Instead of its usual calendar date in the heat of the summer, golf’s U.S. Open Championship in 2020 will instead be played in the fall. That’s OK with us. In our humble opinion, fall golf in the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area is hard to beat.
The Sandhills will serve as host site for numerous prestigious events leading up to our own U.S. Open Championship, on Pinehurst No. 2, in 2024. These big-time competitions include the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur (Country Club of North Carolina – Dogwood & Cardinal), the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open (Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club) and the 2023 ACC Men’s Golf Championship (CCNC – Dogwood).
All of these golf courses are well known in the golf world. We’ve recently documented the variety of courses around Midland Road — or the “Fifth Avenue of Golf” as it has been called — including Pinehurst No. 2.
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw completed a restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 in 2011 that brought back many of the design characteristics from Donald Ross’ own 1935 renovation. The Granddaddy of American Golf opened in 1907 and has hosted dozens of major tournaments. History was made during the summer of 2019, when the recently redesigned Pinehurst No. 4 (pictured), along with No. 2, served as the site of the 36-hole match-play final of the 119th U.S. Amateur Championship. Architect Gil Hanse and his design partner Jim Wagner’s version of No. 4 that debuted in 2018 is nearly unrecognizable from its predecessors. Pinehurst No. 8 opened in 1996 to commemorate Pinehurst’s centennial year. Architect Tom Fazio incorporated signature Ross features into the design, including dips and swales around the greens, sloping greens and false fronts.
Pine Needles (pictured) is another legendary, Donald Ross masterpiece, already having served as the site of three U.S. Women’s Open Championships, the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open and the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open. To play at Pine Needles — and, of course, its sister course across the street, Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club — is to live and breathe Donald Ross golf. Mid Pines was impeccably restored by Kyle Franz in 2013. The renovation was honored with GOLF Magazine’s Best U.S. Resort Renovation and Restoration of the Year.
The Village of Pinehurst Area Chapter of the National Golf Course Owners Association named the New Course at Talamore the “Course of the Year 2018.” The prestigious award came after a major restoration was performed on the golf course. Talamore’s partner property across the street, the Arnold Palmer-designed King’s Course at Mid South (pictured), also underwent a similar golf course restoration and greens conversion along with numerous other club enhancements. Both have risen in state rankings since then.
And, of course, Tobacco Road Golf Club in Sanford has changed the face of Pinehurst-area golf ever since architect Mike Strantz’s masterpiece debuted in 1998. If you are planning a trip to play golf in the Sandhills, scheduling a round at Tobacco Road is something you need to seriously consider.
But there are plenty more outstanding, if lesser known, layouts around the Sandhills that are especially enjoyable during autumn’s picturesque appeal.
Long considered one of the best-kept Donald Ross secrets anywhere, Southern Pines Golf Club is now being run by an investment group whose partners include Kelly Miller, the CEO of nearby Pine Needles and Mid Pines. Restoration expert Franz is expected to work his architectural magic at the 1906 layout. Plans are to cut down of a lot of trees that have distracted from views around the lake.
Located 18 miles south of the Village of Pinehurst on Hwy 15-501 South, Deercroft Golf Club in Wagram is worth the drive. Franz has also 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.
Originally built on the site of Starland Farms, a former thoroughbred horse training facility, Longleaf Golf & Family Club has been touted as “The Most Playable Course in Pinehurst” by Golf Digest. Designed by Sandhills native Dan Maples, Longleaf’s front and back nines are two distinctively different layouts. Challenging and diverse, the front is more links style with the back more tree lined with nice elevation changes.
At the Country Club of Whispering Pines, two of local legend Ellis Maples’ finest designs, the Pines Course displays classic Donald Ross influence in the way it follows the land’s natural contours, by the position of the sand traps and shaping of greens. If you wish to try the Pines from the back tees, you’ll find its impressive length has not been affected even by equipment improvements through the years. Meanwhile, the River Course will remind you of a northeastern-style country club golf course, with elevation changes uncommon in the Sandhills and fairways bordered by towering oaks and overhanging greens.
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.
Beacon Ridge Country Club in West End was designed by Gene Hamm and opened in 1988. Accented by narrow rolling fairways and small, undulating greens, Beacon Ridge demands an array of well-placed shots. Meandering through towering pines and rolling mounds, Beacon Ridge is a must-play for those who truly love traditional golf.
Designed in 1976 by Peter Tufts III, godson of Donald Ross, 7 Lakes Country Club in West End has a history and heritage of excellence in course design. Located 10 miles from the Village of Pinehurst, this classic design delivers a spectacular golf course emphasizing the traditional and classic design elements that present a true Sandhills experience.
Overlooking U.S. Hwy 1, newly restored Hyland Golf Club — previously called Hyland Hills Golf Club — is now a Veteran-owned facility. Designed by Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame Member Tom Jackson, Hyland transports golfers back to a time where every shot in the bag was tested. A true, Sandhills golf experience in Southern Pines traversing rolling terrain amidst longleaf pines, Hyland offers the highest elevations, sparkling blue water and immaculate conditions — particularly its manicured, Champion Mini-dwarf Bermuda greens.