Running a golf travel company for the past 10+ years I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to playing some of the world’s best golf courses. Yet somehow, Pinehurst #2 has always eluded my travel schedule. That was until the pandemic hit and our yearly buddies trip to Ireland got postponed, opening the door to check off the course that had been sitting on my bucket list far too long. It was finally time to put a check-mark next to Pinehurst #2.
Considering its rich history, Pinehurst Resort has changed a lot in recent years with additions such as The Cradle and the Pinehurst Brewery. With all the changes I was worried about how it would impact the Pinehurst tradition that you always hear about. From the moment we pulled up and entered the Carolina Hotel, it was evident that the rich history is still very much embraced and celebrated. We walked around the Village which screams Pinehurst making pit stops at a memorabilia shop and at Dugan’s Pub for a pint. Having soaked up as much as we could upon arrival, Pinehurst felt like the perfect mixed cocktail with past and present as the ingredients.
The Pinehurst #2 vibe simply cannot be faked and rivals the euphoric feeling you get at places like St. Andrews and Pebble Beach. Standing on the first tee you are met with an onslaught of flashbacks to the videos that Pinehurst plays in your room at the Carolina. The countless U.S. Open’s, Payne Stewart’s triumph and legacy, and the countless number of the game's greats that have once stood in the same spot looking down the first fairway. The round that had escaped me for so long was about to start and I knew I was in for something special.
The first hole greeted our crew with a preview of what to expect right out of the gate. Narrowly missing fairways and navigating the native areas, watching great shots turn bad, followed by a very serious test of one’s short game. The phrase “got Pinehurst-ed” was dubbed early and used often throughout the round. Just as we thought we were done with the flashbacks our caddie points out the Donald Ross house as we walk down the 3rd fairway. A house that Donald Ross himself built and lived in, on the course that he called home, and quoted as “the fairest test of championship golf that I have ever designed”. After what was an unreal opening 8 holes of golf we arrive upon the awesome par-3 9th and the shot that followed will forever be etched in my mind. The 9th hole is a relatively short but daunting par 3 with unsurprisingly, a lot of undulation. With the pin tucked on the right just below the slope, I pull an 8-iron and land it just left of the flag. We all begin to watch intensely as the ball catches the ridge above the hole and slowly trickles down towards the flag. Then, we all crumble to our knees as we watch the ball lip out winding up just inches from the cup. In what felt like an eternity, I got Pinehurst-ed in the most painful way and we all laughed it off. On the bright side, I am now a proud owner of a Deuce coin that will forever serve as a reminder of what could have been that day. While Pinehurst #2 has no shortage of memorable shots and experiences, the finish is unlike any other. Walking up the 18th hole you can’t stop thinking about Payne Stewart and the statue that resides near the green. That is until you make it to the crest of the hill, and your thoughts quickly turn to fear when greeted by a crowd gathered outside on the veranda having drinks and placing bets. Fighting the thought of knifing a wedge at the wrong place, at the wrong time, brought back the same feelings I had experienced walking up the 18th at St. Andrews. Perhaps it explains why so many say that Pinehurst #2 is largely considered the home of golf here in the states?
While our love for Pinehurst #2 was strong we knew we had to experience more, which led us to Pinehurst #4 paired with an evening par-3 contest at The Cradle. What Gil Hanse crafted at both of these spots is beyond incredible, so much that we had to fend Donald Ross and Coore & Crenshaw off from constantly tugging on our shirts to pull us back over to #2. We even ventured off-site because the golf scene in Pinehurst is just too good to pass up. Hitting up spots like Dormie Club, the only original Coore & Crenshaw design in North Carolina. We also tested our game, patience, and creativity over at Tobacco Road before hitting up another Donald Ross design over at Pine Needles.
Despite all of the great courses we played on our trip, the experience from start to finish at Pinehurst #2 was unforgettable and rightfully should stake its claim on anyone’s bucket list. Bottom line, go get yourself Pinehurst-ed if you haven’t already.