Bald Head Island is by no means an easy place to get to; it’s not something you’re going to stumble across by accident, yet it is a special place for a variety of reasons. It’s not far from Wilmington, NC – about a 20-minute ferry ride from Southport, NC actually – so it’s rather secluded. Cars are prohibited on the island, you’ll see yours again when you return via ferry.
Once you get to the island the Island Tram will take you and your possessions to your destination, usually a vacation rental. Everything is dog and cat friendly, so long as they are on a leash or in a crate.
The majority of visitors are here for vacation, usually in one of the privately-owned vacation rentals. Many are here for the beaches; Bald Head Island boasts 14 miles of beaches, which I’ll bet is pretty much the circumference of the island! Then there’s Bald Head Lighthouse, the oldest one still standing in North Carolina. You may recognize it from the movie Weekend at Bernie’s. A visit to the Smith Island (the island’s original name) Museum will fill you in on the history of the island, dating back to the Revolutionary War. Some, like me, are here for the golf course at the Bald Head Island Club; guest membership is included in some rentals. Word of warning: If you are renting a home and plan on playing golf, be sure that a guest golf membership is included. It’s the only way that you will get on the course short of begging a lonely member!
The golf course is an incredible work of art and to me is one of George Cobb’s best works; a pretty bold statement considering he is the designer of the Par 3 Course at Augusta National as well as several other prominent properties. The golf course at Bald Head Island Club opened in 1974 and underwent a major renovation under the direction of Tim Cate in 2010. Cate made the course a lot more natural-looking and more of a challenge by transforming almost 35 acres of rough into new sandy areas with native grasses. He also converted the greens to Miniverde Bermuda grass complete with a new irrigation system. Long-time members will tell you that it is now a completely different course.
From the Black tees, Bald Head Island Golf Club measures 6,832 yards with a course rating of 73.9 and a slope of 142. This alone should tell you how tough the course plays. Move up two sets to the White tees and you’ll find a more manageable distance of 6,032 yards (70.3/131) which will let you enjoy the course a lot more. For ladies, the Teal Tees measure 4,785 yards (68.9/118). Choose the tees that best match your game and you’ll have a good time.
Bald Head Island is one of the most beautiful courses I have played in the state, and that’s saying a lot! The course winds its way through a maritime forest and out onto a dune ridge that offers spectacular views of the ocean on the final few holes.
One of my most memorable holes is Number 7, a par 5 that plays 480 yards from the White Tees. As you stand on the tee you can see a flag in the distance as Robin Williams once said, “To give you hope!” Between you and that flag is a lot of sand and water. The green is significantly elevated with a deep massive bunker directly in front. Although I hit a good drive and the green was within striking distance, I opted for the safer path and left it short of the bunker and hit a solid wedge shot up on the green, leaving a good – yet unsuccessful – putt for birdie.
Number 14 is a 365-yard par 4, dogleg right that looks a lot tougher from the tee box than it really is. In reality, it’s one of the widest fairways on the course and once you find it off the tee, you’ll have a good look at the green. The green is slightly uphill and is protected on either side by bunkers, so be sure to take enough club and hit it straight.
The par 3 16th hole is considered by many to be Bald Head Island Club’s signature hole. From the back tees, you’re at one of the highest elevation points of the golf course – if not the island – with a wonderful panoramic view of the golf course and the sea. There’s water in front of the green as well as up the entire right side, so be sure to take the right club and hit it crisp!
At 404 yards from the White Tees, Number 18 is the longest par 4 on the course and a challenging finishing hole. The fairway is flanked on either side by lagoons and even though the landing area is wide, the prevailing winds can wreak havoc on an otherwise good drive. Many players will be hitting a long iron on metal into the green which is surrounded by sand and natural areas. The green slopes significantly to the right, so you may only see the front part of the green. Par is a great way to finish.
As you can imagine, both the island and the Club are well-sought venues for weddings and special events. Whether you’re looking to put together an elegant, sophisticated event, complete with a four-course catered dinner or a fun, romantic party with a twist, Bald Head Island Club’s experienced culinary team will put together a customized menu, and their dedicated staff will ensure that you and your guests have a memorable event.
Bald Head Island Club offers three categories of full-time membership: Golf, Sports, and Social. There are a limited number of new memberships available in each category but are only available with the purchase of new property or new construction. Alternatively, a membership may be available when purchasing a resale property from a current Club member who is selling their membership with the sale of their home. All Memberships are subject to application and approval.
All in all, Bald Head Island and Bald Head Island Club are worthy of consideration for your upcoming vacation. You can visit The Club online at www.bhiclub.net.