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Why Pinehurst is one of the world’s great golf trips

The 18th of Pinehurst No 2 at sunrise
The 18th of Pinehurst No 2 at sunrise

A few hours in Pinehurst is all it takes to understand why so many who come here leave their hearts behind.

This is, of course, the Cradle of American Golf and with good reason: the game is delightfully inescapable here, it’s everywhere your eye falls, it’s woven into the fabric. In Pinehurst, golf feels like a living, breathing force for good – it lives in the warmth of the welcomes and the stories; it’s on the lips of each passer-by. Each building, it seems, has significance and history drips from the walls and stands sentinel in statue form.

I could sense that spirit even as we meandered our way past pristine storefronts and manicured lawns – we’d arrived in Pinehurst, a place where cars give way to golf carts.

Putter Boy statue at Pinehurst golf course
Pinehurst’s iconic Putter Boy statue

Pinehurst: a different pace of life

We passed Dornoch Cottage, once the home of Donald Ross, the Scotsman whose incredible influence at Pinehurst endures. Born a short walk from Royal Dornoch, he learned his trade from the grandfather of golf, Old Tom Morris. A chance meeting with a Harvard professor convinced him to leave Scotland for Boston with $2 in his pocket. It was there he met James Walker Tufts, the founder of Pinehurst, who convinced him to take a train south. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ross was soon commissioned to design Pinehurst’s first four courses and here I was looking at the place he called home until he died in 1948. Beyond the building I caught my first glimpse of his life’s work and masterpiece, the mythical Pinehurst No 2. It might have been at that point the outside world started to melt away and time slowed. Science will tell you it isn’t possible for 24 hours in Pinehurst to last any longer than anywhere else, but life here has a different beat. I’d swear the hourly church bells take that little bit longer to come around here than they might do anywhere else. That sense of joyous isolation from the everyday was, on its own, a welcome escape from the bustle of modern life. But this was just the start.

Pinehurst No 2 Pinehurst golf course
Pinehurst No 2 has hosted more golf championships than any other course in America

Southern hospitality at its best

Our first stop was The Manor Hotel, where the welcome was unforgettable. Kathy Capel is much more than a front desk manager, she lives and breathes Pinehurst. She has a twinkle in her eye, an infectious laugh and more than a story or two – an exemplar of Southern hospitality. She’s both a font of local knowledge and a self-confessed hugger. Over the years she has welcomed the likes of Arnold Palmer, Oprah Winfrey, Sidney Poitier and many more to Pinehurst. “This was Mr Palmer’s favourite place to stay,” she says with obvious pride. “He liked the quiet here and always took room 401.”

As charming as the hotel was, it could wait because I couldn’t wait to make the walk across to the Pinehurst golf resort itself. For golfers across the world, this is a place of pilgrimage, a bucket list golf trip and, let’s face it, a place where the greats of the game have walked the fairways for more than 125 years. First impressions? I loved it immediately. Why? No, not because of the grandeur of the clubhouse or the ‘Disneyland of golf’ feeling. I loved it because despite its standing and reputation, there was no privilege or pomposity – which took me by surprise. There were no gates or walls to prevent people from getting in.

Children ran around the sprawling pro-shop playing hide and seek, families hung out on the terrace waiting for loved ones to finish rounds and kids played bare foot on the incredible Thistle Dhu putting course. There was no dress code, no formality, no one looking down their nose at anyone else. In fact, the atmosphere was nothing short of joyous. It felt like everyone was having their best day, including the people who worked there. I know Pinehurst is a very expensive destination, but the whole place just felt so relaxed, so fun.

Pinehurst golf course No 2 veranda
Take your seat behind the 18th green of Pinehurst No 2

A beautiful day in Pinehurst

I took my time to drink it all in. I sat in a rocking chair on the terrace watching groups come down the 18th at Pinehurst No 2 in 95-degree heat. I walked across to the iconic statue of the late, great Payne Stewart, who so famously won the 1999 US Open here, and out towards The Putter Boy statue, rubbing his head for luck and caught my first glimpse of The Cradle, Pinehurst’s truly epic short course. I could hear ‘Heard it on The Grapevine’ drifting across greens and fairways. I walked across to Maniac Hill, arguably the world’s first driving range where the concept of golf lessons and practice became a reality in golf and then I ambled back to towards the clubhouse and pulled up a barstool at The Deuce, where I demolished a plate of tacos while watching golfers make Pinehurst No 2 look even more difficult than its fierce reputation would suggest. There was not a jacket, tie or white tablecloth in sight. It was a wonderful introduction.

The Cradle Pinehurst golf course
The Cradle, Pinehurst with the clubhouse beyond

I walked down the steps underneath the clubhouse, and was greeted by a gentleman gathering and arranging golf bags. He shook my hand and introduced himself as David Stancil. Little did I know he had been working at Pinehurst for more than 50 years and has dealt with the great and the good on more occasions than he could remember. For reasons I won’t go in to, my clubs were not with me as I walked towards the Gil Hanse restored Cradle for my first tee-time at Pinehurst. David had reassured me it wouldn’t be a problem and as I checked in at the starters’ hut just after 3pm, I was handed a Sunday bag with a bunch of wedges I’d have been happy to have taken home with me. Two of my seven playing partners (yes, seven) were barefoot and by the 4th tee we were all sipping Pinehurst’s signature cocktail – The Transfusion.

You can’t fail to play The Cradle with a smile on your face. It’s a genuinely wonderful experience. Families play the 9 holes – which range from around 60 to 130 yards – together. New golfers play it alongside those who’ve been playing all their life. It’s a happy place.

Pinehurst Brewing Company
Pinehurst Brewing Company

Drink in the Pinehurst ambience

Dinner at the Pinehurst Brewing Company was just the ticket – this atmospheric, modern microbrewery is housed in a rehabilitated brick building that sits at the heart of the village and serves Pinehurst’s very own 1885 ale, alongside a plethora of craft beer. The place reverberates with golf and the audible buzz of golf post-mortems after a day on some of the toughest greens in the game. My plate of ribs was inhaled with rare speed and I slept like a baby.

Just as well, the next morning the stupendous Pinehurst No 4, recently reinvigorated and restored by Gil Hanse, was waiting for me. The morning after that? Pinehurst No 2. Rest assured, both courses are truly majestic with No 4 certainly more than a friendly rival to it’s more celebrated big brother. Pinehurst No 2, however, is truly sublime. The greens, at times, are both diabolically difficult and truly symphonic all at the same time. I loved every minute. The details? They are for another day, another story, and another visit. Why? Well, what I realised during my time here is that Pinehurst – as wonderful as her many, many golf courses are – is actually about so much more.

Pinehurst No 4 Pinehurst golf course
The 2nd green at the wonderful Pinehurst No 4

The spirit of Pinehurst isn’t one thing or one course, it’s wrapped up in a thousand tiny details which, together, create an aura that is hard to describe but impossible to forget. You see, Pinehurst isn’t just a place; it’s almost a state of mind – relaxed, euphoric, at peace. To truly understand it, you’d need to have been there with me watching the sun rise behind the 18th green of Pinehurst No 2 while the call of the Carolina Wren filled the morning air. You’d need to close your eyes and remember that wonderful aromatic scent of pine, you’d need to have played The Cradle at sunset, barefoot with an ice-cold drink in hand, hear the stories and, of course, walk Pinehurst’s many, many fairways. It goes without saying, if you can, you must.

It was Donald Ross himself who said, “golf should be a pleasure, and not a penance.” Never has the game felt more fun and alive for me, than it did at Pinehurst. I know that’s quite a claim but’s that’s how it felt.

There is a saying here, that goes “golf was born in St Andrews, but it lives in Pinehurst.” As a Scot, there would’ve been a time when I struggled with that concept, and perhaps even have been offended by it. But no longer. Why? Because Pinehurst is a place where yesterday, today and tomorrow co-exist in a way that’s, perhaps, only comparable with St Andrews. And as with the Home of Golf, I can’t imagine any golfer’s journey can be deemed complete until they have played golf at Pinehurst.

Pinehurst key facts

Address:
Pinehurst golf resort,
80 Carolina Vista
Pinehurst,
North Carolina,
USA

Website: Pinehurst.com
Phone: +1-(855)-235-8507
Membership: +1-(910)-235-8081

Pinehurst golf course frequently asked questions

Why is Pinehurst so famous?

Pinehurst is the Cradle of American Golf and has a rich history and significance to the game of golf in the United States and beyond. Pinehurst No 2 has hosted more golf championships than any other course in the United States, including the US Open, the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, the US Amateur to name but a few. But its significance and magic comes not because of those championships, but because of the spirit that engulfs this corner of North Carolina. It’s hard to describe.

Where is Pinehurst golf course?

Firstly, Pinehurst golf course? Pinehurst is not one golf course, it’s lots of golf courses and actually much more besides. Pinehurst is located in North Carolina, USA. It is around 1hr and 15 minutes south of Raleigh and around two hours west of Charlotte. The most convenient way to fly is to land at Raleigh-Durham International (RDU). Pinehurst offers an airport shuttle service.

Why is Pinehurst 2 so difficult?

Pinehurst No 2 is the most famous and celebrated golf course at Pinehurst Golf Resort and one of the most important courses in the United States. It has hosted the US Open on a number of occasions (1999, 2005, 2014, 2024). Its devilish difficulty comes not because of long rough or huge distances but because of its greens, which many liken to upturned saucers. Their slopes and speed led Johnny Miller to say it was like trying to a land a ball on the roof of a VW Beetle.

Can anyone play Pinehurst #2?

Only Pinehurst resort guests or members are able to play Pinehurst No 2. The same goes for Pinehurst No 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9. If you are not a member or resort guest you can still play Pinehurst No 1, 3, 5 or The Cradle.

How many golf courses are there at the Pinehurst resort?

There are currently no fewer than 9 18-hole courses at Pinehurst with No 10 set to open in 2024. There is also the 9-hole short course, The Cradle and the Thistle Dhu putting course. The golf doesn’t stop there with another 19 golf courses within 20 miles of Pinehurst.

Does Pinehurst have rough?

There is a running joke is that there are only two lengths of grass on Pinehurst No. 2 – the greens, and everything else. And to some extent that’s true. There is some growth in the natural sand and waste areas but by no means is there long rough around the greens. Rough varies from course to course but most courses have other means of defence.

Where will I find the best Pinehurst golf course packages?

The answer is the Pinehurst website. For instance they offer a two night, 3 round package, which includes breakfast and dinner daily. Pinehurst isn’t cheap, but you wouldn’t expect it to be for what it offers.

Where can I find a Pinehurst golf course map?

How about, right here. Pinehurst 1 to 5 and The Cradle, are based at the main Pinehurst golf resort and you use the central clubhouse before and after your round. Pinehurst no 6, 7, 8 and 9 are based a short drive away. But this map gives you a good idea.

Pinehurst golf courses map

What about the Pinehurst golf shop?

The Pinehurst golf shop is pretty incredible. It’s a vast space, with every kind of branded Pinehurst hat, shirt, golf towel, ball marker, tee and golf ball you could dream of. The staff in the shop will be delighted to help should you need anything. It’s the kind of place you could blow a lot of money in. You’ve been warned.

Pinehurst No 2 scorecard
Pinehurst No 2 scorecard

Pinehurst No 4 scorecard

Pinehurst No 4 scorecard

Pinehurst The Cradle scorecard

The founder of The Wandering Golfers, Ben grew up on the links of Scotland learning the game from his beloved Grandpa. Previously a writer and broadcaster for The Times and BBC

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