Billionaire James Walker Tufts, famous for the soda stream amongst many other entrepreneurial endeavors, largely built Pinehurst, a quaint village in the North Carolina Sandhills. However, legendary golf course architect Donald Ross created the magic.
Originally designed as a holiday getaway for those enduring brutal winters in the northeast of the United Sates, Pinehurst and its southern hospitality became the ideal golf getaway. The region attracts just as many visitors for hiking and biking and the significant equine activities, but golf is its staple diet.
It centres around the magnificent Pinehurst Resort, established in 1895, and its stately Carolina Hotel. Its old world charm, complete with grand ballrooms and many dining options justifies the “Whitehouse of the South” moniker. Wide balconies are ideal for post round refreshments, while a walk through its corridors is one of the game’s great history lessons.
The Carolina Hotel is the premier of the four properties, which make up the resort. The Holly Inn, The Manor and The Condos are impressive in their own way and accommodation at any of them includes access to the highly rated spa, 24 tennis courts and swimming pools. There’s also lawn bowls and croquet fields plus a cool putting green called Thistle Dhu (this’ll do) that the whole family will love.
Donald Ross was a professional golfer of note and served his apprenticeship under the game’s forefather Old Tom Morris at St Andrews, but course design is how he made his name. He immigrated to North Carolina in December 1899 and by his death in 1948 had designed around 400 courses, but Pinehurst No 2 (there are eight courses in total) is widely accepted as his signature work.
It has recently undergone some restoration work by in-vogue design duo Coore-Crenshaw, which has put it back on the map of famed layouts. In June, the venue created more history when it became the first course to host both the Men’s and Women’s US Opens in consecutive weeks.
Truth be told it’s a very challenging but enjoyable layout. Getting to walk in the footsteps of champions is one of the game’s great pleasures and Pinehurst No 2 should be first on your list to play. Pinehurst 4 and 8 are also popular, but you can’t go wrong with any of the nine.
However, venturing outside the Resort will allow you to stumble upon other gems like Mid Pines and Pine Needles plus Dormie Club. The best part is all but three of the 43 courses are public access so getting a tee-time isn’t a problem, just be sure to book well in advance and expect a fee in the vicinity of US$150-$400 (about A$160-428) per game. Caddies are also a great option, but usually cost another US$70-$100 (about A$75-107) including a tip (remember, cash only) so it can add up.
While it’s a golf Mecca, the non-golfers in the family will enjoy the gentle pace of the village and discover many boutiques, galleries and dining options. One thing I regret not doing was renting a bike and taking a gentle ride through the area. It’s a place that asks you to meander through. Struggling with jetlag, I went for an early morning jog through its quiet streets, and felt as though I was running through the 1950s – it’s the place that time forgot. There’s a sense of tranquility the moment you’re amongst the Carolina pines, the kind of quiet you yearn for in this overbearing instant-info society we now call life.
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2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy is someone who loves the essence of the game and has spent most of his professional life travelling to and staying at the best destinations in the world. His is an opinion worth listening to. He has said;
“Pinehurst is way up there amongst my favourites as it’s one of the few places in the world that feels like they just play golf. The whole town, the hotels, all the golf courses and everything about it has a cool feeling.”
That cool feeling Ogilvy talks about is what renowned architect aficionado and golf blogger Geoff Shackelford describes as its “spirit”. Golfers like to surround themselves with PLUs (people like us), and at Pinehurst you will feel like you belong. “If you have old fashioned values and like being around people who love the game, and are more relaxed about it…yeah, it’s not cheap, but you’ll enjoy the atmosphere at Pinehurst,” confirmed Shackelford.
For someone who has travelled extensively around the world to play golf, I was very impressed by what this destination offers. While St Andrews in Scotland is the Home of Golf, I have a strong feeling Pinehurst is America’s Home of Golf, and I’m already planning my next visit.