For those on vacation looking for more of a resort experience, the course will be fine in fitting into that. It does well in staying away from the houses and makes some effort in remaining engaging throughout with the restrictions that were likely in place at the time of design and construction.
Clubhouse/ProShop: The clubhouse is modest yet has everything you need while the pro shop is expansive with a vast selection of equipment and apparel.
Practice area: Driving range, short game area and practice area, all well adorned.