By Shane Sharp
Spring is golf’s annual coming out party in the Carolinas. However, fall is the game’s second season in both North Carolina and South Carolina. Temperatures drop into the 70s and the leaves begin to turn. It’s the perfect time to visit Pinehurst Resort. For golfers, the timeless Sandhills golf destination founded in 1895 by James Walker Tufts needs no introduction. But for have-clubs-will-travel types who haven’t “done Pinehurst” in recent years, this historic resort continues to spin its own unique story.
A Golf Renaissance
Few golf destinations have done more to reinvent themselves while staying steadfastly committed to their roots. The metamorphosis began with the restoration of Donald Ross’s No. 2 course by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2011. That was followed by the acquisition of nearby National Golf Club and its subsequent rebranding as Pinehurst’s No. 9 course.
It was the period between the summer of 2017 and fall of 2018, however, that forever changed the resort’s dynamic. Gil Hanse, architect of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio di Janeiro, was tapped to design The Cradle, a nine-hole short course a chip shot from the clubhouse. The Cradle exudes fun: music fills the air from hidden speakers, the retro-wooden trailer “Pinecone” serves up cold beverages, and golfers often walk the 789-yard course in “group-somes” of six or more.
Nearby Thistle Dhu, the 18-hole putting course that opened in 2012, was expanded from 15,000- to 75,000-square-feet. Tee markers double as drink holders and side bets abound as golfers negotiate the topsy-turvy terrain. Together, The Cradle and Thistle Dhu form Pinehurst’s fountain of youth.
An oft-overlooked enhancement during this span was the subtle restoration of the No. 3 course. Several holes on the (now) eminently playable 5,155-yard, par-68 layout were returned to their original Ross aesthetic (and two brand new par 3s were added). Some call it a “mini No. 2;” others feel it’s a bigger Cradle. Either way, No. 3 is one of Pinehurst’s best kept secrets.
Still, resort ownership didn’t stop there. Hanse and his team completely “reimagined” the design and routing of the No. 4 course in 2018. Recast by Tom Fazio in 1999 as a lush, Augusta National-like experience, No. 4 had gradually lost the native Sandhills aesthetic that made playing golf at Pinehurst … well … Pinehurst. Hanse reshaped the topography, restored elevation changes and adjusted sightlines to create a stunning test of golf.
The result was a companion course to No. 2 that quickly emerged as a player favorite and darling among golf cognoscenti. Both No. 4 and No. 2 hosted the USGA’s prestigious U.S. Amateur in 2019, cementing their dynamic duo status. Andy Ogletree shocked John Augenstein by winning four of the last seven holes to take home the trophy.
Something Special Brewing
The Pinehurst Brewing Company opened its doors in the fall of 2018 in the former steam plant building that once supplied power to the area. A five-minute walk from the Village, the “PBC’s” brick façade and restored smokestack cut a compelling contrast with the resort’s traditional New England-style architecture.
Inside, original pipes and valves were re-purposed as legs beneath tables and light fixtures above booths. A massive, indoor-outdoor bar has emerged as the Village’s hottest gathering spot. It’s also the perfect perch from which to sample the PBC’s selection of handcrafted lagers and ales. And then there’s the barbecue. Oh, the barbecue. Not just Carolina pulled pork and baby back ribs, but full-on Texas brisket and sausages.
Pinehurst Resort’s colorful history and exciting future converge at its three AAA Four Diamond hotels, offering 480 rooms and an assortment of amenities. On the list of National Register of Historic Places, The Carolina Hotel is often referred to as the “Queen of the South” or the “White House of Golf.” The grandest and most recognizable hotel at the resort, The Carolina has a regal estate feel, lined with elegant pillars and sweeping verandas.
The resort’s first inn, The Holly, is as cozy as a Carolina night, featuring dark wood panels and quiet nooks. It houses the AAA Four Diamond 1895 Grille, accessed by a set of stairs down into dimly lit main dining room that encourages patrons to relax and linger. The Holly is situated in the heart of the Village and is perfect for guests who want to meander its streets before or après a hearty supper.
The 42-room Manor Inn, originally opened in 1923, was completely remodeled in 2019. Geared toward golf groups, it features two private hospitality suites with room for 20 that can be reserved for the entire length of stay. The new North and South Bar serves a curated selection of whiskies, cocktails and craft beers from the PBC.
Pinehurst Resort is an easy, 75 to 90-minute drive from North Carolina’s Triangle and Triad regions. Charlotte two hours away, while Columbia, South Carolina is approximately 2.5 hours. Most cities and towns in the Carolinas are less than half day’s drive. For golfers arriving via air, Raleigh-Durham International Airport is the closest option (70 minutes), with 400 daily flights from 62 cities.
Call your AAA Travel Agent at 800-374-2865 or visit AAA.com/GoTravel to book your golf getaway at Pinehurst!
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