Golf Grandeur: The Pinehurst Resort Experience

Pinehurst ResortGolf Grandeur: The Pinehurst Resort Experience

The 13th hole at Pinehurst No. 2 is a short par 4, but you must not lose sight of the fairway bunkers

The Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area bills itself as the “Home of American Golf,” not in an arrogant way, but based simply on a heritage no other place can challenge. The constant, the beating heart of this unique golf-mad destination is Pinehurst Resort, where The Carolina Hotel, built in 1901, doles out lavish Southern hospitality before it sends visiting golfers to do battle with its nine courses.

And the heart of the heart is legendary Pinehurst No. 2, the links masterpiece created in 1907 by Donald Ross that has challenged the world's best and humbled many. Yet it stands ready and, most importantly, available for even the most humble hackers to walk in the spike prints of Jones, Hogan, Palmer, Snead, Nicklaus and numerous other links immortals.

In preparation, stroll the halls of the comfortable clubhouse where photos and memorabilia lay out the history and revive memories – the tribute to Payne Stewart's epic 1999 U.S. Open victory is almost guaranteed to put tears in your eyes. And in more recent memories, these hallowed grounds added to the long list of prestigious events that have been hosted here (it has served as the site of more single golf championships than any course in America). In 2014, it became the first golf course in history to host the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open Championships in the same year.

Master architect Ross believed in working out the kinks before playing and crafted “Maniac Hill,” America's first driving range and still a wise place to visit before taking on No. 2, or any other courses for that matter. An insider tip is to hone your short game with a pre-round lesson at the highly regarded Golf Academy – the fearsome Ross green complexes require a deft touch and every speck of knowledge will prove helpful, both to your score and psyche.

Perhaps the most critical addition to your arsenal before an assault on No. 2 is enlisting the services of one of Pinehurst's canny caddies, many of whom have trod these fairways for decades and know the dark secrets. A caddie on No. 2 doesn't just transport your bag but “escorts” you on your round, supplying you with knowledge and guidance – and amiable companionship – that allows you to fully experience and enjoy the wonder of the course.

And a wonder it is, especially now that Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore have masterfully transformed No. 2 back into what Ross originally envisioned and created – a fair test of your game with broadened fairways leading to diabolical greens, all defended by wildly natural patches of sand, wire grass and jagged-edged bunkers – no rough any longer required. It's the new made old again, and only a good walk through the swaying pines can do it justice, though recent photos certainly provide a taste.

Of course, eight other notable tracks await you at Pinehurst Resort – including another Ross beauty at No. 4, the rolling No. 7 laid out by Rees Jones and a Tom Fazio gem at No. 8. Not to mention more than 30 other courses within a 15-mile radius. One visit to North Carolina's Sandhills and Pinehurst makes it pretty easy to understand why Bobby Jones called this “the Saint Andrews of United States golf.”

Gary Carter is an Asheville-based travel writer who covers a range of topics for magazines, online publications and his blog, Eliot’s Tales 4 Gen B.

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