Before there was Bandon Dunes, Streamsong, or Cabot Links, there was Pinehurst. It’s North America’s OG golf resort. Players have been flocking to the Sandhills of North Carolina since 1897. Today, Pinehurst boasts nine 18 hole golf courses, plus a nine hole short course. The crown jewel, Donald Ross’s masterwork No. 2, is reason enough to get on a plane. But there’s actually so much golf here it’s worth spending some time down in Tar Heel country. While 10 courses in four days might be a Sisyphean task, a long weekend is the perfect introduction to golf at Pinehurst—plus you can always come back.
Pinehurst Village is a scant 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 the Raleigh airport for $100 each way per person, so a rental car is not required—but if you’re keen to get off the property, we’d recommend one as Lyft and Uber are non-existent. While there are cabs, they can be both expensive and hard to come by.
Where to Stay
The Pinehurst Resort offers several options for accommodations. The Carolina Hotel is easily the most convenient place to stay. Its front door is a short walk (or a quick shuttle ride) to the main club house and about five minutes on foot to the center of the Village. It’s got a posh Old World vibe and stately guest rooms, and breakfast is just off the lobby.
The Holly Inn dates back to 1895 and is the oldest hotel on property. The recently renovated Manor features the resort’s best whiskey bar—perfect for a tipple before bed. And larger groups can elect to stay at the Carolina Villas, which feature guest rooms connected to a shared living space.
Players who would prefer to stay off property also have some nice options, but won’t be able to pre-book tee times on Pinehurst Courses. The Lodge at Pine Needles is only a few 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, and some of them include meals (minus drinks). Here are some popular places to fuel up and wind down before and after a day on the green.
The Carolina Dining Room (in the Carolina Hotel) features a substantial breakfast buffet with loads of options, sweet and savory. But don’t sleep on the homemade biscuits and gravy. Pro tip: Throw a couple of freshly fried eggs and some hot sauce on top.
Down in the Village, the Agora Bakery and Cafe, which occupies an old bank, makes a tasty cappuccino; a decadent bacon egg and cheese on a buttery biscuit; and Elvis Toast with peanut butter, banana, honey, plus bacon.
For more diner-style fare, The Villager Deli offers tasty concoctions your doctor may not recommend (but we do). One of our favorites, the Pinehurst #6 (aka, the Porky Pegg Sandwich) with eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, and mayo on toast.
You’ll likely pick up the mid-day meal from one of the halfway houses on the course. The chicken salad in a cup is delightful, but if you have a bit of time between rounds, grab a table outside at The Deuce so you can watch players hit into 18 and finish their round on No. 2 while you scarf down a burger and tater tots.
Between the resort and the neighboring area, dining options at Pinehurst are even more plentiful than golf courses.
The Pinehurst Brewery, as you’d expect from the name, is a brew pub with a large selection of craft beers. The 1895 Lager is easily the most drinkable—and you’ll find a canned version on the golf courses. The stout is dark and rich in flavor while the blonde ale is crisp, tart, and goes down a little too easy. For food, the Brewery mostly serves pizzas and slow-and-low cooked barbecue. 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-timey charm inside the Holly Inn. Their pub-style fare is comfort food done right. The chicken fried chicken with smashed potatoes, collard greens, and black pepper gravy is another one that might draw the ire of your cardiologist, but it’s made from a secret recipe. (You’re on vacation, after all.)
For a classic Italian menu, travelers will want to hit up the off-resort Villaggio Ristorante and Bar. A big bowl of house-made pasta in a rich carbonara sauce is a great way to tank up after 36 holes. For players who want a refined farm-to-table dining experience, Elliotts on Linden creates beautiful plates using fresh, local ingredients. Those in search of something seriously carnivorous should head back to the Carolina Dining Room for a 12-ounce ribeye or steak Diane.
Day 1: Pinehurst No. 4
Try to land as early as you can so you can get to the resort for a warmup. You’ll want to spend at least half your practice session at the short game area. Chipping and pitching is different here; the tight lies and sandy soil may not agree with the bounce 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 comes down to what’s comfortable. You’ll want to feel at peace around the greens before you tee off.
On Pinehurst No. 4, you’ll find wide fairways that are easy to hit even if you aren’t driving the ball particularly well. The test here on Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner’s 2019 renovation is on the second and third shots. Many of the greens are shaped to prevent all but 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 nearly every course in the area) is to deeply consider the slope and grain before you hit the approach, as the contours can guide the ball both toward and away from the hole.
If you’ve still got some gas left 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 the reason you’re here. The Donald Ross masterpiece is stunning, framed by massive pines and epic sand. The course has hosted a slew of major and USGA championships and is now an ‘anchor site’ in the rotation of U.S. Open venues for 2029, 2035, 2041, and 2047.
It’s a test with not just teeth but fangs. Sure, there are only a few spots where out of bounds come into play and only one water hazard on the course—so you won’t lose many balls—but the hazard is where you find them. Massive sandy waste areas with wispy pockets of native grass make playing from anywhere but the fairway problematic.
And then there are the greens. Ross, who was born in Dornoch, Scotland—home to Royal Dornoch, one of our favorite courses on the planet—built green complexes on No. 2 that demand precision. They’re all slick, grainy, and difficult to read. Many feature a turtle back shape with edges that can fling your ball 20 yards away. Forget about the flags, and just fire for the middle of each green and try to make a long-ish putt. But don’t get too aggressive with the flat stick, especially when you’re downhill and down grain, otherwise you might need another club for the next shot.
After your round and a hearty lunch at the Deuce—where you can watch others play into the 18th on No. 2—treat yourself to a massage if you’ve got time, then grab a beverage and saunter off to The Cradle. It’s a nine hole short course designed by Gil Hanse that’s perfect for settling or making new bets. You won’t need much more than a wedge for the longest tee shot, but even so it’s a challenge to stick it close.
Day 3: Pinehurst No. 8 and Pinehurst No. 6
Tom Fazio designed Pinehurst No. 8 for Pinehurst’s 100th birthday. It’s a great resort course that rolls up and down the hills and through wetlands. Unlike most of the courses at Pinehurst, there are some shots that require a carry over water, like the stunning 14th hole. Players can bite off as much as they can chew over the marsh to a fairway that doglegs almost 45 degrees from the tee.
After lunch, head over to Pinehurst No. 6—another Tom Fazio track (he worked on this one with his uncle George Fazio). The course, laid out in 1975, is a favorite of many local members (yes, you can join Pinehurst) and is a bit of a sleeper with guests. There aren’t as many expansive waste areas, but there are a few water hazards, some tough dog legs, and a good collection of par threes to test your mid irons.
After your first round at Pinehurst No. 2, chances are you’ll be hankering for revenge. Don’t wait for your next trip. Carpe diem!
If you’ve booked a late flight, as we recommend you do, on the way to the airport, you should have time to stop and play Tobacco Road. It’s radically different from anything else you’ve played in the area. 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 bunkering coupled with waste areas that also serve as cart paths. But on the other side you’ll find wide fairways with plenty of space for imperfect shots and some truly amazing green complexes. Equally intimidating is the spicy pimento cheese dog, but we’d recommend you take that on as well.
Want to Stay Longer?
If you’ve got the time, the Sandhills have the courses. There are still five more courses at Pinehurst including No. 1, which started it all.
The aforementioned trio of tracks, Pine Needles, which will host the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open, Mid Pines and Southern Pines are all original Donald Ross spectacular designs, and well worth their own trip.
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