Before there was Bandon Dunes, Streamsong or Cabot Links, there was pinehurst. It’s the OG golf resort of North America. Players have been flocking to the North Carolina Sandhills since 1897. Today, Pinehurst has nine 18-hole golf courses, as well as a nine-hole short course. The crown jewel, Donald Ross’ masterpiece #2, is reason enough to get on a plane. But there’s so much golf here that it’s worth spending some time in Tar Heel country. While 10 rounds in four days can be a sisyphean task, a long weekend is the perfect introduction to golf in Pinehurst, and you can always come back.
Pinehurst Village is one hour and 20 minutes from Raleigh International Airport and about two hours from Charlotte, so visitors have a few options for flights. The Pinehurst Resort offers a shuttle for guests from Raleigh Airport for $100 each way per person, so a rental car is not necessary, but if you wish to leave the property, we recommend one. Lyft and Uber are non-existent. Although taxis are available, they can be both expensive and difficult to find.
Where to stay
The Pinehurst Resort offers several accommodation options. The Caroline Hotel is by far the most convenient place to stay. Its front door is a short walk (or short shuttle ride) from the main clubhouse and about a five-minute walk from the center of the village. It has a chic Old World vibe and stately rooms, and breakfast is just off the lobby.
the holly inn dates back to 1895 and is the oldest hotel on the property. The recently renovated Manor has the best whiskey bar in the complex, perfect for a drink before bed. And larger groups can choose to stay at Caroline Villaswhich offer rooms connected to a common living space.
Players who prefer to stay off property also have some great options, but won’t be able to pre-book tee times at Pinehurst courses. the Lodge at Pine Needles is only minutes away and is itself a stellar golf resort. There are also options from Marriott, Wyndham, and Holiday Inn for travelers who want to earn or burn points.
Where to eat and drink
It’s worth noting that Pinehurst offers a few packages, some of which include meals (minus drinks). Here are some popular places to refuel and relax before and after a day on the green.
the Carolina dining room (in the Hotel Carolina) offers a rich buffet breakfast with many options, both sweet and savory. But don’t sleep on the homemade cookies and gravy. Pro tip: Throw in a few freshly fried eggs and hot sauce on top.
Down in the Village, the Agora Bakery and Cafe, which occupies an old bank, makes a tasty cappuccino; a decadent egg with bacon and cheese on a butter biscuit; and Elvis Toast with peanut butter, banana, honey and bacon.
For more dinner style dishes, The villager’s grocery store offers delicious concoctions that your doctor might not recommend (but we do). One of our favorites, the Pinehurst #6 (aka the Porky Pegg Sandwich) with eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar and mayo on toast.
You will probably have lunch at one of the halfway houses along the route. The chicken salad in a cup is delicious, but if you have some time between rounds, grab a table outside at The devil so you can watch players reach 18 and end their turn on #2 while you devour a burger and tater tots.
Between the resort and the nearby area, the dining options at Pinehurst outnumber the golf courses.
the Pinehurst Brewery, as the name suggests, is a brewpub with a wide selection of craft beers. The 1895 Lager is by far the most drinkable and you will find a canned version of it on golf courses. Stout is dark and rich in flavor while lager is crisp, tart and goes down a bit too easily. For food, the brasserie mainly serves slow-cooked pizzas and barbecues. If you’re there on a Monday or Tuesday, ribs are on the menu and they’re legit.
The Tavern is another solid resort option with old-world charm inside the Holly Inn. Their pub-style fare is comfort food done right. Fried chicken with mashed potatoes, collard greens and black peppercorn sauce is another one that might draw your cardiologist’s ire, but it’s made from a secret recipe. (You’re on vacation, after all.)
For a classic Italian menu, travelers will want to head out of the resort Villaggio Ristorante and Bar. A big bowl of homemade pasta in a rich carbonara sauce is a great way to refuel after 36 holes. For gamers who want a fine dining experience from farm to table, Elliott on Linden creates beautiful plates using fresh, local ingredients. Those looking for something truly carnivorous should head back to Carolina Dining Room for a 12-ounce rib eye or Diane steak.
Day 1: Pinehurst #4
Try to land as early as possible so you can get to the resort for a warm up. You will want to spend at least half of your practice session in the short game zone. The chipping and pitching are different here; tight lies and sandy ground may not agree with the rebound loft combos on your wedges. Some locals and caddies recommend trying to figure out how to chip with an 8 iron and others with a hybrid. It really depends on what is comfortable. You will want to feel at peace around the greens before you start.
On Pinehurst #4 you will find wide fairways that are easy to hit even if you don’t drive the ball particularly well. The test here on Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner’s 2019 renovation is on the second and third planes. Most greens are shaped to prevent all quality iron shots from holding the putting surface. Even if you find the green in regulation, putts can be lightning fast and hard to read. The key to playing well here (and almost any course in the area) is to deeply consider the slope and grain before hitting the approach, as the contours can guide the ball both towards and away from the hole.
If you still have gas in the tank and a few hours of daylight to burn, pop into the pro shop and see if they can get you out for an emergency nine.
Day 2: Pinehurst No. 2 and The Cradle
Pinehurst No. 2 is why you are here. Donald Ross’ masterpiece is stunning, framed by massive pine trees and epic sand. The course has hosted a host of major and USGA championships and is now an “anchor site” in the rotation of US Open venues for 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.
It’s a test with not just teeth but fangs. Sure, there are only a few out-of-bounds spots and only one water hazard on the course – so you won’t lose many balls – but the danger is where you find them. Huge patches of sandy waste with wispy pockets of native grass make play problematic from anywhere but the fairway.
And then there are the greens. Ross, who was born in Dornoch, Scotland, where he lives Royal Dornoch, one of our favorite courses on the planet, has built green complexes on No. 2 that demand precision. They’re all slick, grainy, and hard to read. Many feature a turtle back shape with edges that can throw your ball 20 yards. Forget the flags, just hit the middle of every green and try to make a long putt. But don’t be too aggressive with the flat stick, especially when you’re downhill and back, or you might need another club for the next shot.
After your journey and a hearty lunch at Devil– where you can watch others play in the 18th at #2 – treat yourself to a massage if you have time, then grab a drink and walk around The cradle. This is a short nine-hole course designed by Gil Hanse, perfect for settling or making new bets. You won’t need much more than a wedge for the longest drive, but even so, it’s a challenge to stick it close.
Day 3: Pinehurst #8 and Pinehurst #6
Tom Fazio designed Pinehurst No. 8 for Pinehurst’s 100th anniversary. This is a great resort course that goes up and down hills and through wetlands. Unlike most courses at Pinehurst, some shots require a carry over the water, like the beautiful 14th hole. Players can bite as much as they can chew over the swamp to a fairway that slopes nearly 45 degrees from the tee.
After lunch, head to Pinehurst No. 6, another piece by Tom Fazio (he worked on this one with his uncle George Fazio). The course, laid out in 1975, is a favorite of many locals (yes, you can join Pinehurst) and is somewhat dormant with guests. There aren’t as many large waste areas, but there are a few water hazards, challenging doglegs, and a good collection of par threes to test your intermediate irons.
After your first lap at Pinehurst No. 2, chances are you’ll be out for revenge. Don’t wait for your next trip. Carpe Diem!
If you have booked a late flight, as we recommend, on the way to the airport you should have time to stop and play Tobacco route. It’s radically different from anything you’ve played in the region. Designed by Mike Stranz, it’s bold and in your face with as much visual intimidation as we’ve ever seen. The course features loads of blind shots and insane bunkers coupled with trash areas that double as cart paths. But on the other side you will find wide fairways with plenty of room for imperfect shots and some truly amazing green complexes. The Spicy Chilli Cheese Dog is equally intimidating, but we recommend taking that as well.
Want to stay longer?
If you have time, the Sandhills have the classes. There are still five other courses at Pinehurst, including No. 1, which started it all.
The aforementioned trio of titles, Pine Needles, which will host the Women’s US Open 2022Mid Pines and Southern Pines are all spectacular original Donald Ross designs, and well worth their own trip.
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