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North Carolina's "I-95 trail" has a Donald Ross course, dirt-cheap green fees, easy-to-reach ranges

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Hickory Meadows Golf Course
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Hickory Meadows Golf Course is a family-owned facility off exit 150. (Courtesy of hickorymeadows.com)

There is a plethora of North Carolina golf courses as you travel down Interstate-95 on your way to golf courses in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

If you're driving down Interstate-95 through North Carolina, bound for South Carolina or even Florida on a golf road trip, say, and you absolutely can't stand it any longer, there are numerous places to pull over.

Say you want to stretch your legs and get in a quick nine or 18, or even whack a few balls on the driving range, you're in luck. North Carolina has a variety of golf courses right off I-95. They include one for $5, and an old, Donald Ross design.

Here is our North Carolina "I-95 golf trail," all public courses, with the mileage from the interstate included.

Hickory Meadows Golf Course in Whitakers; 10 miles; tel. (252) 437-0591: This is a family-owned facility with a driving range, practice green and grill, off exit 150, with the interstate on one side and North Carolina farmland on the other.

Hickory Meadows has a long history. A man named O.J. Smith bought the land in the 1950s only to see I-95 built a decade later. The family, together with a local pro named Red Sapp, decided to build a course, and they did, with the facility eventually opening in 1979.

The course has generous landing areas and four different sets of tee boxes and plays 6,737 yards from the back tees through mostly pine - very few hickory trees remain.

Best of all, there are no tee times required.

Cypress Lake Par-3 Golf in Rocky Mount; six miles; tel. (252) 985-2223: Cypress Lake is a little par-3 layout with $5 green fees. It was built in 1964 and has a driving range.

Wedgewood Country Club in Wilson; six miles; tel. (252) 237-4761: Wedgewood is an 18-hole municipal course, short at 5,976 yards and easy, with a slope rating of 119. It opened in 1960 and has Bermuda grass, with green fees of $20 weekdays and $25 weekends, including cart.

Willow Springs Country Club in Wilson; six miles; tel. (252) 291-5171: Established in 1915, Willow Springs is another family-owned facility, with locker rooms, a driving range and an outdoor patio at its restaurant. The 18-hole course is 6,600 from the back tees with bentgrass greens and also has swimming and dining.

Crooked Creek Golf Club in Fuquay Varina; six miles; tel. (919) 557-7529: Crooked Creek opened in 1994 from a Chuck Smith design and plays 6,271 yards from the back tees with a more formidable slope rating of 137.

The 18-hole course has a 40-tee driving range with green fees of $30-$59. It also has the Southern Plantation Clubhouse.

Cardinal Country Club in Selma; two miles; tel. (919) 284-3647: Cardinal Country Club is a medium-length layout at 6,602 yards with three sets of tees and a go-easy slope of 117, though it has numerous hazards in the shape of canals, ponds and bunkers.

It was designed by John Nubin, built in 1969 and has a driving range.

Reedy Creek Golf Course in Four Oaks; two miles; tel. (919) 934-7502: Reedy Creek recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and has been voted the top golf course in Johnston County for the last 10 years by the local newspaper.

It's a Gene Hamm design, with Bermuda greens, on 6,426 yards of rolling farmland. Green fees range from $30-$45, including carts.

Sandy Ridge Country Club in Dunn; four miles; (910) 892-6424: Sandy Ridge is an 18-hole course with three sets of tees, very walkable with open fairways and water on seven holes.

It's 6,379 yards with another easy slope rating of 113 and Bermuda grass. It opened in 1989 from a design by Lynton B. Wilson. It has a driving range and green fees from $20-$27.

King's Grant Golf Club in Fayetteville; four miles; tel. (910) 630-1111: King's Grant plays 6,634 yards from the back tees through long leaf pines and cypress, with some excellent elevation changes. In 1997, it was voted a Readers Choice Award by the Fayetteville Observer.

It has a driving range, snack bar and restaurant, with green fees of $21-$37.

Baywood Golf Club in Fayetteville; five miles; tel. (910) 483-4330: Baywood was voted the best golf course in Fayetteville in 2004 and 2005 by the Fayetteville Observer.

It's 6,763 yards from the tips with a slope of 115. Designed by Stewart Gooden, Baywood opened in 1990 and has TifEagle greens, a 20-tee driving range, generous fairways and elevated greens, as well as a 15-acre practice area. Green fees range from $32-$39, including cart.

Cypress Lakes Golf Club in Hope Mills; three miles; tel. (910) 483-0359: Designed by L.B. Floyd, Cypress Lakes is an 18-holer, a tad under 7,000 yards, with a respectable slope rating of 133. The course is located in the Cypress Lakes community.

It has a driving range and putting green with green fees of $29-$36.

Pinecrest Country Club in Lumberton; three miles; tel. (910) 738-6541: This is the Donald Ross-designed course, an old-time layout that opened in 1940.

It's 6,578 yards from the back, with a slope of 127. There is a 25-tee driving range and putting green, with green fees of $24-$27, including cart. The course has three sets of tees and allows walking weekdays.

Cliffwood Golf Club in Lumberton; three miles; tel. (910) 738-9400: Cliffwood was designed by Clifford Bullard, built in 1991. It's short, at 6,142 yards, with a slope of 123. It has Bermuda grass, a driving range and has green fees of $20-$24 including cart.

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Reedy Creek Golf Course

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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