Pinehurst: Home of Golf in America
It was shortly after the war when I took my first journey south of the line made famous by two surveyors: Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. No not the Civil War thank you, but the one Archie often told Edith, Gloria and the Meathead about.
My parents were fairly accomplished golfers, and as a wee lad I too had been attracted to the game at the country club where we were members: Tuckaway on Milwaukee's south side. A vacation to a golf resort in faraway North Carolina had been discussed at our home for a long time and after these many, many years, it is a trip I will never, ever forget.
Visualize if you will, cross-country travel by automobile then, long before interstate highways, motels and fast food: four people and a ton of luggage stuffed into a two-door Ford, the vintage now cherished by fans of the Woodward Dream Cruise; moving no faster than fifty miles an hour on two lane roads through countless towns and villages with names like Rising Sun, Big Stone Gap or Cave City, each with one stop-light and a feed mill; sleeping in closet-size roadside cabins with the lumpiest mattresses know to man or beast; dining in unappealing greasy-spoon truck stops and served by buxom waitresses who called everybody 'Honey'; failing most often, to properly fold the seven individual state maps required to keep us heading in the right direction; almost three days in transit each way, with my younger brother incessantly inquiring, "Are we there yet?"; and, watching anxiously for the next set of ubiquitous red and white signs with clever rhymes like: She eyed his beard...and said no dice...the weddings off...I'll cook the rice...Burma Shave.
But all of this anguish proved well worth it, because our destination - Pinehurst Resort - more than fulfilled our dreams and expectations. It was one of the most elegant vacation destinations in the world: four outstanding golf courses; large exceptionally comfortable rooms; a menu truly fit for a king; and white - glove guest services beyond compare. I have been privileged to visit many of the best golf resorts here and abroad, but none have measured up to the Pinehurst standard. As they say, close but no cigar.
This is not a good news/bad news story. Instead it's one of good news and more good news, because my most recent visit to Pinehurst proves conclusively, like fine wine and yours truly, things do get better with age. Though the number of golf courses at the resort has doubled, it continues an unmatched tradition of excellence that began way back in 1895. However, some things have changed. For the better, if that's possible.
Today the entire Pinehurst area - positioned between the coastal tidewater and the mountains to the west - is one of the most desirable golf destinations you will find anywhere. In fact, Golf Digest named the Sandhills region of North Carolina - Pinehurst/Southern Hills/Aberdeen - the third best golf destination in the world. In the world! Surpassed only by Scotland's venerable St. Andrew's and that very special place on California's beautiful Monterey Peninsula made famous by Bing Crosby and his annual clambake. Pretty good company, eh?
The Sandhills Golf Association offers visitors an outstanding opportunity to enjoy: 17 great courses; historic to contemporary lodging; and dining from culinary masterpieces to the fast food variety. Join me on a quick tour of the area.
Bayonette at Puppy Creek must be one of the most creatively named courses anywhere. I really don't know what it stands for, except I do know that I found to be a fine test of golf. http://www.bayonetgolf.com
North Carolina is tobacco country so why not have course named Tobacco Road. Here is one tough cookie! How about this? From the tips, a duck-soup distance of only 6,554 yards but a slope rating of 150! Don't miss this one, but get a good night's rest before you take it on. http://www.tobaccoroadgolf.com
On the other end of the spectrum is Hyland Hills. Here is the type of track that we who are approaching well done in the oven of life, can appreciate. http://www.golflink.com/hyland
Seven Lakes is a golf community offering a challenging course with small, quick greens and significant elevation changes. http://www.sevenlakescountryclub.com
With on-site lodging and 36 holes, Foxfire offers one of the Sandhills best stay and play packages. http://www.foxfiregolfcc.com
Talamore is an outstanding Rees Jones design. When it opened eleven years ago it was named the Best New Public Course in the South and I am pleased to say that it remains a winner. http://www.talamore.com
Built on an abandoned sand quarry, for over 15 years The Pit has made the Golf Digest list of top 50 public courses. http://www.danmaples.com/pit
Arnold Palmer has put his mark on the area with The Carolina, another superbly designed course in the King's tradition. http://www.thecarolina.com
The Legacy is another standout design that deservedly was named in 2000 as North Carolina's course of the year. http://www.legacypinehurst.com
A truly classic-style golf course, Beacon Ridge is a Golf Digest Four Star Award winner that will have significant appeal to those looking for a challenge in a very beautiful setting. http://www.beaconridgegolf.com
Once known widely for equestrian sports, Little River is a wonderful golf experience. Expect dense woods, large fast greens, and daunting elevation changes. http://www.littleriver.com
Woodlake is a beautiful golf community with two exceptional courses: the Maples, which opened in 1971, and the Palmer in 1996. http://www.woodlakecc.com
Proud of it's reputation as the most playable course in the Pinehurst area, Longleaf is definitely user friendly, but still not a pushover. http://www.danmaples.com/longleaf
Cut through a forest of long-needle pines, Deercroft demands long, straight drives and pinpoint accurate approach shots. http://www.deercroft.com
The newest addition to the Sandhills collection is Anderson Creek, which opened just last year and is receiving a plethora of raves. http://www.andersoncreekgolf.com
But it takes more than great golf to be ranked as one of the top golf destinations on the planet. And, the Sandhills Golf Association delivers on all counts. Start with the Village of Pinehurst.
Walk the cobble-stone streets and visit fascinating shops like that of Tom Stewart, who grew up in Northern Michigan, but is now part of the Pinehurst experience as the proprietor of The Old Sport Shop. Here is a truly outstanding collection of golf memorabilia and original art. And, don't miss visiting the neighboring communities of Southern Pines and Aberdeen who offer their own distinctive style of hospitality the South is so famous for.
Dining is a very important part of the Sandhills equation. If your palate savors black-eyed peas and turnip greens, award winning French cuisine, or something in between, you will easily find what you are looking for throughout the Sandhills area.
Lodging accommodations run the gamut as well. If you are a history buff, try the Pine Crest Inn: http://www.pinecrestinnpinehurst.com, once owned by the legendary Donald Ross, or the Magnolia Inn: http://www.themagnoliainn.com, a perfectly restored antebellum mansion with a five-star dining room. There are also a host of contemporary establishments throughout the area where you will easily find what you and your budget are looking for.
This is my second story on this outstanding golf destination, (Head For The Hills - The Sandhills: michigangolfer.com) and I can't wait to get back there again to do another one. I just love the area, and can fully understand why so many Michiganders visit there often, with many finding it to be the ideal place to spend their retirement years.
Mike Floyd, Executive Director of the Sandhills Golf Association said, "Our 324 Championship golf holes and over 1,400 comfortable rooms are waiting just for you. Take a golf trip you will never forget. Call us at 1-888-926-GOLF or log on to http://www.sandhillsgolf.com. Don't wait, do it today." MG
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