Mar 26, 2014

Cape Fear National Golf Course Review

It’s was only fitting my second round in North Carolina was going to be at the wildly acclaimed Cape Fear National at Brunswick Forest. Just outside of Wilmington, NC. I had only heard great things from fellow golf bloggers on this 6 year old Tim Cate track. 

  • Top 10 Best New Courses 2010 - Golf Magazine
  • Best New Courses of 2010 - Links Magazine
  • Best New Courses List 2010 - Golfweek Magazine
  • Best Residential List - 2011 & 2012 - Golfweek Magazine
  • Best Courses You Can Play in NC -2011-2013 - Golfweek Magazine  

I was set up for a noon tee off time unfortunate my buddy and had some navigation problems and arrived a bit late. Fortunately the staff at Cape Fear was great and got us out a half an hour later.

Conditions were tough winds gust to 40+ km/h and a temperature hovering just above zero with the wind chill. Something like the golf up here in Canada in November.

Ever the hardy golfer we hit the range which is brilliantly tucked away by the 8th hole. The perfect spot to get warmed up plus it’s nicely out of the way to contemplate the tough round ahead.

Right from the get go #1 is a tough driving hole for those that like to draw the ball. A dogleg right with a good 138 yd. carry over an unplayable wetland this 345 yd hole will test your driver from the get go.

The next two holes I found to be the toughest. Number 2 a 487yard par 5 played like 600 yards with the wind. Getting your tee shot in the fairway on this hole is paramount to a good score. Again Cate has designed this hole with a wetland area to distract you on your second shot. Be careful of the landing area, stray balls may find the water on the right side of the fairway.

Number 3 is a tough dogleg left with water down the left side. You can try to cut off as much water as you can with your drive but playing to right side may be more favorable. Two position bunkers on the right side Cate has placed just to keep you thinking even more on this par 4 (Handicap 3)

The greens were amazing at Cape Fear for the time of year. They had just been aerated recently and rolled extremely true. It was nice putting on bent grass greens as that is most common in Canada. Most greens varied in size which is nice for variety and many had various collection areas if your ball was short or long. So make sure your chipping and pitching is up to the challenge.

Number 4 was a challenging par 3 especially because we played into the wind. Anything short and right is gobble up by the bunkers. Anything that doesn’t hold this crowned green finds itself in a back collection area. Be happy with par on this hole in the wind.

Holes #5, #13, #16 are all three very similar designed holes from Cate. With strategically placed waste bunker areas down the right side players will be forced to play shots that require accuracy and procession or you will be penalized. Visually stunning with water on all three holes as well Cate lays the path to a good score with generous fairways but with so much trouble abound a golfer is challenged on these holes. (Some of my favorite par 4s on the course).

   Have to be able to play well out of the sand at Cape Fear National

Number 6 tee shot has many bunkers to deal plus another forced carry over wetlands to the green. Number 7 is a slight dogleg left with another carry with your tee shot over wetlands.

After the somewhat tame 6th and 7th holes comes the long par 5 at number 8.  The number 1 handicap hole is just plain difficult with water down the right side and narrow fairways and perfectly placed bunkers to gobble up errand tee shots. A difficult hole for players of any abilities you must be precise with your shots. The wind reeked my playing partners and shots big time. Par will feel like a birdie here. 

  Forced carries over wetlands abound at Cape Fear National

Cape Fear National is the only course I’ve played that has par 3s on its 9th and 18th holes.
The 9th is nice little par three, 156 yd. from the white tee the green is wider then it looks. The collection area front and right is better then the two bunkers on the right side. A great way to finish your first nine holes at Cape Fear National.

   Par 3s on #9 (shown here) and #18 make Cape Fear National unique

Hole 10 I found very similar to the starting hole except I managed on a par here on the 372 yd. par 4.

The par 5 11th hole is best set up with a drive to left side of the fairway past the first bunker. Cate has designed this hole nicely with a narrow fairway leading into this 473 yd. hole. Water down the length of the right side you’ll be trying to hug the left side again of the fairway for a little wedge into this narrow green.

Number 12 has a nice wide open fairway for your tee shot. With a good drive you’ll only have a wedge into this protected green. Make sure you have enough club as bogeys can still pop up on this number 16 handicap hole.


The easiest par 3 on the course number 14 plays 149 yd. Long and anything near the right bunker can poise some troubles for a wayward iron.

The long and straight 25th is one tough hole. A player must be in the fairway, so aim left of the bunker on the right side and you should be great for your second shot. Most will be laying up on this 499 yd. hole but be very careful of the narrow fairway. Aim for the wider fairway in front of the green and you just might be staring down a birdie with a wedge in your hand. Good luck!

What looks like a pretty tame hole the downhill par 4 17th can be quite tough with water down the right side and trouble if your long on this hole.

I have to admit it was weird ending on a par 3 especially a pretty melodramatic one like #18. Again you have another forced carry this one on a par 3. Pretty large green most should be able to end with par and a big smile.
Cape Fear National is a course you must play. We had extremely difficult conditions (cold temperatures/high winds) and we still had a blast and would go back in a blink of an eye. The course had a nice mix of holes. I loved the use of waste bunkers, water and natural wetlands to sculpt a fair test of golf for any golfer. Cape Fear’s greens were nice and large (average 8500 square feet) but still fair with bent grass that rolled true. With five sets of tee blocks be sure and play the right set of tee blocks when you go. Greens fees are reasonable, cheaper if your a local resident please check out Cape Fear National's website for more details. Check out all my pictures on Instagram and Pinterest.

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