Golf Course Travel Destination: Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, NC

One of America’s oldest golf resorts brings its past into the future — and knocks our socks off


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When Peter Allen wrote “Everything Old Is New Again,” he could have easily been talking about Pinehurst Resort, where the recent restyling of famed Pinehurst No. 2 has breathed new life into the venerable North Carolina must-visit golf destination. Today, you won’t find men playing golf in ties and top hats, nor many women wearing bustles and shoes with a dozen buttons, but you will be able to play a unique and exciting golf course, much the way it was originally envisioned. And the experience will delight you.

You’ll also find an enchanting village with a host of amenities and activities ranging from stellar restaurants to lawn bowling, croquet, and horseback riding; tours of historic homes; and a festival of some sort nearly every weekend. But golf is the main attraction. The Pinehurst Resort is home to not just one course, but eight, each one distinct and providing golf fun for players of every level. If those eight aren’t enough to scratch your golf itch, there are dozens and dozens of other courses within easy driving distance.

The big draw, though, is Pinehurst No. 2, fabled for its turtle-back greens and as the site of countless championship tournaments, including two U.S. Opens (1999 and 2005), the PGA Championship (1936), and the Ryder Cup (1951). Walking the same fairways trod by Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Payne Stewart, and other luminaries of the game adds a whole other dimension to your round on No. 2. In 2014, today’s stars will light up the course as it sets another record, becoming the first venue to host both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open Championships within a week of each other.

payne stewart memorialPayne Stewart memorial near No. 2’s 18th green

The course the pros tackle will be completely different from the one where Payne Stewart punctuated his win of the U.S. Open in 1999 with an iconic fist pump that’s memorialized by a statue overlooking the 18th green. Today’s No. 2 has been restored so that it plays the way Donald Ross intended in the mid-1930s. Architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (who also managed the rebuild of Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle) took a long hard look at photographs of the course from that era. They discovered that the modern course, with its lush fairways; even lusher Bermuda grass roughs; and sharply-defined bunkers, greens, and tees, was nothing like Ross’s original design. The duo kept the routing and the basic green contours, but changed — for the better — just about everything else.

There is no more rough on Pinehurst No. 2, but before you start celebrating, take a close look at what replaced the 35 acres of thick but boring grass off the fairways. Now you’ll find sand, pine needles, hardpan, and hundreds of thousands of wiregrass plants, spiky tufts of toughness that will eat your errant ball and maybe even the club you used to hit it. Bunkers that had been covered by turf over the years were reclaimed, while some of the existing ones were tugged further into the fairways to squeeze landing areas and torment those who dare challenge the layout. The characteristic Pinehurst No. 2 greens were restored to profiles that more naturally tie into the surrounding grades, although they remain distinctly turtle-backed and can be devilishly cruel. The result: there’s simply more to deal with on every shot.

The course not only plays differently, it looks different, too. The number of sprinkler heads was cut by more than half so that water reaches only the center of the fairways, which in turn blend into the sandy soil the way nature (and Donald Ross) originally intended. Tee areas, fairways, and even the aprons around the green are all mowed to the same height, making for a visually stunning and unique golf experience.

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