As the “Home of American Golf,” the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area has long held close ties with the U.S. Open. This is the second of a three-part series detailing some of our area’s connection with one of golf’s most storied events.
In and around the North Carolina Sandhills, some of the finest golf course design creativity by a trio of legendary former U.S. Open champions — Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player — is on full display. If you want to experience the design genius of these legends when you come through the Sandhills, Pinehurst No. 9, Legacy Golf Links, King’s Course at Mid South, and Pinewild Country Club are all strong representative works.
Nicklaus designed Pinehurst No. 9 — then called National Golf Club — in 1989. Amidst the longleaf pines of Southern Pines, golf’s most prolific major champion sketched an intriguingly well-balanced masterpiece. Featuring time-honored Nicklaus architecture — wide fairways, lush course conditions and undulating putting surfaces — No. 9 is as meticulously designed as it is compelling. No. 9 blends two of golf’s greatest legends — Nicklaus and the Sandhills — into a secure, gated residential community of superior quality, with a relaxed and easy lifestyle including diverse amenities and member activities.
Not to be outdone by his famous father, Jack Nicklaus II stamped his name on Aberdeen’s Legacy Golf Links in 1991. Offering a challenging variety of holes, wide fairways and wise use of water hazards, this “Jackie” design features Mini Verde greens and is beautifully routed around five lakes. The collection of par 3s are among the best in the area, while the 18th hole, nicknamed “The Bear,” has been rated as the area’s best finishing hole. One of only three courses in the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area to have hosted a USGA National Championship, Legacy Golf Links was renovated in 2012.
As for the Golden Bear’s favorite rival, that fella they call “The King”? Palmer and his renowned golf architecture associate, the late Ed Seay, designed the popular King’s Course at Mid South (formerly Mid South Club & Lodge and before that, Pinehurst Plantation), which debuted in 1993. The sister property of neighboring Talamore Golf Resort in Southern Pines, the King’s Course at Mid South recently underwent a major golf course restoration. The green complexes were converted from bent grass to Champion Bermuda and have received rave reviews, along with numerous other club enhancements. Post renovation, The King’s Course at Mid South — the only Palmer Signature course in the Sandhills — moved up six spots to No. 53 in the state.
As for that other former U.S. Open champion, the great South African, Gary Player? Well, Player’s name in Pinehurst is attached to Pinewild Country Club, which he helped open in 1996. Located just one mile from the quaint and historic village of Pinehurst, the gated Pinewild CC offers its residents and guests 48 holes of golf, including two championship golf courses, the Magnolia and the Holly, which are both stunning and challenging to golfers of all skill levels.
The Holly, a Player signature design, is a classic risk reward layout offering panoramic beauty and some of the best greens in the Sandhills. The Holly has played host to many USGA Qualifying events, as well as Carolinas PGA Championships. Meandering through the longleaf pines, the Magnolia was designed by Gene Hamm and has played host to the PGA Tour Qualifying School, the LPGA’s Pinewild Championship in 1995 and U.S. Open qualifying events.