Ladies who play golf together like to travel to play more golf together. And where better than the Home of American Golf? Pinehurst and its charming surrounding towns know more about putting great golf vacations together than just about anywhere else.
Golf first arrived in America from Scotland almost 300 years ago with a shipment of “sticks and balls” in the late 1730s to the Carolinas. While some folks may have played then in a pasture or two, the game really took off 150 years later when the Tufts family, Scottish golf guru Donald Ross, and landscape genius Frederick Law Olmstead envisioned a golfing destination and village among the sandhills of North Carolina. Today Pinehurst not only has hosted more USGA national championships than any other site in America, it’s also one of the best destinations to find courses suited to a woman’s game. And, because the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area, along with the surrounding towns understand golf life better than anywhere else, there’s more here than chipping, putting, and driving.
Where to Play Golf
The first course ever designed for women’s play is a sweet little layout known as Pinehurst No. 3. Women first earned the right to golf on this course in 1910 before they were provided the right to vote. Imagine that! Today it’s the shortest 18 holes at Pinehurst Resort, with a par 68. But don’t let the lack of distance fool you. Recently renovated, each hole ends on elevated postage-stamp-size greens that demand delicacy and finesse. It’s a great warm up for the bigger Pinehurst Resort courses.
All nine courses at Pinehurst Resort carry legendary lore. When the wind whispers through the pine trees, echoes of the U.S. Open wins by Payne Stewart and Michelle Wie whistle around, inspiring folks to swing a little cleaner and putt a bit straighter. Long known as Ross’ masterpiece, the No. 2 Course will challenge you on every stroke. Be sure to opt for a caddy for tips on ball placement. Here’s another happy thought: You can ground your club and take practice swings in all the bunkers. Looking for something a bit more forgiving? Don’t pass up the brand new 9-hole short course, The Cradle. Meant to be played with just 3 or 4 clubs in an hour, this Gil Hanse design elicits lots of laughter and giggles—and holes in one. And of course, you’ll want to play Thistle Dhu, Pinehurst’s take on St. Andrews’ legendary Himalayas Course. It’s 18 holes of mind-bending putting.
You’ll find more quality golf between Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen: 23 courses are rated as 4-stars or better by Golf Digest. But you won’t want to miss Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. Run by the Bell family (yes, that’s World Golf Hall of Famer Peggy Kirk Bell), Pine Needles hosted the first women’s championship in 1928, as well as the 1996, 2001, and 2007 U.S. Women Open Championships—plus the upcoming 2022 U.S. Women’s Open. The Donald Ross-designed course is challenging, and it remains true to his original vision. While there, you might want to take a lesson or two. Run by Donna Andrews (a six-time LPGA winner), the golf academy offers up Bell’s signature Golfari, a four-night program that includes accommodations, all meals, more than 25 hours of instructions, plus green fees, and carts, designed by women for women golfers. All that takes place just to the side of the regular 18 holes in The Loop, with several practice holes and range. The rustic lodge at Pine Needles evokes upscale camps, quite casual, yet blended with elegance: leather, plaids, and tweeds; crackling fires by groaning tables of yummy food; and comfy seats to watch the players and the pine trees. There is no place like it.
Other courses you’ll want to visit while you’re in the region include Mid Pines (another Ross design), the King’s Course at Mid South Club (an Arnold Palmer layout), and New Course at Talamore (a Rees Jones plan) which used to offer a llama caddie program for its rolling hills. You can visit them in the llama pen between the 13 green and 14 tee.
During your visit, be sure to pay tribute to American golf history at the Tufts Archives in Pinehurst Village. The one-story Colonial Revival cottage preserves the history of Pinehurst from 1895 and chronicles the growth of golf in America and the development of the resort business. It houses many of Donald Ross’ golf course designs, sketches, and layouts. The Carolinas Golf Association, across from Pine Needles, looks at the history of golf throughout North and South Carolina.
The 19th Hole
After golf, spend at least half a day at the elegant Pinehurst Spa with your pals. The locker room, whirlpool, and swimming pool areas are so tranquil and sizeable that you’ll want to purchase an all-day pass even when you don’t have an appointment scheduled just to hang out. But think twice before skipping a service. The Champions Massage uses hot stones deep into your shoulders, neck, and upper back to release any swing tension, and ends with a peppermint foot scrub and massage. Can you say ahhh?
Afterwards, stroll around Pinehurst Village. Originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, today the historic buildings hold a small collection of boutiques, galleries, restaurants and antiques shops. Drop in the Old Sport & Gallery, which occupies most of the first floor of the Harvard Hotel Building—it’s like stepping into a bit of old Scotland. Posters, original art, books, golf paraphernalia and memorabilia cram into every corner. Grab a caffeine and a scone at the Roast Office, a coffee shop and book store in the old Village post office. It’s so charming that folks even hold weddings there. If you’re seeking a spot to purchase ladies golfing togs, head over to Pinehurst Resort pro shop. They carry several upscale lines of clothing, and a couple of lady assistants are always at the ready to help you find exactly what you are looking for.
Need more shopping to fill out your suitcase? Head to downtown Southern Pines. Two exemplary shops offer one-of-a-kind patriotic purchases. At R. Riveter co-founder Cameron Cruze leads up a team of wives of servicemen to create handbags, satchels, and accessories out of canvas. Meanwhile, the folks at Heritage Flag Company handcraft American flags out of old whiskey and wine barrels, as well as ones out of pine trees that were knocked down by storms on the Pinehurst Resort courses.
Before calling it a night, have a toddy at the Pine Crest Inn, a 1913 historic tavern that has hosted Bobby Jones, Annie Oakley, and pros such as Palmer, Nicklaus, and Stewart. Then try your hand at chip shots into the fireplace. Ben Crenshaw holds the record with 10 for 10.
Where to Dine
Be sure to pack your appetite. In fact, you could visit here just for the food. If you have time before teeing off, drop by Breakfast at Betsy’s Crepes on Broad Street in Southern Pines for an easy meal of morning favorites all wrapped in light crepes. Or, if you prefer to hit the tees at the resort early, lunch in The Deuce at the Pinehurst Clubhouse is a treat—with a view over the 18th green on No. 2.
For a great destination meal, set your GPS to the Pik N Pig in nearby Carthage. This barbecue joint sits on a small airfield and dishes up pulled pork. And there’s more Carolina ‘cue at Pinehurst Brewing Company. Pouring their own brews, this gastro-pub features smoked meats with local-sourced fresh sides. Think fresh tomato salad with barbecued chicken, a hefty brisket cheeseburger, or pizzas with hot wings. Set in an old steam plant built in 1895 that powered the Village of Pinehurst for decades, the place gets hopping on weekends with live music to round out the offerings.
There’s even a bit of the old country at the Drum & Quill. It’s much like a British pub, except there’s table service. Named for owners, Kevin Drum and his late father, Bob “the Drummer” Drum, a golf writer and journalist who documented Arnold Palmer’s career, it’s a fun spot in the Village for a drink and a nosh.
Some of finest food in the Carolinas is dished up at Ashten’s in downtown Southern Pines. Chef/owner Ashley Van Camp has New York chef cred, but the soul of her creations come from her good local Carolina background. Meals start with fluffy biscuits and move on to whatever is in season. Think strawberries and cornbread, or artichoke lollipops appetizers, and locally raised pork, trout, or chicken entrees. All the food comes from within a few miles of town, and the kitchen talent transforms it into a treat that you’ll be talking about the next morning on the links. Elliott’s on Linden is another must visit. Chef and owner Mark Elliott has been in Pinehurst for almost 20 years and was one of the original leaders of the farm to table movement in Moore County. Their signature plank salmon dish is a favorite by locals and visitors. And ladies, their wine list is amazing!
Where to Stay
You’ll find most of the major chains around Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen. But you might enjoy staying in a place more focused on golf. The elegant Carolina Hotel, dubbed the Queen of the South and the White House of Golf, is part of Pinehurst Resort. Pine Needles and Mid Pines both have rooms by the course. Talamore offers up a neighborhood of villas, with full kitchens and living rooms—great for a girls trip. A stay there includes golf, and complimentary Carolina Pig Pickin’ Dinner Buffet on Thursdays. Wherever you decide to lay your head, you’ll be dreaming about the local pars and birdies.