GREAT GOLF HANGOUTS. Locals know where to find the best beer, thick steaks cooked just right, great conversation, and a good haunt to watch the game. Start with these two, then branch out on your own.
• The Pine Crest Inn. Yea it's where some golfers hang their hat (it's a 60 room inn with bar and restaurant included), but the place gets cranking most nights when the locals show up. Many will try their hand at the chipping game - off the floor into a cup size hole in an old piece of plywood in the empty fire place - that will test your nerves.
• Pinehurst Resort Club. Start with the "Walk of Fame". You won't believe the number of golf trophies and nostalgia packed into glass display cases in this hallway just steps away from the expansive retail shop. Jack, Tiger, Payne, and Michelle are all prominently featured based on accomplishments there. After all that inspiration it's time to step outside with your putter and try your luck at the iconic Thistle Du. Getting thirsty? Visit the newest eating establishment at the resort, The Deuce, which features a bar area that opens onto the veranda overlooking the 18th green of No. 2.
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK. Every great golf destination has its hidden gems that most visitors just don't know about. According to the North Carolina Golf Panel's annual rating of the state's golf courses here are a few to choose from when formulating your game plan.
• Southern Pines Golf Club (Donald Ross). Built in 1923, pre-GPS, this one was a bear to find, tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. “Old School” is very cool here. Nestled among the longleaf pines, this comfortable and relatively short track (but plays longer w/ elevated greens) will test you, but leave you feeling good about your game.
• Seven Lakes Golf Club (Peter Tufts). The architect, who was the grandson of the founding family of Pinehurst, crafted a thoughtful layout in 1976 tucked away in a quaint golf community with a nice mixture of rolling terrain, picturesque water holes and plenty to ponder on its smallish greens.
• Mid South Club (Arnold Palmer). Upon entering this gated community you’re in for a real treat. A striking, but casual clubhouse greets you along with an ample practice facility. Palmer’s design team (many rate this as one of their top creations) went "big" at Mid South, as in fairways, lakes, and greens. That means lots of room and for most not a big number on your scorecard. Available via many area package plans.