Golfers looking for a more secluded, less congested area with fewer golfers have discovered the serenity of Brunswick Islands, known as North Carolina’sGolfCoast. Most of the 30 championship courses in Brunswick County are part of the northern Grand Strand.  The Thistle Golf Club, in Sunset Beach, ranked 41/2 stars by Golf Digest six years running, has earned the reputation as one of the best conditioned courses and the only course in the region that has 12-minute tee time spacing, which typically puts your group on a hole by themselves.

The Thistle, crafted by maverick designer Tim Cate, is a Low Country meets Scottish coastal fusion. This Scottish links course is named after the thorny, purplish, plumed plant that grows wild on the hillsides of Scotland and an ancient Scottish golf society organized in 1815 to manage the affairs of the club and administer the rules by which members played.  Artifacts from the original Thistle Club are on display in their  Scottish-design clubhouse.

The Thistle provides a serene atmosphere of nature preserves, lakes, massive sand bunkers, abundant wildlife, and few homes. The Scottish element is apparent in the wide-open layout, windswept rolling fairways bordered by heather-covered mounds and generous true rolling bentgrass greens. This 27-hole facility offers a choice of three rotations of nines – MacKay to Cameron, Stewart to MacKay, Cameron to Stewart.

The MacKay/Stewart rotation offers a female-friendly design with distance from the forward tees of 4,566 yards, few forced carries, and reachable par 3s (99-125 yards). The slope/rating is 66.2/113.

The MacKay sports a straight forward, what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach. A few tree-lined holes create a brief parkland-style feel enhancing interest and difficulty with forced carries upon approach to tight, compact greens.

The more challenging Stewart has lots of water and more risk/reward opportunities. Sporting three of the meanest finishing holes, the most talked about is Stewart’s par-3 ninth.  The most linksy hole on the course, the green sits atop a giant mound with two deep pot bunkers in front. Front and right side of the hole is protected by water, and the tee shot is uphill and typically into the wind.

“Ferocious, yet fair” has been the philosophy of the Thistle Golf Club since   opening in 1999. The beast here…the wind, the water and the critically acclaimed Stewart nine!