Which are the best Pinehurst golf courses? The ultimate guide

Pinehurst golf course
The opening hole of Pinehurst No 2

For a thousand different reasons, Pinehurst is one of the world’s great golf destinations.

We have written extensively about this cathedral of golf and the reasons why it’s so special and yet, in truth, it’s the kind of place that really has to be experienced to be believed. The history, and significance of this North Carolina village extends far beyond state or country borders, not least because of its unwavering belief that golf is a game to be enjoyed and not endured – that’s tangible in every single aspect of the Pinehurst experience.

The biggest difficulty any golfer will have on a golf trip to the Pinehurst region in North Carolina is narrowing down which Pinehurst golf courses you should play. At The Pinehurst Resort, you will find 9 (soon to be 10) golf courses while there are dozens more in the sandhills surrounding Pinehurst. With that in mind, we have put together our list of Pinehurst golf courses ranked from 1 to 10 and we’ll keep updating it because Pinehurst No 10, which opens in 2024 already looks like it will be forcing its way onto the must play list. If you’re searching for the best golf courses ranked in Pinehurst, look no further.

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

1. Pinehurst No 2

The fact Pinehurst No 2 tops this list will come as no surprise.

Donald Ross’s masterpiece is of one the world’s great golf courses, an all-time American classic, an iconic name and brand in world golf. Pinehurst No 2 has hosted more golf the championships than any other course in United States: US Opens, PGA Championships, a Ryder Cup, US Women’s Opens, US Amateur Championships. This is a place where you walk in the footsteps of legends and a course you could play every day for the rest of your life and never feel bored.

The turtle-back greens and steep run offs are the stuff of legend, and your score will, in most cases, be decided by how well you negotiate the greens. The natural sand and wire grass areas that flank the fairways, brilliantly restored by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, mean you shouldn’t lose many golf balls but the whole experience is an absolute treat from 1st tee to final green, right in front of that iconic clubhouse.

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

Pinehurst No 2: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Who designed Pinehurst No 2? Donald Ross in 1907
How long is Pinehurst No 2? Pinehurst No 2 measures 7,588 yards from the tips and 6,307 yards from white tees.
Where is Pinehurst No 2 located? You start and finish Pinehurst No 2 right in front of the main Pinehurst Resort clubhouse.   
Can you play Pinehurst No 2 without staying at Pinehurst Resort?
Pinehurst No 2 is only available to play for those staying at Pinehurst Resort or members (and their guests) of Pinehurst.
Any tips for playing Pinehurst No 2? Putt (very) well, do your best 
How much are Pinehurst No 2 green fees? Green fees for Pinehurst No 2 come as part of a package, unless you are playing with a member. For the latest Pinehurst No 2 packages click here.
Is Pinehurst No 2 the best of the Pinehurst golf courses ranked? We believe Pinehurst No 2 is the best of the Pinehurst golf courses but these things are very subjective and we recommend you come to your own conclusions. Enjoy

Pinehurst No 2 scorecardPinehurst No 2 scorecard

2. Tobacco Road Golf Club

Tobacco Road is one of golf’s most wonderfully unconventional and uncompromising layouts.

Located around 30 minutes from Pinehurst, the architecture is unapologetically bold. The man who created Tobacco Road Golf Club wanted it not only to tell a story but for every hole to “exude the spirit of the game.” The late, great Mike Strantz set out to create a place that would test “a player’s eye, determination, and wits.” And he succeeded on all fronts.

It’s all the more impressive because Stranz managed to weave his magic not on the linksland of Scotland or the heathland of Surrey or Berkshire but on the rolling remnants of a quarry in North Carolina. It’s truly a wonder. Because of that, you’ll find bunkers as big as craters, greens with slopes as deep as sinkholes and towering sand dunes and plunging pits. There are blind shots, at least five of them, but there is also never-ending adventure to be found here. It’s a course you can’t afford to miss. 

Tobacco Road Golf Club scorecard

Tobacco Road Golf Scorecard

Tobacco Road: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Why is Tobacco Road called Tobacco Road? The name Tobacco Road Golf Club is a nod to the association of this part of North Carolina with the tobacco industry. The Tobacco Road was originally, a dirt road, which was created by mules carrying tobacco casks from plantations to steamboats. 
Who designed Tobacco Road Golf Club? The late Mike Strantz created his masterpiece in the shape of Tobacco Road Golf Club. The design unapologetically reflects his artistic flair and spirit of adventure. Stranz took his time to study the site, both on foot and horseback, noting the best features of the land before going away and committing his design to paper. Stranz died from cancer on June 10, 2005 but in Tobacco Road Golf Club has left behind a monument to his genius.
Where is Tobacco Road Golf Club located? Tobacco Road Golf Club sits 20 miles northeast of Pinehurst Resort, some 30 minutes by car.
How do I book a tee time at Tobacco Road Golf Club? You can book a Tobacco Road tee time here and the club also offers some excellent stay and play packages. 

Pinehurst No 4 Pinehurst golf courses ranked
Pinehurst No 4 is now a rival to the undisputed top course, No 2

3. Pinehurst No 4

Pinehurst No 4 is far more than a submissive younger sibling to its more celebrated big brother – Pinehurst No 2.

Originally designed by Donald Ross in 1919, Pinehurst No 4 has undergone multiple restorations and redesigns over the decades, but the most significant and influential was by Gil Hanse in 2018. His work ensured Pinehurst No 4 not only celebrates the very best of Carolina sandhill golf, with its sweeping sand-and-pine landscapes, but boasts some incredible vistas from the ridge lines and dramatic changes in elevation too.

The green complexes are huge, sloping, wonderful, dramatic pieces of land which will delight and infuriate you in equal measure. They are quick too, lightning quick. From tee to green, it’s an excellent test of golf, although the fairways are generally wide, and the focus comes down to those approach shots. It’s a brilliant test of golf – you’ll absolutely love it. Many members actually go as far as saying they prefer Pinehurst No 4 to No 2 and its their pick of all the Pinehurst golf courses ranked. 

Pinehurst No 4 scorecard

Pinehurst No 4 scorecard

Pinehurst No 4: frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Who designed Pinehurst No 4?  It was originally designed by Donald Ross in 1919 and has been redesigned a number of times over the years. The most notable update was by Gil Hanse in 2018.
Can you play Pinehurst No 4 if you don’t stay at Pinehurst Resort?
Pinehurst No 4 can only be played by guests staying at Pinehurst Resort or members (and their guests) of Pinehurst.
How much are green fees for Pinehurst No 4?
Green fees for Pinehurst No 4 come as part of a Pinehurst package, unless you are playing with a member. For the latest Pinehurst No 4 packages click here.

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

4. The Cradle

The Cradle at Pinehurst rocks. Yes, it’s a short course, no it’s not 18 holes but, while we know it’s a controversial opinion, in our view The Cradle at Pinehurst absolutely deserves its place on this list of Pinehurst Golf Courses ranked.

Why? Well at Pinehurst, fun has been at the heart of the ethos since Donald Ross himself said, “golf should be a pleasure, not a penance.” And when Gil Hanse came to design The Cradle in 2017, he took those words and put them into every single aspect of this beautiful short course.

The 9 holes range from 60 to 130 yards and the bunkering and greens have been laid out with the same care, creativity and thought you’ll find at every single one of the Pinehurst golf courses.  It’s a place to relax, play in bare feet, enjoy the music which drifts across the course from hidden speakers and it’s a place where anyone can come to play. What it makes up for in length, it more than makes up for in sheer enjoyment. For all those reasons and more it comes in at No 4 on our list of Pinehurst golf courses ranked. Don’t miss out. It’s genuinely, genuinely wonderful.

Pinehurst The Cradle scorecard

Pinehurst The Cradle scorecard

The Cradle Pinehurst: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Can anyone play The Cradle short course at Pinehurst? You don’t have to be a guest at The Pinehurst Resort to play The Cradle, you can walk up and play, with anyone under the age of 18 able to play free of charge. 
How much are green fees at The Cradle? Green fees at The Cradle Pinehurst are currently $50, which includes as many replay rounds as you want on the same day, subject to availability.
What makes The Cradle Pinehurst so special? Lots of things, the atmosphere and the sense of fun which accompanies any round of golf at The Cradle, the music, the relaxed rules which allow you to play in huge groups. 
How long is The Cradle? The Cradle is Pinehurst’s 9 hole short course with holes between 60 and 130 yards in length. 

Pinehurst golf resort

5. Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club

Summing up the timeless beauty and elegance of Mid Pines Inn Golf Club is no easy task.

The whole place has a spellbinding quality and the golf course, for reasons we will come on to, certainly feels like it was cut from the same cloth as Pinehurst No 2. Why? Well that was also designed by the great Donald Ross. What else? There is variety in the routing, changes in elevation and a real strategic test of golf from first to last.

The golf course sits in a natural bowl that lends itself to long views, dramatic holes, and subtle slopes. It is also one of the few Donald Ross golf courses that remains exactly as the celebrated architect laid it out in 1921, although it was restored in 2013. Ross never intended it to be a daunting golf course, a place that would strike fear into places. Instead, he set to create a place for golfers to, above all else, enjoy. He unquestionably succeeds in that mission.

Mid Pines Inn Golf ScorecardMid Pines Inn Golf Scorecard

Pinehurst Golf Resort
A sand path through the trees at Pinehurst. Credit: Chris Auman

6. Dormie Club

Located 4.5 miles north of Pinehurst Resort, Dormie Club is a golf course which celebrates the design principals of Donald Ross and in doing so accentuates the natural wonder of the Carolina Sandhills.

The golf course cuts through a pine forest and, like No 2, features extensive areas of natural sandy waste and wire grass. You’ll also comes across natural lakes and some very cool changes in elevation as you play the 18 holes. How well you score will depend on your ability to find greens in regulation with the fairways generous. The architects who restored this layout, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have done a magnificent job and there are many who believe Dormie Club is their finest work. Enjoy.

Dormie Club Golf Scorecard

7. Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club

Just minutes from the village of Pinehurst, Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club is yet another tremendous Donald Ross golf course.

The great Scotsman laid this one out back in 1927 and it was restored by Dale Franz in 2017. From the tips, it can play more than 7,000 yards and the rolling hills and strategic layout has led to it hosting no fewer than four Women’s US Opens. It certainly warrants its place on this list of Pinehurst golf courses ranked and was, at one stage, named the fourth best golf course in North Carolina by Golfweek magazine.

It’s also worth checking out the 4-hole short-course at Pine Needles. Known as The Loop, it features three par-3s and one par-4 is a fantastic way to warm up for your round or just play for the joy of it.

Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club scorecard

Pine Needles Golf Scorecard

Putter Boy Pinehurst resort
Pinehurst’s iconic Putter Boy statue

8. Pinehurst No 8

Pinehurst No. 8 is a joy to behold and another one of a stack of unmissable Pinehurst golf courses.

It features elevated tees, wide fairways, and large greens: for all those reasons it’s often ranked as one of the more player-friendly Pinehurst golf courses. It’s an easy walk, enjoyable to play and the scenery is nothing short of spectacular. It opened in 1996 but was updated in 2022 and these days Pinehurst No 8 is not only crisper to the eye, but firmer and faster under foot. 

Pinehurst No 8 scorecard

Pinehurst No 8 Scorecard

Pinehurst golf resort
Pinehurst at magic hour. Credit: Jacob Diehl

9. Pinehurst No 3

Pinehurst No 3 may not be long, it may not host major championships and it may not receive the acclaim of Pinehurst No 2 but make no mistake this is a serious test of golf.

Pinehurst No 3 maxes out at around 5,155 yards but it feels at least 1,000 yards longer. No 3 is like a mini-me of Pinehurst No 2, with the green complexes the star of the show. They are small, elevated ed and each demand real precision if you are going to keep your ball on the putting surface and not watch as it runs away down a slope or into the sand. The bunkering is beautiful and there are those familiar and wonderful natural sand waste areas, with wire grass and pine.

It’s a genuinely delightful course to walk and a really serious examination of your game. Don’t overlook it.

Pinehurst No 3 scorecard

Pinehurst No 3 scorecard

Pinehurst Golf Resort things to know

10. Pinehurst No 1 

Pinehurst No 1 is a classic, not just because of its age (it’s No 1 after all) but because of its enduring significance to the game of golf. 

The oldest of all Pinehurst golf courses, No 1 is where it all began back in 1898. Pinehurst No 1 runs along the historic Pinehurst Harness Track and although it is not long, measuring just 6,000 yards, it still feels like a step back in time. Why? Well, this is a golf course that was shaped by hand, not bulldozers, and because of that feels like it is full of subtle gradients and slopes. It is a golf course where Ross used the land to find and shape golf holes, rather than creating them from the land. 

Can you really say you understand Pinehurst if you haven’t played the very first of all the Pinehurst golf courses? In any list of Pinehurst golf courses ranked, No 1 has to figure, just as it should on your trip.

Pinehurst No 1 scorecard

Pinehurst No 1 scorecard

Pinehurst No 1: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is there a Pinehurst No 1? No. 1 is where golf began in Pinehurst. Pinehurst No 2 is certainly far better known but Pinehurst No 1 is a wonderful experience and a great introduction to golf at the Pinehurst Resort.
How long is Pinehurst No 1? Pinehurst No 1 measures just over 6,000 yards from the tips, making it a manageable introduction to Donald Ross. In contrast, Pinehurst No 2 which comes in at 7,588 yards from the back tees.
How old is Pinehurst No 1? Pinehurst No 1 is the oldest of all Pinehurst golf courses, as you might have guessed from the number! It began as two loops of 9 holes, designed by Leroy Culver in 1897 and John Dunn Tucker in 1898. It wasn’t until Donald Ross unified them into an 18 hole course in 1900, redesigning and reshaping holes, that Pinehurst No 1 was truly born. 

Pinehurst courses map

Pinehurst golf courses map

Pinehurst golf courses ranked: a conclusion

The Pinehurst area boasts a superb collection of golf courses, each with its own distinct character and challenges. Of course, Pinehurst No 2 stands out as the crown jewel, offering an incredible experience and a chance to follow in the footsteps of so many of the game’s great champions.

And yet away from No 2, there are so many other Pinehurst golf courses, which will enthral and delight both because of their challenge, their variety, and their adventure. So, when it comes to Pinehurst golf courses ranked, this is our list, and we hope it provides you with the inspiration to go and explore so you can build your own.

Claire's career as a journalist has seen her regularly write about some of the best restaurants, hotels and destinations in the world. She has also interviewed the past three Prime Ministers and has been a Digital Editor overseeing a number of newspaper titles. She is the founder of the content marketing company Smiths & Sons.

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