The Courses

Carolina Trace | Quail Ridge | Sanford City Course | Tobacco Road 

Golf the lifeblood of Carolina Trace, home to two championship courses

Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed more than 350 golf courses and renovated 150 from the 1930s to the 1990s, his creations covering 45 states and 35
 countries. He took pride in saying, “The sun never sets on a Robert Trent Jones golf course.” 

The defining characteristics of his works were greens guarded by water hazards and bunkers. His designs forced golfers to take risks. He once said, “Every golf hole should be a hard par and an easy bogey.”

Carolina Trace — home to two 18-hole championship-level courses, each with their own distinct personality — is one of Jones’ legacies. Legend has it he was inspired to create the Lake Course and Creek Course after taking a boat ride out on Lake Trace — “from a certain vantage point, he could clearly see the vision of amazing golf games to come.”

Plans for a “giant golf-recreational site” were first announced in a Sanford Herald article on Feb. 10, 1969. Construction on the course and the lake dam began in 1970. Jones’ Lake Course was completed in 1971, and the Creek in 1979. The first clubhouse — a 25,000 square-foot facility destroyed by a fire in 2008 — was built in 1972.  

Today, Carolina Trace is home to a thriving community of 19 distinctive neighborhoods and more than 1,600 homes surrounded by 2,500 acres of hardwoods and built around the 315-acre lake. Members of the self-described “semi-private” country club aren’t just residents of the gated community — they’re from all parts of the county, from several parts of the state and from several states. 

They join for the amenities, the dining, the social scene and the many events, but it’s the golf that stands out.

Its fairways and greens running through the community like veins, golf is the lifeblood of Carolina Trace. 

“It’s an opportunity to play where the pros play on championship-level,” says Raymond Reyes, Carolina Trace general manager. “The degree of difficulty of each course at Carolina Trace proves challenging, but doable.”

Members and non-members can play the courses (non-members must book their tee times seven days out and will pay slightly more), but Trace also hosts several organized tournaments throughout the year, including events from the USGA, American Junior Golf Association, U.S. Kids Golf Foundation and Carolinas Golf Association. Trace also hosts roughly 20 tournaments a year organized by local charities, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for good causes. 

“We also get a lot of attention from universities and college golf teams around the state,” says Reyes. “We get a lot of calls from teams looking to train and play here, because they know it’s a Robert Trent Jones course and they know, with the Lake Course, that it’s very long. Each hole has a set of five tee boxes, so the average golfer can choose their degree of difficulty. But the schools, they play all the way back.” 

The Lake Course is defined by its length and a scenic 18th hole along the lake’s rocky shoreline. The Creek Course crosses the creek nine times and plays shorter but more narrow than the Lake. Both have what Reyes calls “inviting bunkers,” hazards placed strategically to penalize mistakes on your approach.

“I’ve given a lot of golf lessons, and I’ve said that good architects put bunkers where you make your mistakes,” he says. “You see them to the right of the green [where a righty will often slice] and short of the green. They’re beautiful to look at, but they’re very unforgiving.”

Golf’s popularity in the Sandhills owes everything to Pinehurst, which has hosted the best in the game for 120 years as site of the PGA Championship in 1936; the 1951 Ryder Cup; the U.S. Open in 1999, 2005 and 2014; and the U.S. Women’s Open in 2014. 

And when the U.S. Open returns next year in 2024, Carolina Trace will be well represented. Back in March, a full 15 months before the major tournament returns to North Carolina for the first time in a decade, Carolina Trace had 60 members sign up to volunteer at the Open, serving as marshals, ball spotters, crowd quieters, crosswalk monitors and grandstand attendants. 

“Our members are proud of Carolina Trace, and they’re proud of the proximity to Pinehurst and the U.S. Open,” Reyes says. “Our area will have so many [golfers and golf enthusiasts] visiting that week, and so it’s an amazing marketing opportunity for us. And many of them know the name Robert Trent Jones, and they understand that if you have a chance to play one of his courses, you do it.” 

Did you know? The name “Carolina Trace” evokes the “traces” of the American Indians once here and the agricultural base of the area. Carolina Trace exists on former Moore County land (that became part of Lee County when it was formed in 1907) and is in the watershed of the Upper Little River.

Carolina Trace has hosted a plethora of events including the Women’s U.S. Open Qualifier, Men’s U.S. Amateur Qualifier and the American Junior Golf Association Tour, along with dozens of other local golf outings.


  • Opened: 1971
  • Architect: Robert Trent Jones
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 72
  • Length: 7,263 yards
  • Rating/Slope: 76.0/143
  • Cost: $100-$150 (non members)
  • Description: The Lake Course is situated along the 318-acre Lake Trace, offering captivating views throughout the round. The elevation changes on the course’s scenic par-3’s are like none in the area.


  • Opened: 1979
  • Architect: Robert Trent Jones
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 72
  • Length: 6,776 yards
  • Rating/Slope: 73.7/136
  • Cost: $100-$150 (non members)
  • Description: The narrow Bermuda fairways wind through the Carolina Trace community with many shot-making challenges, coupled with an enjoyable golfing experience.

The Courses

Carolina Trace | Quail Ridge | Sanford City Course | Tobacco Road