Hitting the Links
Pinehurst is like a quaint village with the kind of total-golf atmosphere you find in St. Andrews in Scotland. With its more than 35 superb championship golf courses, some of which are among the highest rated in the world, the town represents golf's grandest era. Legends were born here -- names such as Nelson, Zaharias, Jones, Hogan, Snead, and Palmer. Some of the finest golf architects of the 20th century designed courses in the area -- Donald Ross, Ellis Maples, and Robert Trent Jones among them. The courses here are too numerous to list. Following are our favorites.
The Club at Longleaf, Pinehurst (tel. 800/542-0450; 910/692-6100; www.longleafgolf.com), was called by Golf Digest "the most playable course in Pinehurst." It was designed by Dan Maples, architect of the nationally acclaimed Pit Golf Links. The front 9 at Longleaf was designed in the Scottish open style, with rolling fairways. Greens fees cost $35 to $85 with cart rental.
Legacy Golf Links, U.S. 15/501 South, Aberdeen (tel. 800/314-7560 or 910/944-8825; www.legacygolfnc.com), is the only links in the area to blend the accessibility of a public course with the amenities of a private club. It's also the only public course to receive Golf Digest's four-star rating. Greens fees are $49 to $79 per person, including cart rental.
Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, Southern Pines (tel. 800/747-7272 or 910/692-7111; www.pineneedles-midpines.com), is a Donald Ross masterpiece built in 1927, a challenging par-71 course for golfers of all skill levels. The course, playing to 6,708 yards from the championship tees, has been immaculately groomed and restored to its original splendor. Its Bermuda fairways and bent-grass greens are available only to guests staying at the Pine Needles and Mid Pines (for details, see the reviews for Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club and Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club, later in this chapter). Greens fees are $125 to $195. Package rates are also available in combination with hotel tariffs.
The Pinehurst Resort Golf Courses, 1 Carolina Vista at Pinehurst (tel. 800/ITS-GOLF [487-4653] or 910/295-6811; www.pinehurst.com), is the only resort with eight signature courses, and you must be a guest of the resort to play. Many guests book golf packages. The original architect was Donald Ross. This is golf in the grandest tradition, and shots played by Hogan, Nelson, and Jones still echo down the fairways. For these 126 holes of golf, the classic designs are by Donald Ross and Ellis Maples; the modern concepts are by Tom Fazio and Rees Jones.
The Links of Pinehurst -- Nowhere in America do golf past and golf present walk hand in hand as they do in Pinehurst/Southern Pines. The area is a museum of golf architecture and a living laboratory of golf design. The first 18-hole course was laid out by Dr. D. LeRoy Culver of New York. It opened in 1899. Since then, the array of architects has included Ellis and Dan Maples, Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones, Peter Tufts, and (one of the latest) Arnold Palmer. When the greens of Pinehurst No. 2 were dug up and resurfaced with bent grass in 1987, workers found an old horseshoe buried under the 18th green -- a souvenir left by one of the animals that used to drag and shape the putting surface some 80 years ago. When Rees Jones, the famous golf architect, was laying out holes for Pinehurst No. 7 in 1984, he came across several ancient bunkers of a long-abandoned golf course. He ordered the bunkers restored, and they sit today in front of the tee to the 4th hole.
Some holes are nearly a century old, and others have small greens rounded off on the corners -- the "upside-down-saucer" effect that Scotsman Donald Ross used so frequently. Some courses have huge greens that require a 7-iron approach if the pin's at the front and a 4-iron if it's in the rear. Still other holes require heroic shots over water or pits of sand, and some have open green entrances that invite the old bump-and-run shot.
North Carolina's Pinehurst/Southern Pines firmly reestablished itself as the "Golf Capital of the World" when the United States Golf Association in 1999 made it the site of the U.S. Open Championship, which marked the second time that the U.S. Open has been played in the Southeast (the first time was in 1976).
Other Outdoor Pursuits
Tennis buffs will find nearly 100 public courts in the area; call tel. 910/692-3330 for locations, hours, and fees. Most of the resorts have their own court facilities. The Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club has the only local grass courts, and lighted courts are available in both Southern Pines and Aberdeen.
Bicycling is another major sport. The Pinehurst area has long been regarded as a top-flight training area and proving ground for the U.S., Canadian, and other international cycling teams. Riders of all skill levels can enjoy a variety of mapped courses along peaceful lanes and through country villages. Annual cycling events include the Tour de Moore, a grueling 100-mile road race held the last Saturday in April around the perimeter of Moore County. This race draws cyclists from all over the world, who compete for the coveted Pinehurst Cup.
Because of the lack of bicycle-rental shops in the area, hotels keep their own stock to rent to guests who'd like to cycle along the relatively easy terrain. Traffic is generally light, and conditions for cycling are good.