Welcome to the Home of American Golf! The Sandhills of North Carolina are anchored by the towns of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen. Although most visitors come here to play 18 holes, and there is no doubt that golf (and Donald Ross) squarely put this region on the map, there is so much more to do in the area than hitting the links.
In a place where Southern hospitality is ever-present, the towns of Southern Pines and Aberdeen, and the Village of Pinehurst each have a distinctive small-town vibe. Bound together by a love for all things local, these close-knit communities care about supporting businesses in their neck of the woods and the state of North Carolina.
You will find it in their fabulous eateries that feature fresh local ingredients. You will find it in the boutiques and shops that line their historic downtowns, where most stores feature a selection of items from regional artisans. You’ll find it in your conversations with bartenders at the breweries and mixologists at the cocktails bars where they are more than happy to share their insider tips for local fun with you. And above all, everyone you meet will make you feel welcome in their hometown.
To help you plan your first trip to Pinehurst, these are a few things I learned from my first visit.
WHERE TO STAY
The most centrally located place to park yourself is the Talamore Golf Resort in Southern Pines. They are one of the biggest golf packagers in the region. Besides playing their home courses, The New Course at Talamore and the Arnold Palmer-designed Mid South Club, you will have access to an extensive collection of other renowned area courses.
Visitors can book a two- or three-bedroom unit at the Talamore Golf Villas and The Lodges at Mid South. Staying in a vacation rental allows you to enjoy the company of your traveling companions. You will have more space to relax than in a hotel room plus you will have the option to use their well-stocked kitchens. Ask about the new Palmer Cottage which is fit for a king, sleeps eight people and includes a 65” big screen television. On Monday and Thursday nights from April to October, they even host a traditional Southern style Pig Pickin’ Dinner at the Pavilion.
You will likely find yourself traversing Midland Road quite a bit. Known as the Fifth Avenue of Golf, it connects the Village of Pinehurst and the town of Southern Pines. There are a few nearby restaurants along the way that you should put on your radar.
I enjoyed more than one meal at the Midland Bistro. This kitschy breakfast spot is the perfect place to go for a hearty breakfast before teeing off or setting out to explore for the day. It has a homey vibe and cozy interior with paintings by local artists lining the walls. If you are from the north like me, you may find it resembles a New Jersey diner with a southern touch. Biscuits replace bagels, and gourmet malted waffles replace a stack of pancakes. All of it is homemade with lots of local products and love.
Conveniently located just down the road from the Talamore Resort is Ironwood. Make a reservation for the dining room or sit out on their beautiful patio. With a diverse menu that has a wide variety of choices and an excellent wine list, your entire group will enjoy southern sophistication after a long day of exploring or playing golf.
WHAT TO DO
As a Vermonter, I can’t help but draw some similarities between the Village of Pinehurst and New England. If you understand a bit about its history, you will know why. In 1895 James Walker Tufts, a Boston Philanthropist, bought the land that is now known as Pinehurst. His idea was to create a New England-style village with curved roads all leading back to the central village green. Golf was added several years later with the help of Dr. D. Leroy Culver and Donald Ross.
Fast forward to the present day, Pinehurst is a National Historic Landmark. You can take a step back in time and discover the Village history yourself with a walking tour. Start by picking up a copy of the tour book at the Visitor Center or the Tufts Archives. Then choose from one of five routes to follow. Stroll along tree-lined streets dotted with homes that date back over 100 years. With the book in hand, you can read about the Village’s history and the original cottages that were built here in the late 1800s.
Start the day with a cup of coffee at the Roast Office, which is housed in the old post office. Pop into some of the boutique shops like Purple Thistle Kitchen & Co., a unique home goods store with an incredible selection of bitters and bar essentials. If you are looking for that extraordinary gift for the golfers in your life, stop by the Old Sport Gallery, which has a fantastic collection of golf art and memorabilia. For lunch, grab a bite to eat at the Drum & Quill Public House. The menu is above par (pun intended) and serves more than traditional pub fare. Try the Fried Green Tomato or Korean Beef tacos. And you can’t go wrong with a cup of tea and a slice of Mile-High Key Lime Pie, which is served at the Carolina Hotel’s Ryder Cup Lounge.
Spend at least one day strolling through Southern Pines. It has an authentic Southern downtown feel and is filled with lots of unique shops and restaurants. Stylish sophistication can be found up and down both sides of Broad Street. Pop into any of the numerous clothing boutiques and home good stores to find one-of-a-kind and locally made items. I promise you won’t leave empty-handed. If shopping makes you hungry, I’d suggest a sweet treat from the Broad Street Bakery & Café or lunch and a scoop of homemade ice cream at the Ice Cream Parlor. They have been serving the area since 1976.
Save time to check out Aberdeen as well. Its quaint historic district is a beautiful place to spend the morning or afternoon browsing or buying in their charming shops. There are several outdoor recreational opportunities as well as places to play. And if you are hungry, grab a bite at The Workshop Tavern or Mason’s Restaurant and Grocery.
Dana Freeman has lived in Vermont more than 20 years and just visited the Home of American Golf for the first time with her golfing husband and son. She disliked writing in college and is now a travel writer. Her only superstition is always touching the outside of an airplane when she boards. Dana has seen U2 more than 35 times in seven countries and will sleep on the pavement to make sure she’s on the rail for the concert.