Nestled in the Sandhills of central North Carolina lies a roughly triangular area encompassing the villages of Southern Pines, Aberdeen and the quaint little walking village of Pinehurst (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also created New York’s Central Park) and Pinehurst Resort. The center of Pinehurst-area golf is, and always has been, the Resort’s world-renowned No. 2 course. Today the area is home to nearly 50 excellent courses and counting. It’s known as the Home of American Golf.
Steeped in tradition, exuding refinement and genuine Southern hospitality, and with year-round golf weather, the Sandhills area is truly a golf mecca. In addition to Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2, several other courses are among the nation’s elite. The list of leading course designers includes Palmer, Maples, Nicklaus, Player, Jones and Fazio, but the name “Donald Ross” dominates. The legendary Scottish course designer came to Pinehurst in 1900 to redesign the new Resort’s #1, stayed for 48 years and created the Resort’s #s 2, 3 and 4 (significantly updated in 2000 by Tom Fazio and reopened as a new course), as well as the courses at Pine Needles and Mid Pines . In all, Ross designed or redesigned more than 400 others in North America, but considered No. 2 his home course, calling it “the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed.”
In 2011, No. 2 reopened after a year-long restoration project by renowned architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. They dug into Ross’s original plans, removing acres of turf and creating vast areas of sandy waste areas to recapture the original’s “naturalist” flavor and better frame every brilliantly conceived hole. When the course hosted its fourth U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open back to back in June 2014, the raves were widespread and nearly unanimous.
Big Names And Big Events
Pinehurst and professional golf have long been synonymous. In 1940 Ben Hogan won his first pro tournament at Pinehurst. Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Cary Middlecoff won tournaments here. A young Arnold Palmer was a regular at Pinehurst during college days at Wake Forest. And who could forget the 1999 U.S. Open at No. 2, where an exuberant Payne Stewart, clad in signature traditional knickers and tam-o-shanter cap, won his second Open just months before an untimely death. Pine Needles, site of the 1996 U.S. Women’s Open, again hosted the tournament in 2006. And Legacy Golf Links hosted the USGA’s 2000 Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. Area courses also host other professional tournaments.
A trip to the Pinehurst area will reward golfers not only with first-rate golf, but experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Play the area’s excellent newer courses, but do include at least one Ross venue on your itinerary and commune with both the spirit of this “holy” game and the spirits of golf’s greats who walked these hallowed fairways before you.
What To Bring
Depending on the season in which you make your trip, the weather can be hot and humid in the Sandhills area or a bit on the chilly side. Pick up some new shirts that are designed to perform in specific weather conditions. For the hot stuff, try one of the many modern shirt models that are capable of wicking away moisture throughout the round to help keep you dry and comfortable. On the sunny days, opt for shirts with a special UV coating, which will help reduce the effects of the sun’s powerful rays. If you visit the Sandhills in cooler weather, definite bring either a vest-style or full-length pullover.
For your feet, comfortable shoes are a must, particularly if you plan to walk (as you should). As far as clubs go, grab a few hybrid woods to help battle pine needle-strewn lies. These part-iron, part-wood clubs are the perfect recipe for a bad lie. Also, pack a dozen (or two) high-performance, value golf balls. There’s plenty of forest and brush to swallow your precious spheres. No need for premium balls with the ever-encroaching pine forests so eager to empty your wallet.
How To Get There
The Pinehurst area enjoys easy access by auto from Interstates 95, 85, 40, and 73/74. Airports include Fayetteville, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte. The nearby Moore County Airport can handle private aircraft.
When To Go
December to Early February: Interesting visual contrast between over-seeded green fairways and dormant rough Bermuda. Avg. Highs: 45 to 46 degrees F.
February to Mid-March: Great opportunity to get a jump on the season with cool but mostly clear weather. Still a good idea to call well in advance of arrival (minimum of two months) to ensure your favorite tee times. Avg. Highs: 46 to 52 degrees F.
Mid-March to Mid-May: What golf is all about. Dogwoods, azaleas in bloom, Carolina blue skies, crisp clean air. Make your reservations well in advance for weekend play. Avg. Highs: 52 to 70 degrees F.
Mid-May to Mid-June: Ideal weather with a few hot days mixed in and you’ll save money compared to the spring season. Avg. Highs: 70 to 75 degrees F.
Mid-June to September: Good value, good conditions. Bermuda fairways are fully grown in. Lots of time to play early and late to avoid midday heat. Avg. Highs: 75 to 79 degrees F.
September to Mid-November: Many locals call it their favorite season. Slightly better value than in the spring. Avg. Highs: 52 to 72 degrees F.
Mid-November to December: Grab a sweater and enjoy less-crowded conditions and usually sparkling clear days. Avg. Highs: 52 to 64 degrees F.
Sandhills Golf Association
Editor’s note: This travel roundup was updated July 2018
Where To Play
|Mid Pines Golf Club
A Donald Ross classic that never goes out of style.
Par 72, 6515 yards (71.4/127) (Donald Ross)(800) 323-2114
|National Golf Club
A modern masterpiece that rivals Pinehurst’s old legends.
Par 72, 7122 yards (75.2/143) (Jack Nicklaus)(800) 471-4339
|Pine Needles Golf Club
Pinehurst’s other home of championship golf.
Par 72, 6708 yards (72.2/128) (Donald Ross)(800) 747-7272
A golfing life without a round here is wasted.
No. 2 – Par 72, 7588 yards (75.9/138) (Donald Ross)No. 4 – Par 72, yardage and rating TBA
(Donald Ross/Tom Fazio; restoration by Gil Hanse 2018)
No. 7 – Par 72, 7125 yards (74.4/140) (Rees Jones)
No. 8 – Par 72, 7092 yards (74.0/135) (Tom Fazio)(800) ITS-GOLF
This Arnold Palmer-designed course takes
advantage of dramatic elevation changes and
preserved natural wetlands, producing a challenging layout for all levels.
Par 72, 6587 yards (72.0/138) (Arnold Palmer)(888) PALMER2
|Tobacco Road Golf Club
A surreal and exciting callenge on another Mike Stranz award winner.
Par 71, 6554 yards (73.2/150) (Mike Strantz)(800) 868-4455
|Anderson Creek Golf Club
Best new course in North Carolina for 2001.
Par 72, 7180 yards (75.1/139) (Davis Love III)(910) 814-2115
|Beacon Ridge Country Club
This masterpiece with bent grass greens and Bermuda grass fairways demands accuracy and the full use of a variety of clubs.
Par 72, 6511 yards (70.7/125) (Gene Hamm)(800) 416-5204
|Country Club of North Carolina
A pair of must-plays from local favorites Byrd and Maples.
Dogwood – Par 72, 7154 yards (73.5/131)
(Ellis Maples/William Byrd)
Cardinal – Par 72, 7005 yards (73.5/130) (William Byrd)(800) 692-6565
|Country Club of Whispering Pines
Two challenging 18s that are among Maples’ best designs.
East Course – Par 72, 7110 yards (73.9/130) (Ellis Maples)
West Course – Par 71, 6340 yards (70.3/128) (Ellis Maples)(800) 334-9536
|Club at Longleaf
One of the most popular and playable golf courses in the Pinehurst area.
Par 71, 6600 yards (69.7/117) (Dan Maples)(800) 889-5323
|Deercroft Golf Club
Experience the best-kept secret in the Sandhills, site of the 1986 PGA Tour Qualifier.
Par 72, 6745 yards (72.6/125) (G. Gildey)(800) 787-7323
|Forest Creek Golf Club
This 1996 Fazio gem is unlike any other in the Sandhills.
Par 72, 6745 yards (72.6/125) (Tom Fazio)(910) 692-3572
|Foxfire Country Club
Foxfire is a semiprivate, full-service resort featuring 36 holes of championship golf with condominium and townhouse accommodations.
East Course – Par 72, 6851 yards (73.5/130) (Gene Hamm)
West Course – Par 72, 6742 yards (72.8/125) (Gene Hamm)(800) 736-9347
|Hyland Hills Golf Club
The most-played 18 holes in the area remain traditional and unique with rolling hills and gimmick-free golf.
Par 72, 6726 yards (71.0/120) (Tom Jackson)(888) 315-2296
|Legacy Golf Links
The only golf course in the Pinehurst area to successfully combine a public course with private amenities.
Par 72, 6495 yards (70.8/124) (Jack Nicklaus II)(800) 344-8825
|Little River Farm Golf Club
Once an equestrian landmark, the Farm has been transformed into a legendary championship golf course.
Par 72, 6931 yards (73.6/133) (Dan Maples)(888) 766-6538
If you can’t play the big boys at Pinehurst, these will suffice just as nicely.
No 1 – Par 70, 6128 yards (69.4/116) (Donald Ross)
No. 3 – Par 70, 5682 yards (67.8/115) (Donald Ross)
No. 5 – Par 72, 6848 yards (73.4/137) (Ellis Maples)
No. 6 – Par 72, 7157 yards (75.6/139)
(George Fazio/Tom Fazio)(800) ITS-GOLF
|Pinewild Country Club
The two championship courses are both stunning and challenging to golfers of all levels.
Magnolia – Par 72, 7276 yards (75.6/135) (Gene Hamm)
Holly – Par 72, 6425 yards (71.1/131) (Gary Player)(910) 295-5145
|Talamore Golf Club
Not only a great course, but caddies you’ll remember for a lifetime–specially trained llamas.
Par 71, 7020 yards (73/142) (Rees Jones)(800) 552-6292
|The Pit Golf Links
Stunning and jaw-dropping, very few courses can match The Pit’s flair for the dramatic.
Par 72, 6600 yards (72.3/139) (Dan Maples)(800) 574-4653
|Tot Hill Farm Golf Club
Another solid, creative test from the mind of Mike Stranz.
Par 71, 6614 yards (72.2/135) (Mike Strantz)(800) 868-4455
|Woodlake Golf Club
Common local advice: “Play the Lake!”
Ellis Maples Course – Par 72, 7012 yards (73.4/134)
Arnold Palmer Course – Par 72, 7150 yards (74.1/134)(888) THE-LAKE
Pinehurst Area Accommodations
There are literally hundreds of places to rest your golf-weary head in the Pinehurst area. From that list, here are a few of our favorites:
The courses of Pinehurst present plenty of challenge. Make sure your technique is up to the task at one of the area’s most popular learning centers.
Although the lure of the links pulls strong in the Sandhills, there’s much more to do than play golf. Check out some of the more popular nongolf activities the area has to offer.