Archive » August 9, 2012
Golf & Travel
By Ray Navis, Contributing Editor
There are three places a golfer must try to visit in his life. St. Andrews and Pebble Beach come to mind right away.
Pinehurst in North Carolina is the third. Set in the sand hills and covered with pine trees, this area is home to the famous Pinehurst Resort and its eight courses. The area will achieve even more fame in 2014 when both the menís and womenís U.S. Open will be played back to back at the same course for the first time in history.
The resortPinehurst Resort comprises a variety of lodging options, and on this visit we stayed at the venerable Carolina Hotel. This is the signature property with a dramatic tree-lined entry leading to the classic multi-story structure topped off with a copper cupola and surrounded by a spacious veranda. As you check in, you will see golfers gathering post-round to recap and share stories on the outdoor rocking chairs. The rooms at the Carolina have been continually updated through the years and feature state-of-the-art electronics and the best in linens. They are also larger than those of newer properties, which comes in handy after a long day on the links. The Carolina has a large pool area with a perfectly manicured putting green allowing activities for every member of the family. The Spa at Pinehurst is attached to the Carolina and offers a wide array of treatments, as well as a generous fitness center.
The golfPinehurst No. 2 Course is the most famous of the group, having twice hosted the U.S. Open in recent decades. This Donald Ross monster plays long and tough, and has undergone significant remodeling in preparation for the 2014 Open. The original sand dunes look has been restored along much of the routing, replacing the pine straw lining the fairways. The last three holes here usually determine the championship. The 17th is the only realistic birdie chance. This classic tree-lined par three will have a slightly different look on TV next time, with native grass growing high alongside the steep bunkers. Middle of the green is the best play for most.
Ross also created the No. 3 Course, with No. 1 having multiple contributors. Numbers 4, 6 and 8 are all Tom Fazio designs. No. 5 is the work of Ellis Maples and No. 7 my own personal favorite a Rees Jones creation. All of the layouts feature rolling terrain with excellent drainage and pine trees everywhere. This is a golf nutís heaven. Courses 1 through 5 all start and end near the main clubhouse with numbers 6, 7 and 8 a short drive away. The courses are always in excellent shape, but you will find optimum playing conditions in the spring and fall. Pinehurst was the first golf resort to have outstanding practice facilities, and they are still top-notch today.
The diningThe Holly Inn located in the quaint Pinehurst Village is also one of the resorts properties. It has a smaller more intimate feel and is popular with PGA Tour Stars and other visiting celebrities. The Holly is home to Pinehurstís best fine-dining option appropriately named The 1895 Grille, in honor of the year the village was created. We dined on filet mignon and the taste still brings warm memories to me. The She Crab soup also hit the spot along with the Argentinean Malbec I selected.
The Carolina Dining Room is also a popular spot and we started here each day with the popular breakfast buffet. The Ryder Cup Lounge is a good choice for lunch or drinks in the evening. All three of these restaurants are adorned with priceless golf memorabilia commemorating the great history of the resort. The leather club chairs make for a relaxed environment with no hurry in the evenings.
Getting thereMost West Coast travelers will find better options out of Charlotte International Airport, which is a hub for US Airways. The airport is about 2 hours from Pinehurst and some pre-planning will be needed to navigate this route. Dollar Rent-a-Car was our choice in Charlotte and the service was very good. Dollar has a great fleet of cars here and is usually more competitive on pricing. Visit Dollar.com for more options.