Castle Bay Golf Club located just off coastal highway, US-17 in Hampstead, NC. is a challenging, Scottish links style 18-hole championship course. Although there are a minimal number of trees on the course, it is not without its share of hazards. And in some cases the trouble is magnified in the form of bunkers with steep faces and water and waste bunkers that seem to come out of nowhere. Because of this, Castle Bay requires you’re “A” game on almost every hole. And like all links courses, don’t forget about the wind.
Castle Bay was designed by Randy Blanton and is managed by Mike Watson, who has been a staple there for many years. The course plays 6,698 yards from the longest tees to a par of 72; the course rating is 71.3 with a slope rating of 130 on Bermuda grass. Most men can move up to the Blue (6,328/69.2/125) or White (5,793/67.4/117) tees and still be challenged. Ladies typically play the Red tees at 4,717 yards with a course rating of 66.6 and a slope of 110. Pick the yardage that best suits your game and you’ll be sure to have a great time.
Looking at an aerial view of Castle Bay, you’d think you were in a remote part of Scotland – if it weren’t for the houses. Although there are no trees on the course, there are the typical links hazards of tall and strategically placed bunkers, water, waste areas and of course, the wind. The golf course weaves through protected wetlands and features rolling dunes and demand excellent shot placement on almost every hole.
Before your round, be sure to warm up at Castle Bay’s extensive practice facility. There’s a full-length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag as well as a good-sized short game area that includes chipping and pitching area that allows you to practice wedge shots to 80 yards with three target greens and a practice bunker. To get the flat stick ready there’s a large bent grass practice green.
Number 4 is the longest hole on the entire course. This lengthy par 5 plays 563 yards from the Blue tees and is the course’s #1 handicapped hole. Not only is it long, but most of the time it plays into a pretty good headwind, so for the majority of players it will take three well played shots to get there. From the tee, it’s best to play down the right side to take the heavy mounding on the left out of play. Keep your layup shot in the middle of the fairway to avoid the wetlands on the right. You’ll need pinpoint precision with your approach shot to avoid the bunkers and leave your putt on the level of this two-tiered green. Par is an excellent score on this hole!
At 536 yards from the Blue tees, Number 8 is another long par 5, however it’s also a great birdie opportunity. Water can come into play off the tee on the left, so the best tee shot is down the right side, avoiding the fairway bunkers. Watch out for the pond that comes into play on the left side on your layup shot; most players should have no problem carrying it. A good layup shot will leave a wedge in to a long, receptive green. Miss the putting surface on approach and up and down can be difficult from any of the two greenside pot bunkers.
Number 16 is a good length par 3 at 179 yards from the Blue tees. Short and right will most likely find the water; if so, contact General Manager Mike Watson about some lessons. Bunkers guard both sides as well as the back of the green so finding and holding the green of the tee is essential.
Number 18 is a short par 4 that plays 257 yards from the Blue tees. If I were naming holes, this would be The Equalizer because it offers a good opportunity to get even on any bets you may be down on. The green sits at a perpendicular angle to the fairway, is fairly elevated and protected in front by three pot bunkers. Because of the angle of the green, it’s a lot wider than it is deep. Even if you don’t go for the green off the tee, it’s still possible to put up a low number and end on a positive note.
Last Word: You don’t need a passport to play Castle Bay, although you may thing you’ve been transported to the other side of the pond. It’s the best of Coastal Carolina meets Scottish links golf. Blanton has done a great job of mixing the water hazards with the bunkers, creating areas that need to be avoided at all costs if you want to score well. Bunkers seemed to be strategically placed in landing areas off the tee and around the green. And, just like in Scotland, the wind is usually a factor.
This is just a brief synopsis of what Castle Bay has to offer golfers. In addition to a great and challenging golf course, the pro shop is stocked with apparel and equipment from such names as Titleist, Bridgestone, FootJoy and Callaway. Lessons are available from certified PGA professionals and are available by the hour, half hour or as a package. For more information or to arrange your next tee time, give them a call at (910) 270-1978 or visit them online at www.castlebaycc.com.