Describing the splendor of a golf trip to the Pinehurst area of North Carolina is easy. Foodies: imagine a village in the middle of a beautiful forest where not one, not two, but dozens of Michelin Star restaurants serve epicurean perfection each night. Music lovers: imagine a festival where every one of your favorite bands occupies every stage, cranking out only their greatest hits. Couch potatoes: imagine the ultimate Hi-Def television showing a never-ending stream of your favorite movies and shows.
Yes, it’s that spectacular.
Of the 38 courses in the area (Pinehurst, Aberdeen, and Southern Pines), a whopping twenty-three of them earned a rating of 4-stars or better on Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play.” In short, a visit to the North Carolina Sandhills of Pinehurst equals golf Nirvana.
The history of the area provides a portion of the allure. Near the turn of the twentieth century, James Walker Tufts purchased 6,000 acres of land for about $1.25 an acre which would eventually become the Village of Pinehurst and the Pinehurst Resort. Enter Scotsman Donald Ross, an aspiring golf course designer, who arrived in America around that time with $2 in his pocket and a mind full of ideas. Tufts enlisted Ross to carve several golf courses out of the land, some of which would become the most famous in the world.
Pinehurst No. 2, opened in 1907 with its trademark “turtleback greens,” remains Ross’ undisputed masterpiece, having hosted nearly a century of major tournaments with the U.S. Open scheduled to return in 2024. A dramatic statue of Payne Stewart stands near the 18th green, marking where Stewart won the 1999 U.S. Open in dramatic fashion. While No. 2 signifies a definitive bucket list golf experience for amateur golfers, most amateurs like myself would describe the experience as a painful bliss.
The Pinehurst Resort boasts nine courses (yes, nine) on its footprint—each different and unique. Like a menu at a great restaurant where you wish you could eat every single dish in one setting, Pinehurst’s courses, as well as the must-play The Cradle, an immaculately groomed 9-hole par-3 course which Golf Channel describes as “the most fun 10 acres in all of golf,” will require multiple visits.
And those are just the Resort’s courses; many more in the area beckon play. Tobacco Road (named #50 of the Top 100 Courses in the World by Golf Course Architecture), the Donald Ross-designed Mid Pines Golf Club, Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, and Southern Pines Golf Club and the Arnold Palmer-designed Mid South Golf Club are among the finest courses in the U.S. and are all available to you. Pine Needles hosted the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur and will once again host the U.S. Women’s Open in 2022 (also, in 1996, 2001 and 2007).
And what if hitting the little white ball is not your thing? The Pinehurst area offers plenty of non-golf activities including treatments at the Resort’s spa, a fascinating historic walking tour of the Village of Pinehurst, eat and drinks at one of the area’s numerous breweries or exploration of 27 acres of beauty at the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens in Southern Pines. Golf or no golf, the Pinehurst area’s Nirvana is all yours.
Planning Start with a visit to www.homeofgolf.com which provides an excellent layout of the golf and other options while in Pinehurst. The site also provides a multitude of seasonal golf packages for every price range.
Getting There Fly into Raleigh–Durham International Airport (RDU) offers non-stop flights from most major hubs. The drive to the Pinehurst area takes about one hour. Rental cars are aplenty, and Uber/Lyft are readily available in the area as well.
Stay If you want to stay at the Pinehurst Resort, one of the Historic Hotels of America, there are four options including the new The Manor Inn (the youngest of Pinehurst Resort’s three historic hotels at a mere 96 years), just reopened open after a complete renovation. Also, consider Duncraig Manor and Gardens, a Grand Tudor style home first constructed nearly 90 years ago that has been completely restored and opened today as a 12,000-square-foot bed and breakfast inn in Southern Pines.
Eat Pinehurst Brewing Company, formerly an 1895 steam plant that once provided power to the Village of Pinehurst, recently converted steam boilers to brewing tanks for beer opened just over a year ago. Munch on beer cheese and pretzels and incredible smoked brisket.
Since 2000, Elliott’s on Linden has offered sophisticated takes on southern classics, sourcing from 24 nearby farms, dairies and butchers. Dishes like duck egg poutine, rabbit terrine, and grilled elk are but a few of the rich wild-game dishes on the menu.
For a gorgeous breakfast or lunch before the first tee, take a seat The Villager Deli, a quaint café in the heart of the Pinehurst Village since 1982 and The Roast Office is a great place to grab a morning coffee and scone before embarking on your day. From there walk a few blocks to see historic homes constructed in the late 19th century.
For a meal and a show, grab a table on the terrace at The Deuce, voted the “Best New Restaurant in Golf” by Golf Inc Magazine, overlooking the historic 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 2. Watch incoming golfers attempt the knee-buckling approach shot onto the turtle-back green and then navigate the undulating terrain for a tough putt while you nosh on sliders, sandwiches, salads and small bites.