From the mountains to the Sandhills, golf courses abound

Among the many benefits of golf in North Carolina is the abundance of choices. It's like walking into one of those golf superstores but instead of clubs, you can take your pick of outstanding courses. Here are three easy getaways you should consider if you're looking to make a golf trip or just looking for a new place to play.

The college tour

Duke University Golf Course: Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and reworked by his son, Rees, in 1994, Duke Golf Course is a strong, demanding layout good enough to have hosted the NCAA championship. The good news is it's easier to get a tee time there than it is to find tickets to a game at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Finley Golf Course: Located on the edge of the Chapel Hill campus, Finley has been a fixture for decades but its profile changed a few years ago when noted designer Tom Fazio reworked the layout. It perennially lands on the list of top 10 college golf courses. .

Lonnie Poole Golf Club: This is the newest course among the Triangle universities, designed by Arnold Palmer and his group. It's home to the Wolfpack golf teams and is close enough to downtown to offer views of the Raleigh skyline.

The mountain tour

Mount Mitchell Golf Club: If you want the full experience of North Carolina mountain golf, you can get it here. The course offers spectacular views of the peaks surrounding the property; mountain streams gurgle through the layout. It's a wonderful summer escape. .

Linville Golf Club: This classic Donald Ross design is a private club, but if you stay at the adjacent Eseeola Lodge - a pleasure in itself - you can play one of the state's most popular and highest-rated courses. It's worth every penny. .

Grove Park Inn Golf Course: The Inn itself is spectacular and the golf course, originally designed by Donald Ross and updated 10 years ago, fits beautifully into the surroundings. A day on the course and a night in the hotel is tough to beat anywhere.

The Sandhills tour

Pinehurst No. 2: One of the world's most famous layouts recently reopened after an extensive restoration project by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, and the results are spectacular. There's a reason the 2014 men's and women's U.S. Opens are heading here. It's that good. .

Pine Needles and Mid Pines: They're situated across the street from each other and provide one of the most enjoyable and challenging one-two punches in golf. It's golf the way it should be played. .

Tobacco Road: If you want something out of the ordinary, this is it. Designed by the late Mike Strantz, Tobacco Road is a thrill to look at and just as much fun to play. Annually ranks among the most popular courses in the state.

Southern Pines Golf Club: It's not fancy or as famous as some others, but it's a Donald Ross original that showcases the best in Sandhills golf. It's the kind of place you could play over and over.