It had been nearly two years since my last round at Sea Trial Plantation.
My first experience at the Sunset Beach, N.C. golf resort came in March 2014 and was marred mostly due to rain.
I played the Rees Jones course and due to wet weather at the time, the course was wet and understandably restricted to cart paths only.
Many bunker faces had been washed out and the layout didn’t live up to the expectations I have from a Jones course, though had conditions beyond the course’s been better I’m sure I would’ve had a much better experience.
So when I teed it up recently at the Maples Course, which has a separate clubhouse, I was notably concerned due to the intense rainfall we’ve had this fall and winter.
In addition to the “thousand year storm” in early October, since then it seems as if an inch or more of rain has fallen at least one day a week.
To my surprise, however, the Maples course was only partially cart paths only.
Only the first two holes on the front were restricted, as were five holes on the back.
What also impressed me about the 6,797-yard Maples course that plays 6,330 yards from the whites was that Sea Trail apparently overseeds the entire course, not just the fairways, greens and tee boxes.
Roughs lining the fairways and greens were a lush green, which was a welcome surprise. Dormant Bermuda grass is depressing; it only serves to remind you that it’s still winter.
If there was one drawback to the lush conditions, it’s that the grass was too thick. Because the course is still soft, the fairways looked more like light rough and as for the actual rough, the grass was five inches deep in some locations.
I lost one ball on the 410-yard par 4 eighth—one of my favorites on the Maples course—that landed in the middle of the fairway. Thank goodness for the embedded ball rule.
One of the biggest draws of the Maples course is the scenery.
From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, my favorite hole was the 550-yard par 5 12th hole that plays 490 yards from the whites.
Though restricted to cart path only, the view was simply breathtaking. It features an elevated tee to a fairway that slightly rises to the green.
The Calabash Creek runs up the entire left side, and the fairway slopes from right to left. It was a gorgeous hole.
I also enjoyed the par 4 455-yard ninth hole that plays 445-yards from the whites. Those familiar with my golf tastes know that the tougher a hole is, the more I like it.
The ninth hole is a dogleg left with no hazards, but the approach requires a long iron or hybrid to a small, undulating green. Par really means something on a hole like this.
My least favorite hole was the 315-yard first hole that measures 295 yards from the whites. Though drivable, the hole narrows considerably by the green, making driver a dumb decision for long hitters.
In my view, there’s no fun to taking driver out of the bag on the first hole, especially with no warm up.
I also liked that Sea Trail-Maples features bent grass greens, specifically a hybrid of A1/A4 bent grass greens.
Golf course staff were particularly proud of the greens and told me before the round they rolled super quick. They were smooth but I’d peg the speed more average, probably 9 to 9.5 on the Stimpmeter.
Overall the layout of Sea Trail is very scenic, with the aforementioned Calabash Creek running along several holes. There are some homes on most holes, but they don’t interfere with play.
The clubhouse was modestly sized as was the snack bar and dining area. Golf carts come equipped with ball washers, club washers and sand to fill in divots.
Yardages were accurately marked though it was hard to find yardage markers on some fairways. The iPhone app that I use to measure yardages wasn’t always accurate.
If there’s any other drawback, it’s with the cart paths. Many were rickety and crumbling and were definitely in need of some TLC. The course was purchased about a year ago by Chinese investors, so hopefully new cart paths are in the pipeline.
One final piece of advice—I received a significant discount through an app called GolfNow.
Through the app, you can check any area of the country for golf discounts. All three Sea Trail courses featured discounted rates at certain tee times as low as $15 for 18 holes, though that rate was for a tee time after 1 p.m. and so much in demand, no times were available at that price.
I found a tee time at 10 a.m. for $28, which is still less than the advertised local rates, which traditionally fluctuate between $35 and $49.