Navigating the “Home of American Golf” can be an enjoyable pastime for those who love the game. Allow us to make your life a little easier — and your trip a bit more enjoyable — with some insider tips. Your first round is on us.
One of the finest “Old World” golf experiences around the Sandhills is walking and carrying your own bag at Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club. This 1921 Donald Ross design, which received an award-winning restoration by Kyle Franz in 2013, is compact and a delight to walk. The dogwoods and Georgian-style inn provide a winsome backdrop.
The King’s Course at Mid South is one of the region’s top modern golf experiences. The course, designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay and recently restored, wraps around five lakes, and up and down along a relatively undulating piece of ground.
Stroll the hallways of the Main Clubhouse at Pinehurst Resort to enjoy a “history row” of golf memorabilia. Included are oversized vintage photos, trophies, clubs and even Payne Stewart’s bag from his dramatic U.S. Open victory in 1999.
Caddies at Pinehurst No. 2 will tell you the smart money plays to the front-center of the greens — no matter where the flag is located. A shot landing on the perimeters of the dome shaped greens is sure to slide off the putting surface, so percentage play is to aim to the center and putt toward the corners.
Don’t miss visiting The Tufts Archives and Old Sport & Gallery, both in the Village of Pinehurst. The former is a trove of early Pinehurst memorabilia, and an outdoor exhibit offers a flavor of Pinehurst’s original sand — yes, sand — greens. The latter is rich with golf books, artwork and other collectibles.
Planning to play Tobacco Road Golf Club? The challenging, Mike Strantz design will certainly test your skills. The safe strategy for teeing off on hole No. 1 — an intimidating 558-yard par-5 bordered by nasty mounds of rough — is to lay up 165 yards or so. Make the green in three and you still have a chance to start your round with a two-putt for par.
At Mr. B’s Lounge at the Pine Crest Inn in the Village of Pinehurst, chip a ball or two into the fireplace, which during Happy Hour is covered by a wooden board with a bull’s-eye hole. Ask about Ben Crenshaw’s record … 10-for-10!
Tucked away in the quiet village of Foxfire, Foxfire Resort & Golf Club delivers 36 holes of championship golf in the form of two beautiful courses — the Grey Fox Course and the Red Fox Course — both designed by architect Gene Hamm, who constructed each course to take advantage of the land’s rolling hills, soft sandy soils and plentiful lakes. The Red Fox Course, with its wide, manicured fairways and large, elevated, fast-rolling greens, is the member’s favorite.
If you’ve never played golf here, pay close attention to the tops of the tall loblolly pines to help gauge wind direction. The wind swirls down at ground level, particularly in the spring and fall. The trees don’t lie.
Successfully navigate the first five holes at Pinehurst No. 9 — a signature Jack Nicklaus design — and above-average players have a decent shot at a gratifying score. It’s the large green complexes that make this course so challenging.
Two hazards indigenous to Sandhills golf are pine straw and hardpan sand. The key to recoveries off both surfaces is to make sure you hit the ball first. Play the ball back in your stance with your hands slightly forward at address. And be careful in the pine straw; it’s easy to dislodge your ball and incur a penalty stroke.
Have breakfast early one morning at the Pinehurst Harness Track, the state’s oldest continuously operating equine sports facility. The restaurant is a great place to fuel up, especially if your energy level is lagging a bit. Country ham, eggs, grits, pancakes and similar hearty fare should do the trick.
If you can’t play Pinehurst No. 2, Southern Pines Golf Club is probably the next best example of what Ross meant golf to be. Nine holes opened in 1906, and by 1912 the course had been expanded to 18. Now, Southern Pines GC is being run (and will eventually be acquired) by the company that owns and operates Pine Needles and Mid Pines. They plan infrastructure changes to the facility, while an 18-month course improvement plan is being developed.
Located 18 miles south of the Village of Pinehurst, Deercroft Golf Club in Wagram is worth the drive. Acclaimed consulting architect Kyle Franz has helped keep Deercroft scenic and challenging, yet fair without being tricked up. Come experience “the best-kept secret in the Sandhills,” according to Golf Digest. Opened in 1983, Deercroft was the site of the 1986 PGA Tour Qualifier.
There are several highly regarded private courses that are worth a little extra effort. You may have to play with a member, but you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the experience. Ask your travel consultant about, for example, the Country Club of North Carolina, Forest Creek Golf Club and the area’s newest, The Dormie Club.
Two wonderful contrasts in design styles can be found locally within the Maples family design tree. Ellis designed 36 holes of traditional golf at the Country Club of Whispering Pines. His son, Dan, constructed Longleaf Golf & Family Club on the site of one of the Village of Pinehurst’s former horse training estates. Many of the original features — the white fences, rail post and hedgerows — have been carefully retained as a tribute to the original site.