Ask Travelin' Joe: Hampstead, N.C. and Cleveland

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at askjoe@golf.com.

Hi Joe,
I have a foursome that is going down to Hampstead, N.C. (between Topsail Island and Wilmington). We have a free place to stay and are looking for three to four courses to play in that area that are challenging but will not break the bank. Any suggestions?
Dwayne L. Young
Uniontown, Ohio

Nice time of year to crawl along the Carolina coast. Start with Wilmington Municipal ($22-$35; 910-791-0558, ci.wilmington.nc.us), a ridiculously affordable, well-bunkered 1926 Donald Ross design that was handsomely restored by Clyde Johnston.

In Hampstead itself, Topsail Greens ($18-$35; 910-270-2883, topsailgreens.com) is a solid choice for value, convenience and its island-green 17th.

Twenty miles up the road, in Sneads Ferry is North Shore Country Club ($30-$78; 910-327-2410, northshorecountryclub.com), a sturdy 6,866-yard track with views of the Intracoastal Waterway. The lake-guarded 225-yard, par-3 17th and 456-yard, par-4 18th that demands two water carries, form an attractive, if rugged finish.

Finally for a splurge, check out the Cape Fear National ($110; 910-383-3283, capefearnational.com), a brand new Tim Cate design in the Brunswick Forest development of Wilmington. You find all the modern bells and whistles here - bold bunkering, wetlands carries and contoured greens-wrapped up in a tranquil package.

Dear Joe,
I'm headed back to Cleveland, Ohio for a wedding in June and have time to play one round. Any good publics to recommend?
Lorna Cavanaugh
Tucson, Ariz.

Happy occasions are great, especially in Cleveland, where the masses are still mourning the Cavaliers. For the perfect break from the family, my pick is Fowler's Mill ($42-$69; 440-729-7569, fowlersmillgc.com) in Chesterland, an excellent early Pete Dye design, circa 1972. Twenty-seven wooded, attractive holes await, but go with the Lake/River combination if you can. I managed to ace the 211-yard 3rd hole in 1996 (playing 192 that day) but the city's greatest scorecard wrecker comes one hole later, at the 461-yard, par-4 4th, which arcs to the right around a huge lake. A piece of wedding cake, catch a Tribe game and a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and you've got a quality trip.

Just Back From: Primland Resort, Meadows of Dan Virginia The Highland Course at Primland Resort popped into our 2008 Top 100 Courses You Can Play at No. 62 and it's easy to see why. Stunning, pristine Blue Ridge Mountain aesthetics are only part of the story. Firm, fast fairways and greens, dramatic elevation changes and compelling strategic options complete the picture on this Donald Steel design.

Another plus: In the past two years, they've cleared trees to open up more vistas of the gorge known as the Pinnacles of Dan as well as of distant peaks. I do have two knocks: First, it's an unrelenting spread, with thick rough and steep fall-offs responsible for a daunting middle tee slope of 139 - it's worse for ladies, a stratospheric 147 from the front tees. Second, its mountaintop location makes it prone to fog and mist.

That said, if you have to hole up inside for awhile, the new 26-room Lodge at Primland is a great place to do it. The regular rooms are stellar, but the Pinnacles Suite is one of the top hotel rooms in all of golf. The two-level setup features a pair of sofas downstairs, one facing a large HD flatscreen, the other looking out at the 10th fairway and the densely treed mountains beyond. You reach the bedroom via a spiral staircase.

Once upstairs, the silo-shaped shower features a stone floor, tile walls and three different kind of shower heads.

You want more cool stuff? Automatic shades control the 270-degree viewing prospects from 11 windows, both upstairs and down. Gourmet dining at Elements, a new spa and outdoorsy fun such as Sporting Clay Shooting, Horseback riding and ATV romps are part of the unusual offerings. So is the 4th-floor telescope room, where the roof opens to the sky and an astronomer on-site will explain what you're gazing at.

Primland is pretty remote - more than an hour from Greensboro on country roads - but I'll recommend it for a unique, pampering getaway and a memorable course.

Primland.com, 866-960-7746; golf packages from $400 per person per night.

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