A Classic Course Facing Challenges
Pros: I had a tough time settling on a rating for Castle Hayne. It's a legendary course, and it's easy to see why it's rated as highly as it is: amazing hole designs, beautiful setting, challenging wooded holes, but wide fairways. It also has par 4's and 5's, holes with landing areas and sharp doglegs, blind tee shots. It's got it all.
Unfortunately, it's facing serious growth challenges. Namely, the powers that be pulled a couple holes to accommodate park expansion. I was told by a local that they installed a couple of temp holes to make a full 18, but I missed one of them. The navigation wasn't clear. Also, there are trucks and construction equipment going in and out of the park, lots of mud and muck.
I say all of this to explain why I had a hard time settling on a rating. I played Castle Hayne 4 years ago (didn't rate it then) and think it was deserving of its 4.25 rating. I would have given it a 4.5. Today when I played it, there was standing water and mud EVERYWHERE, plus the construction and navigation issues mentioned above. It probably deserves a 3.5 as of today, but I just couldn't bring myself to rate it lower than a 4.0. Call it a brand name bump.
Castle Hayne is just a classic. Anyone passing through the Wilmington area should play it. It's a little bittersweet--you can tell it's not as great as it once was--but I hope and expect they will figure out the park construction issues and make improvements. Regardless, it's a solid course and players of all skill levels will enjoy it.
1. Very challenging
2. Beautiful and well maintained
3. Good facilities
4. Tons of variety
5. True par 4's and 5's
6. Nice big tee pads
7. Good signage for each hole
Cons: I mentioned the cons above:
1. Bad drainage issues
2. 3 holes knocked out by construction, 2-3 temp holes added back, but not intuitive to navigate
Other Thoughts: Castle Hayne is a true North Carolina classic. It's facing development challenges now, but is still a very good course and I expect it will be a truly great course again soon.
0 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: Good distances - most are around 300 range, although I did encounter a 700 drive. Course is well labeled, availability of trash cans, and great use of the park area. Underbrush isn't bad at all, though some areas seem thick, is reachable. Concrete Ts. Trees were spaced well enough to create a challenge and not too narrow.
Cons: Went on a Wednesday evening, slightly crowded as there was a group both in front and behind me. Read on other reviews that the course is very crowded on weekends and judging from my middle of the week experience, I believe it.
Other Thoughts: Bring bug spray. Bathrooms available, located centrally in the park.
0 of 3 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Castle Hayne is legendary throughout the southeast for good reason. This is a very well-designed course that offers a great balance of fun and challenge and makes the most of the land given. The amenities are great here with plenty of parking space, a practice basket, local club information, and bathrooms. Plenty of benches and trash cans as well.
For much of the course, scoring well means being able to throw long, accurate lines, dodging many trees in the process. While it plays in the same kind of wooded setting throughout the entire round, you will get to experience many different holes and shots.
There is a great variety of long holes that force you to hit landing zones as well as holes that give you a chance to reach the green from the tee. There are holes that force you to hit a specific lane and many holes where you can to choose from multiple lanes.
The best quality of Castle Hayne is that it forces you to think on every shot and you will use a lot of different discs in your bag in the process. Drives, upshots, and approaches must be carefully calculated in order to hit tight windows. Drop offs on the side of 7 and 12's fairways make staying on the fairway critical.
There are some unique holes here that you won't experience elsewhere. 12 forces you to weave through many trees where you have to land straight in front of the tee to hit the landing zone before you make a 90 degree turn to the right. You then play through a tight alley to a well-protected pin.
There are a lot of little things that make this a special course, extra work that helps the course achieve its maximum potential. Hole 5 was dug 4-5 feet into the ground that really changed the shot and caused you to throw higher than normal. Sadly, that hole is no longer part of the course and I enjoyed being able to play it while it was still around. Mandos offered on some of the shorter holes (2 and 9) also help give the course diversity. Creeks come into play a few times, both running through and alongside the fairway.
Navigation is absurdly easy for the most part. The course conveniently loops back to the parking lot and bathrooms after the front 9, and you're never too far from your car.
Very well taken care of with cleared fairways and limited rough. You can tell a lot of work has been put into the course in order to make it visually appealing, technical, and fair. The tee signs, tees, and baskets are in great shape with the tees being very long and comfortable.
Cons: I think the biggest detractor of playing here is that you are throwing on dead flat land for most of the round. Efforts have been made to give some elevation change, but you can only do so much when you are this close to the coast.
Finding hole 10 isn't obvious for first-timers. While there is a sign on the edge of the woods where 10 is, you have to know to walk past the bathrooms and cut through the center of the park to get to the opposite side to find it. Luckily, there should be plenty of people to ask.
This is one of the more crowded courses that I've played, even on a weekday morning. I assume it's usually that crowded and then some due to its popularity. Be prepared to wait on some holes.
Tees for 4 and 6 play very close together, there is a sign telling you to wait until the other group is done.
Personal preference: It would help to have some holes that were in a little different of a setting, maybe a few more that play from open into the woods and vice versa. Still, the design is awesome with the setting that it's in.
Other Thoughts: Now, this review may be a little bit dated as I played the original 18 before some of the holes were closed due to construction. While this will be a temporary problem, it's great that they will eventually expand the course and shows the vision of the local club. I really enjoyed my round and would love to play here again. This is definitely a course that blends well together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I'd give it a 4.25 if I could, very close to being a 4.5.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 0 Not
-balance of enjoyment/difficulty
-few (if any) similar holes
Cons: *Note that all cons listed below are only listed because there is nothing awful about this course, and I'm nitpicking*
-only one set of tees.
-moving between holes can be slightly confusing (maybe 2-3 possible issues)
-tees for 4/6 are so close as to require a sign to let another group finish teeing before your group begins.
Other Thoughts: No water fountain. That's not really a con since many courses don't have it, but if you're reading the reviews you're probably on vacation, so it's probably hot, which means you should take some high quality H2O to drink.
Great course. This is a high 4 for me. I've still yet to find a course I'll rate a 4.5, but this is probably tied with Beaver Ranch/Conifer Park in the Rockies as the best two courses I've played. I think there is a way to improve this course to make it a 4.5 by making the putting areas more interesting. Add in a man-made sand dune or a hole here and there on each "green", and it would take this course to the next level.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 9 Not
Pros: Nice concrete Tees and signage. Fairly easy to navigate.
Cons: Floods after a good rain.
Other Thoughts: I haven't reviewed a course in a long time because I think the review and rating system should be split. I don't need to go on and on about things already said. So I will point you to the review of reposado Trusted Reviewer - Diamond Level who says it very well. I've traveled a lot and played a lot and wouldn't think twice about going out of my way to play this course again. I could have played a hand full of other courses yesterday but went a bit out of my way to play just this one and was a bit let down.
0 of 9 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 5 Not
Pros: Great layout. Excellent for new players to challenge traditional throwing styles and begin to develop other Technics. Love the change in elevation, well marked holes and tee pads. Whomever maintains this course takes pride in their work and I express my thanks.
Cons: Maybe could use some more visible / bright colored tees but with excellent tee maps it's ok.
Other Thoughts: Will go out of my way when in the area again to play.
0 of 5 people found this review helpful.
Best course for miles around
14 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Castle Hayne. The name says it all. The lore of this place precedes it before even stepping foot onto the course. Another Harold Duvall beauty that the NC coast deserved!
Now that that's out of the way, let's dig down into the details. Upon arriving at the park you'll find the beauty of the place inspiring. It's located a stone's throw from the beach but you could be fooled into thinking you're hundreds of miles away.
The park is very well maintained with bathrooms and other park amenities at the park center. Driving past hole one (and seeing hole 10 perched up overlooking the fork in the road) has a way of building you up for the upcoming round.
The course is technically challenging. Most holes are heavily wooded with tight fairways to traverse. There were many right/left/straight shots, however the vast majority were pretty long (standard Duvall affair, not a bad thing in my opinion). So for those looking for a short shot here and there, there aren't many to be had here.(Head up the road to Arrowhead park)
The signs are well made and there aren't any major hiccups with navigation, apart from finding hole 10. The front and the back 9 both come back to the center of the park, allowing you to easily start on the back.
Challenge! This course will require your game to be on its best. Like I stated previously, there aren't many places to air one out, but if you can snap off a long drive that is also very precise, you'll be greatly rewarded! Am's might find the challenging aspect frustrating at times, but it should inspire them to improve their skills. Hole 12 is a unique little devil. Rip a drive, but not too far or you'll go in the creek. Then rip another drive down the fairway, parallel to the creek and hope you don't dive left. Then finish back up to the right (yes, that's a U shape) for a challenging and unique hole. I like to think of it as the moat for the Castle [Hayne]. Luckily I was able to grab a 3 on this hole but others are not so lucky I'm sure.
Despite being heavily wooded, the course doesn't seem to have many trouble spots for losing discs. If you find yourself really far off the fairway it is certainly possible, but probably fairly rare. The water hazard on 12 is sure to have claimed some plastic over the years, but what's a good course without the fear of drowning?!
One unique thing that Castle Hayne has that I had never seen before were fairway distance markers. You'll see these all day long on a ball golf course, colored spikes in the ground in the middle of the fairway to mark the remaining distance to the hole(basket), but this is the first I've seen in the dg world. Not sure what the overall consensus is regarding these but I thought they were pretty neat.
Cons: There is virtually zero elevation change, but we are at the beach after all, so you can't really fault the designer for not incorporating any, it simply doesn't exist. Nevertheless, a con compared to courses nationwide.
There is also a lack many open holes. Apart from hole 1, which still has ample amounts of trees to hit, every hole requires a precise wooded shot in some manner. Hole 18 is mostly open, but starts and finishes in a wooded alcove. If you're looking for a good mix of open and wooded, you won't find it here.
The biggest con for me was the time in which I played it. We played after a brief thunderstorm (which is sure to occur often at the beach) and nearly all of the fairways on the back 9 were unplayable. I say unplayable, but we played them. What I should have said was, you won't come out of the woods very dry! The course holds water like you wouldn't believe. Several of the holes had standing pools across a 50-60 ft fairway. I only played once and this may indeed be a rare occurrence, however I'm free to speculate that a course at the beach is bound to get a lot of rain and in the case of Castle Hayne, this doesn't bode well for a dry round...
Other Thoughts: Pros should (and do) enjoy this course. It requires the utmost precision on most holes in order to post a good round. Amateurs will love it for the challenge as well, but please have this in mind when going to play for the first time.
It's easily the best in the area and conveniently located to Wilmington and the beach. You shouldn't hesitate to play this course, and even drive out of the way to play it if necessary, but I'd advise trying to time it for a dry spell or you'll need to bring some rain boots and maybe a snorkel! (This is a slight hyperbole)
14 of 14 people found this review helpful.
A "Must Play" in NC
1 Helpful / 8 Not
Pros: This may very well be the Pinehurst #2 of North Carolina disc golf. A relatively benign opening hole leads you into a variety of par 3's, 4's and 5's of all shapes and sizes, with subtle changes in elevation. Baskets are well protected but the fairways are wide enough to get there in the allotted amount of strokes. Great signs, benches, trees and wildlife.
Cons: May be too difficult for beginners.
Other Thoughts: A must play in North Carolina for any disc golf enthusiast.
1 of 9 people found this review helpful.
17 Helpful / 2 Not
Pros: I'm not sure how much I need to extoll the virtues of Castle Hayne. It's a wonderful park. It's incredibly clean and well-kept. The tees are some of the nicest that I've seen. The signs are neat, informative and original. The course flows easily and aside from finding the tenth tee, no visitor should have trouble following the course.
That praise of the basics should not imply that there isn't much to exclaim about the layout of the course. It's a great layout. It's tough and players that aren't challenged by Castle Hayne are probably liars. Entirely wooded, rarely will a player be faced with a throw that isn't technical in some way. It's varied in the sense that there is a solid mix of left-turning, right-turning and straight shots. While it is somewhat cliche, it is accurate to say that you might use every shot in your bag here.
The fairways are extremely well-done. Tight but reasonable and fair. Punishing for those who miss their line but always offering a proper path to basket. No leftover trees, if you go off the fairway here, there is only one person to blame.
I'd imagine, also, that this course does a very good job of providing scoring separation. The cream should rise here, to use another cliche. This isn't something I care about typically when rating a course but with all these technical angles, I'd imagine this is a great course for determining a true master of the game.
And if there isn't a great hole here, there isn't a weak one either. Everything here is solid. Long holes considering the width of the fairways. Tough pars throughout the course with long threes and true fours. If challenge is the most important thing for you, this a course you will enjoy.
Cons: Honestly, it just didn't knock my socks off. I don't mean this isn't a very good course. It's a course without much in the way of flaws. But it doesn't have anything that stands out and marks the course as unique. There isn't anything I'm going to remember down the line and think, "yeah, Castle Hayne." While challenging and obviously of high caliber it fails to claim a place among the elite courses of the state, at least for me.
Part of that is the lack of real changes in elevation. A lot of people will say things like "the course designer did the best with what was there," and in this case, that seems to be the case, but I'm not rating the job the designer did considering the available land. I'm judging the play experience and that means comparing it to all the other courses and the way that they make use of elevation. In the same vein, there is no real water obstacles here. (One creek along the side but it only affects play slightly) And it may not be fair, but two of the ways in which courses often create memorable holes are just not present here. To my mind, Castle Hayne is like a lot of courses in the state. Maybe a little tougher. Maybe a little cleaner and better appointed. Maybe a bit-better designed. But not that different.
If I seem like I'm being over-critical, it's because I'm trying to explain why I gave it "only" a 3.5. The good qualities of Castle Hayne are legion and well known. And I can see how many have grown to love it. But to this traveling player, it doesn't call out to be played again the way that some do. There is a reason why, if you look through even the glowing reviews, you don't find many specific holes mentioned.
Other Thoughts: I feel like this whole review was written in a more matter-of-fact tone than I typically use. I think that's reflective of the course. It's matter-of-fact. By the book. It's very well done, but not incredibly imaginative. And really, that's a pro and a con. The serious competitor will likely love this course and what it requires of his game. The wanderer who wants to see something original may not care for it as much. It's very well executed, technically flawless. But it doesn't venture too far from the manual.
17 of 19 people found this review helpful.
One of the best in NC
1 Helpful / 10 Not
Pros: The main pro is that the local club puts in a TON of work to make this course amazing. This course wouldn't be what it is without their help.
Cons: Floods if there is heavy rain and not much elevation variances.
Other Thoughts: This one is worth going out of your way to play.
1 of 11 people found this review helpful.
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